Convening around a bold vision of total systemic reform, CFT has formed a task force that will take a deep dive into our state’s community colleges and develop a strategic plan to end the two-tier faculty system.
The task force is born out of a resolution passed at the CFT State Council on March 19, 2022, which acknowledged what has been largely self-apparent: “California Community College system’s over-reliance on contingent faculty is one of the greatest problems in higher education today.” It is also well aligned with CFT’s 2019 Strategic Plan, which calls for the “equalization of pay, benefits, and working conditions for community college part-time faculty.”
Over the last two years, in a concentrated period of organizing and advocacy, CFT members in community college locals across the state have built union power and coordinated their activism to maximize winning important changes at work. The gains they’ve won on a number of issues – from wage increases to full-time equivalent healthcare coverage, from paid office hours to ancillary pay for committee work, will benefit CFT members for years. But many who have spent years thinking deeply about California’s community colleges on an institutional and structural level see a broader perspective that true workplace fairness will require looking beyond single issue progress and instead moving broad, systemic change. Enter the CFT task force.
In California’s community colleges, the two-tier system describes a dramatic overreliance on an across-the-board exploited and marginalized part-time faculty workforce. Most faculty who work part-time are paid less per hour, lack benefits, job security, and inclusion, while the minority full-time faculty, though better compensated, are overburdened with tasks that could be equitably shared by all faculty. Taking decades to form and solidify, and resulting in two groups of faculty with a shocking two-thirds in the marginalized group, the two-tier system now forms a crack in the very foundation of the entire 116-college system itself.
The end result is a community college system which is kept from fully realizing its potential in fostering student success. For our communities and students to have the community colleges they truly deserve, this means transitioning from the two-tier system to one that treats all faculty fairly – one faculty, paid equally for similar duties, sharing proportionate responsibilities, and equally valued for their contributions and commitment to their respective college’s missions.
“This year our strategic vision is centered around the concepts of uniting for justice and uniting for education. Working to eliminate the two-tier system in higher education is a fundamental part of that vision. Our schools cannot deliver the quality education our students and communities deserve while exploiting the majority of faculty,” said CFT President Jeff Freitas at the 2023 CFT Convention.
Composed of a strong, committed and balanced lineup of CFT part-time and full-time faculty, local union officers, and activists at every possible level of union leadership and experience, the task force convened starting in Spring 2023.
“Having a real, raw and honest discussion about the disparities within our profession is key to addressing them,” said task force member, and CFT Secretary Treasurer Lacy Barnes. Barnes, who is also the Co-Chair of the AFT’s Higher Education Program and Policy Council or PPC, emphasized that due to the complexity of the contingency crisis, which has been some 40+ years in the making, “We (the task force) have to look holistically and inclusively to find real answers…the solution won’t be an easy fix, but we must try when so many of our colleagues are suffering.”
The end goal of the task force is to “develop a strategic plan for transitioning to a one-tier system…for approval by the Executive Council and/or State Council.”