Could the dream of “equal pay for equal work” become a reality for contingent faculty in California? It could if CFT is successful in promoting the passage of progressive legislation, as part of the national AFT campaign to address the academic staffing crisis in higher education.

One of the principles of the the newly introduced Faculty and College Excellence Act (AB 1343, Mendoza, D-Artesia) is pro rata pay — and benefits equal to that of tenured and tenure-track faculty doing comparable work.

Current practice in most districts is to pay part-time faculty on a separate hourly pay scale, and only for the hours they are in the classroom, not for preparation and grading.

Although adjunct faculty are a long way from attaining pro rata pay, many CFT locals have negotiated with their districts to set targets for equity — some aiming for 100 percent pro rata pay. Many are making incremental progress to reach these goals as budgets allow.

In an agreement just negotiated by the San Jose/Evergreen Faculty Association, adjunct faculty will be joining those in other districts whose salaries are tied to the full-time salary schedule. “This is of monumental importance for adjunct faculty in the district,” says Jory Segal, adjunct PE instructor and bargaining team member.

The hourly schedule will cease to exist. Instead, part-time faculty will be “rated in” to determine their placement on steps and columns of a pay scale that takes into account their level of education and years of experience at a percentage of what their full-time colleagues earn. The district and union will negotiate to ascertain exactly what that percentage will be and how many steps will be funded.

While some districts have linked the salary schedules of full-time and part-time faculty, a few are further along than others in achieving the high percentage of pay they are aiming for. The leader appears to be Marin, which pays adjunct faculty 95 percent of what their full-time colleagues make for doing equivalent work.

“Our part-time credit instructors have always been on the same salary schedule as full-time,” says Ira Lansing, president of United Professors of Marin. Nearby, the San Francisco Community College Federation is close to its goal of 100 percent pro rata pay, with part-time faculty earning 85 percent of what their full-time colleagues earn.

AFT Local Union Pro Rata % Goal %
United Professors of Marin 95 100
San Francisco Community College Federation of Teachers 85 100
Los Angeles College Faculty Guild 75
Los Rios College Federation of Teachers 75
Peralta Federation of Teachers 75 100
San Jose/Evergreen Faculty Association 65 100
Cabrillo College Federation of Teachers 62 100
State Average 47.1

In Sacramento, Los Rios adjuncts earn 75 percent pro rata pay, not including office hours, which are voluntary and for which they are paid extra. And the Cabrillo College Federation is gradually moving the pro rata percentage up — currently at 61 percent, next year it will increase to 62 percent.

Another tactic used to move toward parity is to carve out a larger slice of the pie to part-time faculty when divvying up pay raises. Since 2001, the El Camino Federation in Torrance has been bringing part-time faculty steadily closer to parity with their full-time colleagues by giving higher raises to part-timers each year. In 2002, adjuncts got a 27.2 percent increase, full-timers 3.4 percent; in 2006, part-timers received an 11.5 percent pay hike, full-timers 7.6 percent.

To ensure that adjuncts are remunerated for their uncompensated hours of grading and preparation, the Glendale College Guild is launching a “Pathway to Parity” initiative by assessing how much outside work is required in each discipline. Guild President Mike Allen says, “Among the many indignities our part-time instructors endure is that their primary pay is based only on their time in the classroom.” 

Adjunct faculty advocate Phyllis Eckler says, “A clear percentage should emerge of how far part-timers are from their full-time colleagues so we can work to right these inequities.”

A California law passed in 1999, AB 420, was meant to provide comparable pay for part-timers but the funding was not provided to make that happen. The equity pay line item in the state budget has helped to boost salaries but because it has been diminished by budget cuts and inflation, it has not been enough to give adjunct faculty true equity.

Salary has improved, though, since the California State Auditor reported in 2000 that if part-timers worked the same hours as full-timers, they would make 31 percent less. Nevertheless, only eight of the 72 community college districts pay adjuncts more than 60 percent pro rata, with the state average being only 41.7 percent.

“There’s precedent for legislation that guarantees equal pay for equal work,” says Mike Dixon of the Ventura County Federation. The state Education Code has an equal pay provision that says compensation for part-time employees should be fixed at the same ratio as that of a full-time employee. “That’s how it is in K–12 — the loophole for the colleges is that we are considered ‘temporary’ employees. We need to challenge that.”

For years, faculty groups and unions such as the AFT, both nationally and locally, have passed resolutions and written standards of best practice urging equal pay for equal work.

With the CFT’s new FACE bill in place and the AFT shining national attention on the issue of equity, part-timers are hopeful that the time is ripe to pass legislation that would put teeth in the lofty resolutions.

Julie Ivey, a part-time English instructor at Palomar College, believes the FACE legislation could have a huge impact. “If the state is compelled to provide the required funding to make 75/25 and pro rata pay a reality, we might finally see an end to the shameful exploitation of nearly 40,000 educators.”

— By Deborah Kaye, Assigning Editor, Part-Timer