The largest-ever mobilization of part-time faculty, full-time faculty, and everyone in the union led to the governor’s October 8 signature on the much heralded part-time faculty “bill of rights,” the most comprehensive package of improvements for part-time faculty to date.

The new law increases part-timers’ access to health benefits, increases student access to faculty by expanding the office hour program, and calls for a comprehensive study to examine duties of part-time faculty as compared to full-time faculty, including classroom teaching, class preparation, office hours, record keeping, student evaluations, writing student recommendations and more.

“The goal of AB 420 was to make deep, permanent systemic chances in the historical treatment of part-time faculty in community colleges,” says Tom Tyner, president of CFT’s Community College Council. “Because of its scope and power, the bill gained national attention among educators. Faculty leaders from several states requested copies for their own legislative consideration.”

Many California part-timers became involved in the legislative process for the first time. “AB 420 raised the consciousness of part-timers and full-timers alike,” says activist Alisa Messer, a part-time English instructor and member of the Cabrillo College Federation, AFT Local 4400. “The heightened conversation we have seen as a direct outcome of AB 420 has had impressive and encouraging effects.”

To mobilize in support of the bill, union members demonstrated, held press conferences, and organized ongoing letter-writing and telephone campaigns. The San Francisco Community College Federation of Teachers, Local 2121, alone generated more than 300 hand-written letters to state legislators.

“All this just goes to show the need to keep the heat on,” says Randy Laroche, a member of Local 2121 and part-time ESL instructor. “We need to unabashedly inform colleagues, students, and the general public of the gravity of the situation.”

This year a landmark coalition of faculty organizations formed to address the disparate earning and forced transitory nature of part-time faculty, and to support AB 420, which was carried by Assemblyman Scott Wildman, a Democrat from Glendale.

The united opposition of administrators and trustees, however, resulted in the initial seniority and equal pay provisions being removed from the bill.

Tyner says that changing the historical condition of worker exploitation is difficult but noble work. “The lesson is clear: You never give up. We need to keep legislating, negotiating, educating, and publicizing — in short, doing everything possible to make progress every year.”

Voices from part-time faculty: What’s the buzz?

“Students are becoming aware that there are two distinct groups of instructors, two castes. They are learning that we aren’t getting a fair shake. The lack of equity in office hours is especially getting their attention.”

Charles Johnson, part-time reading instructor, Yuba College Federation of Teachers

“Assembly Bill 420 was my first full experience nurturing a piece of legislation through all the steps toward passage. It gave me a sense of empowerment to finally be able to air part-timer grievances in an arena where I felt listened to.”

Phyllis Eckler, part-time dance instructor, Glendale College Guild

“The real beauty of AB 420 rests in how it has energized part-time faculty and in how it has educated so many outside of the usual loop — students, legislators, and community members.”

–  Homer Arrington, part-time English instructor, Ventura County Federation of College Teachers