Gary Beck is the morning disc jockey at jazz station KSDS, a nonprofit FM station based at San Diego City College. He and afternoon DJ Ron Dhanifu have more than 80 years on-air between them, and when the station holds its regular pledge drives, their loyal listeners contribute the majority of donations.

Sweet harmony? Not quite.

Dhanifu is on-air 25 hours a week, more than any other DJ at the station. But while KSDS considers other DJ positions permanent, the San Diego Community College District used vague wording in the Education Code to misclassify his and Beck’s program slots 
as temporary.

This way, Dhanifu explained, KSDS management “can pay you whatever they want. There’s nothing equitable about it, and it’s been going on for years.”

In Berkeley, Safety Officer John Doe has worked for the school district for six years. Doe has served on every campus, even at charter schools. He clocks in at 8 a.m. and his shift ends at 4 p.m. — two hours before the full-time officers.  

“I get all the duties but none of the benefits of a permanent safety officer,” said Doe, who asked that his real name not be used to avoid possible employer reprisal. “I can be fired at will. I’ve already seen two people get black-balled.”

Doe passed the district’s test for full-time officers, but began to feel he wasn’t being considered for openings. He left for a better position at a start-up that soon shut its doors. If he wanted to return to the district, he was told it would have to be as a part-time substitute.  

“Berkeley schools need another 10 safety officers,” he said, “but the district told me they only had part-time positions, and that I would have to start all over.”

“I get all the duties but none of the benefits of a permanent officer. I can be fired at will. I’ve already seen two people get black-balled.”

Defining a job as full- or part-time can have significant economic consequences. Temporary employees are ineligible for a broad range of health benefits enjoyed by permanent staff, as well as holiday and vacation time, retirement benefits, and due process rights.

Districts across the state now use the “temp loophole” to one degree or another, according to AFT Guild President Jim Mahler. The Guild represents about 750 district classified employees at local San Diego community colleges.

“Just throw a dart at the map,” Mahler said, “and wherever it hits you’ll find the problem. How can they call these jobs ‘temporary’ when they go on for years?”

At what point does an increasingly common practice cross the legal line? Recent news reports have exposed misclassifying employees as independent contractors or part-time substitutes as common examples of wage theft.

The AFT Guild took the San Diego district to court for violating the Education Code’s six-month limit on temporary positions. When the lawsuit was tossed out on a technicality, Mahler asked Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, to introduce legislation in the state Assembly to close the loophole.

Gonzalez, who is carrying CFT-sponsored AB1066, led the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council for 15 years before voters sent her to Sacramento in 2013. “It’s time to stop the abuse of temporary status and give workers the benefits they rightly deserve,” she said.

About the union bill

AB 1066 revises definition of “short-term employee” to ensure position does not continue on year-after-year basis in school or community college districts