For Tehmina Khan, who teaches English and
Interdisciplinary Studies part-time at San Francisco City
College, the semester-to-semester fear of being dropped from
district coverage is akin to “walking the tightrope.” Over the
past decade, the San Francisco Community College District has
seen a 65% drop in student enrollment.
COVID and the subsequent student enrollment drop during the last
two semesters have placed great burdens on contingent faculty,
from scrambling to teach remotely to negotiating personal and
family challenges to facing reduced assignments and a loss of
While California is showing strong signs of emerging from an
economy ravaged by the pandemic, the community colleges are still
reeling from the impact, most strongly demonstrated in the sharp
decline in student enrollment. This has led to tough situations
for many adjuncts, and for the local unions representing them.
California schools have returned to in-person learning, but acute
staff shortages are hobbling the return. The hardest positions to
fill are often special education instructional aides.
For “SpEd IAs,” as they are known from early childhood programs
to post-secondary classrooms, there is no “social distance” with
their students. Assignments may require feeding children,
changing diapers, and handling medical equipment. Emotional
outbursts can also be physically punishing to paraeducators.
COVID didn’t create the national staffing crisis we face, but the pandemic has stretched classified and certificated members so thin that some schools have been forced to shut their doors.
AFT has stepped up to the challenge and created an Education Staffing Crisis Task Force co-chaired by Carl Williams, head of the CFT Council of Classified Employees and an AFT Vice President, and Michael Mulgrew, leader of AFT’s largest local union, New York City’s United Federation of Teachers.
“Fighting an unfair firing can be a lengthy process,” said Tina
Solórzano Fletcher of San Diego’s AFT Guild, Local 1931, which
represents faculty and staff at local community colleges. “Our
certificated members who appeal a termination continue to receive
compensation. Our classified employees should also.”
As the state Legislature embarks on its second year of the
2021-22 session, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play a major
role in education policy by exacerbating the decline in student
enrollment and creating staff shortages with more educators
retiring than are being hired.
Governor Newsom introduced a $286.4 billion budget proposal for 2022-23 on January 10. The proposed budget is 9% larger than last year’s record high budget, largely because of tax receipts that were even higher than expected. The governor’s office is anticipating a $21 billion discretionary surplus for 2022-23 and this includes billions more for education.
This week Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose) re-introduced his
bill, now titled AB 2289, that seeks to impose a tax on the
extreme wealth of the richest Californians. The bill would impact
approximately 17,000 multi-millionaires and billionaires in
California, which is 0.07% of the total taxpayers in our state.
CFT is a proud sponsor of this bill — that would raise more than
$22 billion in revenue annually — and will be working closely
with Assemblymember Lee as it makes its way through the state
CFT and our labor partners have fought hard to reinstate COVID-19
paid sick leave. On February 9, Governor Newsom signed the
COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave legislation (Senate
Bill 114) into law. This is a huge win that will help keep
our workplaces and communities safe.
Supplemental Paid Sick Leave became available starting February
19 — ten days after the legislation was signed. Here is a
summary of what is included in the new law:
Governor Newsom proposed significant increases for education and a 5.33% Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) in his state budget for 2022-23 released January 8. In his proposal, the governor addressed five concurrent state crises — COVID-19, climate change, inequality, homelessness, and public safety — several of which are reflected in the education budget. This budget is a preliminary proposal subject to negotiations with the Legislature and will be revised in May, with its final passage in June.
By Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary Treasurer,
California Labor Federation
Since the beginning of this pandemic, workers have borne the
brunt of this crisis. They’ve been on the frontlines for nearly
two years, every day, to keep our economy afloat. Now, with the
omicron surge leading to record cases, frontline workers are more
at risk than ever. And many are assuming this risk with few
Each November, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (the non-partisan advisor for the state Legislature) prepares a fiscal outlook in anticipation of the state budget process that kicks off in January with the governor’s budget proposal.
Overall, revenues are growing at historic rates and the LAO estimates the state will have a $31 billion surplus to allocate in 2022‑23. The Proposition 98 guarantee for schools and community colleges is estimated to be $11.6 billion (12.4% above the 2021-22 enacted budget). LAO estimates $9.5 billion will be available for new commitments and $10.2 billion will be available for one-time spending.
California schools reopened to a new normal. Classified staff are getting their arms around vaccine mandates and making safety protocols part of their daily routines. And nearly every district, from rural elementaries to urban community colleges, are facing serious labor shortages.
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.
The governor signed three of four CFT-sponsored bills that made
it to his desk in year one of the current two-year
session. The session closed on September 10 and Governor
Newsom had until October 10 to sign the bills.
