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Saturday, May 8, 2021

First week of school canceled at Bellingham Tech due to faculty strikes

By Rachel Sandal

 

Classes were cancelled at Bellingham Technical College Monday, Sept. 25, through Thursday, Sept. 28, of last week due to strikes. BTC faculty, office staff, technical workers and the Bellingham Educational Support Team union refused to cross the picket line. The staff members were striking for salary increases due to the rising cost of living, better work conditions and other terms.

The union has issued a vote of no confidence in BTC President Kim Perry and other administrators.

The motion, in part, read, “BTC’s current administration is disconnected from staff and students, and the administration’s increasingly authoritarian approach to decision-making and employee relations has added to the tension and discontent within our college,” according to a statement released by the union.

The BTC Board of Trustees voted to approve the contract presented by the union at a board meeting held Monday, Oct. 2. Specifics of the contract are not currently public.

Negotiations between the union and the administration have been ongoing since April.

Students at BTC have expressed irritation and concern toward the situation.

“If you ask me this whole thing is bull****,” said BTC student Matias Gradilla. “I just got into the program I wanted. It has taken me so long to get to this point and I don’t want something like this to get in my way. And shouldn’t the teachers and staff here care more about the students than anything else?”

The last time staff members at BTC walked out for a strike was about four years ago and was surrounded by many of these same issues.

“It was just frustrating, I woke up at six in the morning and then I went over there and I was like,  ‘Oh, school is closed,’” said Tanner Bergseng, a student in the welding program. “It’s just like, I paid for it and it was really stressful.”

The financial aid office, the library and many other student services were still open to the students on the days that school was cancelled.

Marni Sailing Mayer, director of marketing and communications at BTC, said the college has done its best to inform students on the issue, to let them know that school will continue exactly where it left off and to respond to student concerns.

Classes resumed on Friday after the union and administrators reached an agreement, the details of which have not been released.

Before the agreement was reached, administrators at BTC said they were planning on filing court paperwork requesting an order for faculty to return to work if the strike continued past Friday.

During the last BTC strike the school requested an injunction to have faculty return to work. It was rejected, but they were willing to do it again, Mayer said.

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