By Randi Cross, Staff Writer

November 15, 2022

In a Nov. 1 email, the Peralta Community College District (PCCD) announced that the district’s indoor mask policy has been reinstated on all Peralta campuses.

“Yesterday the Peralta Community College District published an update to the District’s mask policy. Wearing a mask is required at all Peralta campuses, until further notice,” the email said.

The reinstatement of the mask policy came only a week after an Oct. 24 announcement that masking requirements on campus had been dropped.

Jennifer Shanoski, President of Peralta Federation of Teachers (PFT 1603), emailed union members after the announcement was sent out to clarify their position on the mask mandate.

The initial announcement of PCCD dropping the mask mandate on all campuses was made without warning – faculty, staff, and administrators were not consulted before a decision was made, Shanoski said.

According to Shanoski, policies that impact working conditions are supposed to be negotiated before being implemented. By putting the new masking policy in effect without first consulting the union, the PFT claimed that the district was in violation of labor laws. In an email to Vice Chancellor Ronald McKinley on Tuesday Oct. 25th, 2022, Shanoski threatened an Unfair Labor Practices lawsuit if the decision was not rescinded.

The PFT is citing California Public Employment Relations Board’s (PERB) decision in Regents of University of California, (2021) PERB Dec. No. 2783-H, wherein the Board found that a public institution’s decision to implement a mandatory vaccination policy without consulting with union representatives was not amenable to collective bargaining.

Based on the findings in this decision, PERB determined that the public institution was in violation of the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act.

2783-H relies on a precedent set forth by a different PERB decision (Dec. No. 2680-M), which states that an employer must “provide notice and a meaningful opportunity to bargain over the reasonably foreseeable effects of its decision before implementation, just as it would be required to do before making a decision on a mandatory subject of bargaining.” This is the language that the PFT cited in a recent email to the district.

When The Citizen reached out for comment, Shanoski made it clear that the PFT is neither advocating for or opposing an indoor mask policy. Instead, Shanoski said, it was the lack of consultation and the abrupt change affecting faculty that the union took issue with.

The Citizen also reached out to Richard Thoele, Service Employees International Union Chapter President at Peralta Community College District, regarding the classified union’s stance on the reinstatement of the mask mandates, but did not receive a reply.

In an Oct. 25 email obtained by The Citizen, Interim Chancellor Jannett Jackson responded to the PFT request to negotiate over the masking mandate policy, saying  “all bargaining units were consulted and signed off on the agreement. It was not a unilateral decision. Please reference the policy and the announcement that was sent districtwide.”

Shanoski says this consultation and agreement never happened.

The Citizen reached out to Jackson and McKinley on Nov. 9 with specific questions to clarify Jackson’s email. As of publication time, however, a response had not been received.

According to Shanoski, the negotiation meeting between the PFT and PCCD is scheduled for Friday Nov. 18.