In early August, Luukia Smith, Lacy Barnes, and I ventured up and
down the state on a three week Back-to-School, Forward
Together Tour. We visited with early childhood educators,
TK-12 teachers, classified workers, adult education teachers, and
part-time community college faculty. We witnessed firsthand
students learning in-person. We saw the incredible school
communities our members have helped to build and visited campuses
and classrooms to see CFT members in action.
Now that California schools have returned to in-person classes,
teachers and staff on campuses up and down the state are having
to navigate a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. In mid-August,
the CFT held a tele-townhall meeting to connect directly with
members and hear about your workplace concerns. Below are answers
to the most common questions we heard from you.
CFT’s top officers embarked on a statewide Back-to-School Tour in mid-August as many classified employees and teachers headed back to campus in-person for the first time since the pandemic forced distance learning for California schools and colleges. The road trip included stops from North Bay Counties to San Diego County, in both urban and rural districts.
Most faculty members, staff, and students at the state’s community colleges have been teaching, learning, and working online for more than a year and a half due to COVID-19. Many planned to go back to their campus in the fall semester, but after a brief period of hope that the virus was on the way out the delta variant emerged in the summer, and in many areas, COVID is surging again.
As they have for the past two years, lecturers at the University
of California continue their effort to get the administration to
bargain a fair contract. The last agreement between the
university and the University Council-AFT, expired on January 31,
2020. The union’s negotiating committee has met with UC’s
bargaining team on 50 occasions, yet the four most fundamental
issues are still outstanding — high turnover rates, lack of
performance reviews, widespread uncompensated labor, and
The state budget package for 2021-22 includes changes to
independent study to allow all schools to offer
a replacement for a distance learning option for students and
families who prefer to remain outside of in-person instruction.
The COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) is set to expire
September 30. The CFT, in partnership with other unions, engaged
in a long campaign to try and pass an extension before the end of
the legislative session.
Thousands of CFT members
signed our action to extend the supplemental sick leave to
help elevate this issue, slow the spread of COVID-19 and
keep our schools and communities safe. However, those efforts
were ultimately unsuccessful.
The afternoon of Tuesday, August 31, thousands of educators and
classified professionals from across the state joined CFT’s Back
to School Tele-Town Hall. Three high profile guests joined CFT
members on the call — Governor Gavin Newsom, California Surgeon
General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, and AFT President Randi
On August 16, 2021, Governor Newsom issued Executive
Order N-12-21 to provide additional flexibility to hire
retired K-12 teachers, community college faculty, and classified
staff during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.
CFT leaders visited school communities and workplaces during
a statewide two-week back-to-school tour. On
the Back-to-School: Forward
Together tour, CFT President Jeff Freitas,
Secretary Treasurer Luukia Smith, and Senior Vice President Lacy
Barnes met with educators, classified employees,
students and parents to support a safe return to
in-person learning. CFT leaders also shared their vision for
maximizing a record state budget investment
to strengthen academic achievement and student social
The CFT kicked off a two-week back-to-school tour to visit school communities throughout the state. Starting on August 9, CFT President Jeff Freitas, Secretary Treasurer Luukia Smith and Senior Vice President Lacy Barnes will visit AFT local unions and schools up and down California as the new academic year begins for full in-person learning.
The last year and a half of my communications with you have told
the story of the COVID-19 pandemic, our union’s early responses
to the changes wrought by the virus, our diligence in keeping
school communities healthy and safe, and the first glimmers of
hope as vaccines became available and community spread began to
Teachers at the four middle schools and five high schools
represented by the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers went
back into the classroom on April 27, with options for families to
remain in distance learning.
The retiree chapter of the AFT Guild in San Diego usually does monthly yoga and meditation classes, as well as getting together for walks and union meetings. Now though, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members haven’t been getting together in person, chapter President Susan Morgan says.
Throughout the COVID pandemic, CFT members from early childhood
centers to community colleges have shown how essential classified
employees are. During the past 15 months, techs helped power an
overnight transition to online learning, custodians learned how
to hit back at the coronavirus, and health aides are now on the
front lines of reopening schools.
While the number of COVID cases are shrinking, and the vaccination rate increasing, the effects of the pandemic continue, with adjuncts having been hit particularly hard, as despite the heroic efforts of faculty to provide remote and online instruction, California community college enrollment has dropped systemwide by 11 to 12% since last fall, according to Edsource.
AFT President Randi Weingarten addressed the CFT Convention,
expressing thanks and gratitude for all the members have
done—pivoting from the classroom to online, providing food
delivery, and bringing hotspots to neighborhoods. Education
workers did all this while taking care of their own children,
living in homes with multiple generations, being at risk due to
pre-existing conditions, and mourning people who had died from
COVID, Weingarten said.
