CFT officers with officers of Adjunct Faculty United outside campus building, standing socially distanced

As the COVID pandemic stretches into the fall, community college adjuncts have been hit especially hard by the decline in student enrollment, limited support services, and inadequate or even non-existent access to healthcare. The loss of work, loss of insurance benefits, and even the breakdown of personally financed yet essential teaching equipment have been the tragic results.

Yet in the midst of this pandemic, with most classes still being taught through distance education, CFT faculty unions have continued in their fight to provide the help and support they can in what are tough times.

Most immediate has been the need to confront COVID itself and prevent spread of the disease by encouraging vaccination to reduce the number of infected people. The Palomar Faculty Federation found that the way to do this is through financial incentive, and recently negotiated an agreement whereby all faculty (both part- and full-time) will receive a one-time $1000 payment for being fully vaccinated. This payment is not just going to currently faculty, but also to those adjuncts who had been teaching in the spring, but have lost classes due to cancellation.

Having seen a severe decline of enrollment and the subsequent cuts in class sections, the San Francisco Community College Federation of Teachers was able to negotiate class minimums down from 20 to 15 students through spring 2022. Further, Local 2121 negotiated more time for classes to reach their minimum before cancellation. Not only has this helped adjuncts secure work, it has also aided students in getting needed classes, particularly those in the ESL program. The local was also able to increase the availability of leaves and extra sick time accrued for in-person assignments for all faculty.

The San Mateo Community College Federation of Teachers, and numerous other locals, have sought to protect adjunct seniority rights by freezing seniority lists, so that any adjunct who was unable to teach, either because of the loss of or need to decline an assignment, would not lose their seniority status. Additionally, Local 1493 negotiated a retention of health benefits for adjuncts who, due to class cancellations, fell below the 40% teaching load threshold. Evaluations were also put on hold in the district for all continuing faculty.

In terms of training and technical support for online teaching, the Palomar Federation secured a $375 per term payment for all faculty, along with a $500 payment for continuing to do the hard work needed to retain Palomar students. Similarly, the San Mateo Federation secured for its faculty a $100 monthly stipend to defray the costs of teaching at home.

Another way that locals have helped their adjunct faculty through COVID struggles has been to take advantage of the state’s 5.07% cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, and built upon it, as did Adjunct Faculty United, or ADFAC, which represents part-time faculty in the North Orange County Community College District. Not only was AdFac able to secure the COLA, but the local won an additional 1.9% for 2022-23, along with an additional column on their salary schedule. For faculty teaching 33% or more of a full-time equivalent load, ADFAC won an increase in the healthcare stipend to $1000 per term, which will increase to $1100 in 2022-23. Finally, all adjuncts, regardless of teaching modality will receive $300 for the fall term.

West Valley-Mission Federation receiving check from HSBC, all wearing masks

The West Valley-Mission Federation of Teachers in Santa Clara also saw members in need and decided to do something about it. Last fall, the local set up a hardship fund project called “AFT Cares.” With union resources, faculty donations, and funds from an HSBC Small Business Spotlight Award, Local 6554 has already been able to issue nearly 40 grants to members. The resources have been a lifeline to part-time faculty facing a loss of work due to class cutbacks, as well as to faculty impacted by the recent wildfires.

These local unions, like so many others, are working hard to help their adjunct faculty in a COVID-related struggle likely to continue into the spring, when the good hard work will be needed again.

— By Geoff Johnson, assigning editor of Part-Timer, member of the CFT Part-Time Faculty Committee and the AFT Guild, San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community Colleges