When locally bargained contract improvements seem impossible, statewide legislation becomes an attractive option. Over the past few years, CFT and other education unions and associations have sponsored bills to strengthen part-time faculty job security and improve working conditions. While the ultimate gains of this strategy could be tremendous, the process of passing bills can be extremely challenging.
Three CFT-sponsored bills introduced in 2011 embody this challenge. All three are currently “two-year bills,” meaning their authors opted to take more time to craft details and gain broader support before taking them further in the Legislature.
Multiple factors make these bills controversial. Many legislators prefer to see working conditions determined and bargained locally, and not everyone involved in public higher education agrees on what is in the best of interest of colleges, faculty members, and students.
For example, limiting full-timer overload assignments to 50 percent of a full-time load, as AB 383 would, is seen by many full-time faculty as an assault on the “overtime” they are accustomed to taking and may think of as an entitlement. Offering minimal re-employment rights to part-time faculty, as AB 852 would, is regarded by some administrators as hamstringing their ability to use part-time instructors as “units of flexibility.”
Even providing a salary schedule for part-time faculty that mirrors the full-time schedule so that retirement credit for adjuncts can be based on units taught to provide more accurate reporting, as proposed in SB 114, has been challenged as too much of a fiscal drain on district resources.
Whatever the outcome of these bills, one benefit of their introduction and public discussion is that legislators have learned more about the conditions faced by part-time and other contingent faculty throughout the state. One thing is for sure: Educating elected representatives is essential if we expect to make legislative gains that can translate into real victories at the negotiating table.