Members of the Classified Staff Union asked the Board of Trustees to fire Vice President of Human Resources Aaron Hilliard at the BOT meeting on April 26. At the meeting, members of the Washington Public Employees Association requested immediate action from the Board by May 17. They stated that if there was no firm decision by that point, they would have to escalate the matter.
“Neither the Board nor BC has taken any action against Aaron Hilliard that we are aware of,” said Becky Turnbull, WPEA member.
However, Interim President Wakefield started meeting weekly with WPEA shop stewards and other classified staff. At the meetings, the classified staff spoke about their expectations of human resources and BC that were not met. “President Wakefield has updated me and the staff in these meetings regarding steps she is taking to implement training for supervisory employees and to examine problems occurring at the College.” Yet, no action against Hilliard was taken.
The WPEA began escalating the matter on May 18, when WPEA members began wearing WPEA shirts every Thursday to remind BC that the issue is still prevalent. On May 22, the WPEA sat at tables in front of the Student Union Building and spoke to students and faculty about the issues they were facing. They also encouraged additional votes of “no-confidence” in solidarity with the WPEA. On May 30, the WPEA held a member meeting in the cafeteria to discuss future steps. As a result, more people began to join with the WPEA, with 110 no-confidence votes collected, mostly from students.
On June 1, the WPEA took to the free-speech zone in front of the fountain, wearing WPEA shirts and holding signs. “Today we’re doing an informational picket to let people know that there’s still the problem going on,” said Jeanna Shockley, WPEA member.
“Aaron is still in charge of HR and we’re still working on having him not take care of our union business.” Shockley also noted that President Wakefield was meeting with the WPEA, but she, like many of the other WPEA members, does not have much faith in the process. “I think she’s handed that off to President Weber, when he comes on. So personally, I don’t think she’s going to do anything about it.”
“I think Dr. Wakefield’s not doing anything because she’s leaving in three weeks. I do think it’s a shame that she would leave this situation to the new president to deal with. He really doesn’t know anything about it,” said Laura Gettleman, WPEA member. “So to escalate it, I think the union is really prepared to picket, if they have to. They haven’t talked about a strike, but I think it’s not off the table.”
“I think it’s going to take a year or two for Dr. Weber to make any decisions at all because he’s new to the campus,” said Shockley. “He needs to understand how the campus runs. He needs to really figure out how things are running and figure out what the challenges are.” Dr. Weber made efforts to assess the campus, and sent out an email asking the staff about their opinions on the campus and what needs to be fixed. He has not made any comments yet.
The WPEA plans on going to the June 7 BOT meeting to remind the trustees that they have not gone away. “If the president isn’t dealing with the issue, then where do you take it? To me, it would be to take it to the Board because they’re the ones in charge of the president,” said Shockley. “So, that’s what we’re going to do, we’re just going to continue to show up at the Board meetings and make our presence known, and try and get this resolved,” said Shockley.
The members of the classified staff expressed concerns in having a hostile working environment, bullying, unfair distribution of work and untouched position reclassification.
“There have been position reclassification that has been sitting on the table for 18 months and the law is, as far as the contract goes, it’s supposed to be taken care of in 30 days, and it’s been over 18 months that he hasn’t responded,” said Gettleman. “He doesn’t respond, he doesn’t send you anything back, he just doesn’t do anything.”
“We’re going again when Dr. Weber is there because apparently that’s the avenue we have to go down since Jill’s leaving,” said Gettleman. “I think we’re here for another drag-out, it’s going to be another six months before something happens. So that’s what’s frustrating. That’s why we’re out here today.”