The forecast on Friday, April 5, indicated overcast skies and rain showers. However, the inclement weather did not stop over 80 Clark College faculty and their supporters from showing up in red shirts and rain gear to campaign for faculty salary increases.
Braving the rain, tenured and adjunct instructors united to bring awareness to the importance of fair and equal pay for all. The group gathered in front of Hanna and Foster halls before marching to Vancouver Central Park, just north of campus to hear from community speakers.
Coffee and hot chocolate were available for supporters along with signs reading “fair contract now.” As more faculty and supporters began to arrive, the crowd waved their signs at passing traffic. Many drivers honked in support, including a few Vine bus drivers.
Many faculty, like tenured automotive professor Mike Godson and mechatronics professor Ken Luchini said they were optimistic.
“I hope we have enough faculty and support to make a difference,” Godson said.
Luchini said he hoped the Board of Trustees will finally see the need to invest in salaries and classes without dropping classes with lower enrollment.
The protesters marched to the nearby park, waving their signs and shouting call and response chants led by representatives from the Clark College Association of Higher Education (AHE).
“One percent won’t pay my rent,” they said.
At the park representatives from local unions, including the Camas Education Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, addressed the crowd.
Washougal Education Association President Eric Engebretson spoke in support of Clark faculty’s mission.
“This is your time,” Engebretson said. “United we stand, divided we beg.”
Last quarter, the AHE conducted a workplace psychological health survey for faculty. One statistic from the survey stated that 43 percent of faculty work second jobs or rely on their partners to make ends meet and maintain their quality of living.
Rent and cost of living expenses in Vancouver have continued to rise, making it difficult for many faculty to support themselves. Apartments in Vancouver can cost $1200 a month, according to SW Washington Central Labor Council President Shannon Walker, who spoke at the event.
A number of faculty who fall into this category were present at the event, along with faculty who struggle to making ends meet on their own due to their current salaries.
“It’s a question of security, I’m not able to plan for the future,” adjunct English instructor Arwen Spicer said.
According to AHE President Kimberly Sullivan, one in four adjunct instructors are in poverty.
“We have adjuncts living in their cars,” Sullivan said. “That is not right.”
Even for tenured faculty like English professor Julian Nelson and art professor Kathrena Halsinger, it would be difficult to live on their salaries alone.
“If I didn’t have my husband’s income to rely on, I could not afford my current home,” Halsinger said.
Nelson, who’s daughter is currently attending a university, expressed how high his expenses have become as a result.
“The salary is not commensurate with the cost of living,” Nelson said.
The next negotiation session is scheduled for April 12.
“The fight is going to continue everyday and we will talk to each other, wear our red shirts and do the background work that it takes to be a part of the negotiation team,” Halsinger said.