10 percent of the cost of their health insurance for
their entire career—but the people who haven’t had
to pay are grandfathered in.”
Swanger believes the key to maintaining
healthy relationships with unions is to be open
and honest at all times. “People have said: ‘We
might not always like what you tell us, but we
know that what you tell us is what you really
believe. You’re not trying to play a game.’ I think
that’s important,” he says.
However, don’t be in a rush to speak during
negotiations, he advises. “Pause and take time to
think about the discussion. Don’t feel like you have
to provide an immediate answer when you’re sitting at the table, because your initial thought might
not be the best response.”
Mt. SAC and KCC also use interest-based bargaining. Gutierrez says it helps both sides zero in on
the underlying issues, so they can solve problems
together more effectively.
At Gutierrez’s institution, faculty were
required to advise students as well as teach
courses. Some instructors welcomed this additional responsibility; others disliked it. When
this was brought up during contract negotiations, the union reps indicated that some faculty
members didn’t feel comfortable advising
students, and they wanted to focus on what they
were passionate about. Student surveys confirmed that some faculty members were very
good at advising, while others weren’t.
Recognizing that students weren’t being well
served by this policy, the two sides reached an agreement: Faculty who aren’t interested in advising must
teach an additional class, and those who do enjoy it
can take on more students and teach fewer classes.
“We listened to the problem, we looked at the
data, and we came up with a solution that serves
everyone’s interests,” Gutierrez says.
Interest-based bargaining fits Gutierrez’s leader-
ship style: “I value input. I believe we have good people
here, and I believe that decisions can be made a lot
more effectively if they aren’t made in a vacuum.”
However, both sides have to be committed to the
process for it to work. “You can’t just go through the
motions,” he warns. “It’s not for everybody.”
KCC hasn’t had any faculty grievances during
Gutierrez’s time as president, a fact he attributes
to the institution’s culture.
“If a faculty member is struggling, our philoso-
phy is: How can we help that person improve? We
mean that, and our faculty know that,” he says.
“Usually, when an employee is dismissed, the union
files a grievance. That hasn’t been the case here,
because the union knows we’re serious about trying
to help our faculty succeed. And they know we
have been fair. If somebody doesn’t improve, it’s not
When college leaders commit to imple-
menting a shared governance process, and
they treat employees with fairness and respect,
“the outcome is a well-run, healthy place to
work,” Gutierrez concludes. “Things get done.
Transformational change happens. And we
serve our students and our community effec-
tively, because we are all working toward
Dennis Pierce is an education writer based in Boston.
"I believe that decisions can be
made a lot more effectively if
they aren’t made in a vacuum. "
—ROBERTO GU TIERREZ, president, Klamath Community College
At Klamath Community