It’s a little after 9 and morning drive time is easing on San Diego freeways. Disc Jockey Gary Beck is in the broadcast booth at jazz station KSDS, doing what he has loved since the 1960s: spinning records.

Beck and afternoon DJ Ron Dhanifu have more than 80 years on-air between them. When KSDS — a nonprofit FM station based at San Diego City College — holds its twice-yearly pledge drives, the two DJs bring in the majority of donations.

The station staff of about 40 has earned accolades. JazzWeek recently ranked it the top jazz station in a major market, beating outlets in New York, Miami, Detroit and Portland.

But just under the cool surface, a sour note has droned on and on, like a bad scratch on a Dizzy Gillespie record. Despite their wealth of experience and contributions, a loophole in the California Education Code has been used to force Beck and Dhanifu to work as part-time employees filling temporary slots.

This way, Dhanifu explained, KSDS management “can pay you whatever they want. There’s nothing equitable about it, and it’s been going on for years.”

Dhanifu was the KSDS operations manager from 1977 to 1985. He has been classified as temporary part-time since returning in 1990, and has been hired and rehired 12 times for his “temporary” job in the past 10 years. He is on-air 25 hours a week, more than any other DJ at the station.

Beck also has deep roots at San Diego City College. He studied there in the 1970s, and taught in 1989 and ’90. “Internships are for 18-year-olds,” he said. “When you’re an adult, your pay is supposed to be based on comparable worth.”

Although KSDS considers other disc jockey positions permanent, the San Diego Community College District used vague wording in the Education Code to misclassify Beck’s and Dhanifu’s positions as temporary, a status that makes them ineligible for a broad range of benefits enjoyed by classified staff.

“I have no health coverage,” Dhanifu said, “and I recently lost six days for dental work.”

Use of this “temp loophole” has mushroomed. According to the AFT Guild, which represents about 750 district staff, community college and K-12 districts across the state abuse it to one degree or another.

“Just throw a dart at the map, and wherever it hits you’ll find the problem,” said Jim Mahler, president of the AFT Guild. “How can they call these jobs temporary when they go on for years?”

“I resent the system that has been set up. What’s the 
difference between this and a sweatshop? We’re not asking for a lot, just a level playing field.” 

— Gary Beck, Disc Jockey, Jazz 88.3 San Diego

The AFT Guild took the San Diego district to court for violating the Education Code’s six-month limit on temporary positions. When the lawsuit was tossed out on a technicality, Mahler asked Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, to sponsor legislation in the state Assembly to close the loophole.

“It’s time to stop the abuse of temporary status and give workers the benefits they rightly deserve,” said Gonzalez, who led the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council for 15 years before voters sent her to Sacramento in 2013.

“The Legislature agreed decades ago that non-academic staff of community college and school districts must be considered classified employees,” she said. “Many of them, however, have been hired on temporary status, even though they perform the exact same jobs as permanent employees. This prevents them from earning the holiday pay, vacation time, retirement benefits, and due process rights that classified employees normally receive.”

The Gonzalez bill, AB1066, will create standards to prevent a variety of district tricks used to skirt the Education Code, from misclassifying employees as “independent contractors” to constantly reassigning them before they reach the six-month limit on continual service in a position. 

“I resent the system that has been set up,” Beck concluded. “What’s the difference between this and a sweatshop? We’re not asking for a lot, just a level playing field.”

— By Steve Weingarten, CFT Reporter

Learn more about AB1066
Read the union’s bill to close the temp loophole.