September 8, 2021 — Legislature fails to pass extension
The COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave will expire on September 30, 2021. CFT, in partnership with other unions, engaged in a long campaign to pass an extension before the end of the legislative session on September 10. However, those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. The CFT will continue to advocate for the governor’s office to provide administrative relief in the short term and work towards possible legislative solutions with our labor allies next year.
While not as comprehensive as Supplemental Paid Sick Leave, the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard still contains provisions that allow “exclusion pay” for workers who are unable to work because they were exposed to COVID-19 at the worksite. Exclusion pay means the employer continues to pay you even if you must be “excluded” from the worksite. Exclusion pay remains in effect until January 2022 and will likely be extended through March.
Since the beginning of the pandemic last March, while our
families and our communities have suffered gut-wrenching pain and
loss, billionaires in our state alone have increased their wealth
by over half a trillion dollars.
And their numbers and their extreme wealth just keep on growing.
In March 2020, just as COVID began, there were 154 billionaires
in California – with a total wealth of $688.3 billion. In January
2021, there were 169 billionaires in California – with a total
wealth of more than $1.2 trillion.
California teachers and classified employees want nothing more
than to be back in our physical classrooms and school sites and
know first-hand there is no equal substitute to regular,
California’s schools are the heart of their communities. For many
of our most vulnerable and underserved populations, they are
lifelines. The educational, social and emotional needs of
California’s students, particularly those who often lack the
technological and additional education support to sustain
distance learning, are of paramount concern.
On January 14, the
California Department of Public Health released several
important resources related to the state’s K-12 schools and
COVID-19. Our summary below is meant to guide members and local
unions through the new materials, especially the changes and most
critical elements. The governor and the CDPH are still developing
additional resources, so watch for updates about the plan in
the coming weeks.
On December 21, Congress passed a long-anticipated additional
round of COVID relief legislation as part of
the Bipartisan-Bicameral Omnibus COVID Relief
Deal. The legislative package — the result of
last-minute frantic negotiations — provides more much-needed
relief to individuals, education, hospitals and businesses
in response to the economic distress caused by the coronavirus
As I reflect upon the year that is reaching its end, the shock of
all we have endured these past many months hits me anew. When we
started this year, I felt hopeful with many opportunities for
success and change.
On November 3, voters went to the polls to turn things around in
our country and in our state. Or rather, many went to the polls,
but many more had already cast mail ballots in the days and weeks
leading up to the election, a sign of the times during a year of
“stay at home” orders.
The week after Thanksgiving, Mariah Fisher, president of the Novato Federation of Teachers and a middle school drama teacher, said she was ready to go back to in-person teaching, starting that week. She had marked off six feet of space between all the desks and she was preparing to teach acting to students wearing masks.
El Camino College has been slowly resuming activity. Nursing, auto repair, construction and other “essential classes” returned to the Torrance campus in late September, along with scores of custodians, groundkeepers, computer techs and facilities staff.
Workers’ Comp classifies on-the-job COVID cases as occupational injuries
Senate Bill 1159 (Hill, D-San Mateo) directs the state Workers’ Compensation system to presume that an employee’s COVID-related illness is an occupational injury and therefore the worker eligible for Workers’ Comp benefits if specific criteria are met.
The polls closed in Hawaii, the westernmost voting site in the
United States, at 1 am eastern time on November 4. At 2:28, less
than two hours later, President Trump sent out a tweet announcing
that he’d won the election.
Millions of votes had yet to be counted, especially those cast by
people voting early because of the coronavirus. But Trump
demanded that counting stop, and made false charges of election
rigging. He immediately filed suits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and
Georgia to stop the count.
In spite of the pandemic, a number of local unions won big gains
for adjuncts, from parity pay to distance education, to the
preservation of healthcare for adjuncts with reduced loads. These
wins are especially significant at this time in which revenues
are falling and concerns over future budgets made many
administrators skittish to bargain.
Just as the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted public education,
so too did it impact the California Legislature and CFT’s
What would normally have been a rigorous six-month period to
discuss the state budget and legislation, was reduced to two
virtual sessions, one running from May 4 to June 19, and the
other from July 27 to August 31. This forced the Legislature,
which was slated to hear and discuss some 2,390 bills, to shelve
consideration of any bills not deemed related to the pandemic,
wildfires, and affordable housing.
By Geoff Johnson, AFT Guild, San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca
Higher education in America is sick. Its classrooms and campuses
have been largely shuttered, save but for students taking lab
courses, or practicums, ironically in hospitals. Students and
instructors are now confined to the domains of their computers
and laptop screens in the educational netherworlds of Zoom or
Cranium. With the exception of online instruction developed prior
to the crisis, what is being delivered, more so than taught, is a
curriculum of coping under the duress of the coronavirus