About half of the California community college districts offer healthcare benefits for part-time faculty; the quality of the benefits is wide-ranging with some offering the same benefits package to full- and part-time faculty and some offering very modest stipends to help cover the cost of insurance.
From the Bay Area to San Diego, and from the Central Valley to
the Mojave Desert, part-time community college faculty, along
with full-time faculty and student allies, gathered at
Sacramento’s famed Sutter Club on Monday morning, May 1, to go
forth and make California legislators aware of the critical need
for part-time faculty healthcare and pay parity.
When it comes to union work, power and knowledge work hand in
hand. Union is not simply about expressing demands, speaking
truth to power, and being resolute in the face of adversity. It’s
about making connections, sharing truths, building solidarity,
empowering, and speaking to be heard.
Developing the knowledge to do these things and putting the power
of that knowledge to use was core to the workshops at the CFT
Part-Time Faculty Conference held May 1-2 in Sacramento.
A crowd of more than 100 members strong — some seasoned
part-timers with decades of experience, others new adjuncts for
which this was their first union event — were engaged as the CFT
Part-Time Faculty Conference opened to roars and cheers with its
theme of “Equity for Contingent Faculty.” The feeling one
had as a part-timer was best summed up by Lin Chan, co-chair of
the CFT Part-Time Faculty Committee, “You’re not one
person…you’re one of thousands.”
The results of CFT’s groundbreaking statewide survey of part-time faculty offer critical insights into the daily, personal, and structural challenges that part-time and contingent faculty experience when it comes to healthcare.
Samira Rostami has taught Communication Studies at Grossmont College since 2014, as well as at four other San Diego area higher ed institutions including the University of San Diego. Her health took a dramatic turn for the worse shortly after area campuses closed in late March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.
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.
Higher Education Labor United, a cross-union and cross-sector
coalition, held its Winter Summit virtually on February 23-27,
pushing forward with the larger goals of reclaiming the promise
of higher education, and promoting socio-economic and racial
justice embodied by the New
Deal for Higher Education campaign and Scholars for a New
Deal in Higher Education.
Honour Harry works two jobs — as a freelance illustrator and doing children’s education at a local church — in addition to her job teaching art for the North Orange Community College District. Harry doesn’t teach on campus. Instead, she goes into nursing homes, often working with people who are in memory care and who are immunocompromised.
WASHINGTON — A new national adjunct faculty survey from the AFT
underlines the brutal economic reality faced by millions of
contingent and adjunct faculty at the nation’s colleges and
universities — and illustrates how the pandemic further eroded
job security and bolstered the need for public help.
Dozens of CFT members testified this week in front of two
different budget subcommittees of the California Legislature to
urge our elected leaders in Sacramento to support Governor
Newsom’s $200 million proposal in the state budget
to fund healthcare for part-time faculty in California’s
Following the launch of CFT’s campaign for part-time faculty
healthcare last fall and a successful letter campaign, the
governor included the $200 million in his January budget
During the holiday break, 1,400 people sent letters to Governor
Newsom and key legislators demanding funding for part-time
faculty healthcare. As a result of these efforts, the governor
allocated $200 million in his January 10 state budget
proposal to fund healthcare for part-time faculty on
an ongoing basis. This increase
represents more than 400 times the level of funding in the
existing state program.
For about three years the University Council-AFT engaged in
protracted negotiations on behalf of lecturers in their unit.
Their aims have always been about fairness — better working
conditions for lecturers and improved learning conditions for
students. Their fight has been about not only winning economic
and contractual gains for members, but gaining professional
respect and recognition for their teaching at the University of
California. Their campaign has been a true member-driven effort,
rooted in years of organizing by the statewide local that
represents both continuing lecturers and librarians, led by their
president, Mia McIver, and a committed negotiations team.
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 pandemic has pushed many harsh realities in
higher education to the forefront, none more so than the
inadequacy of healthcare for part-time faculty. With the cost of
an average COVID hospitalization, according to a number of
sources, running in excess of $20,000, the financial effects
alone on an uninsured part-timer contracting COVID can be
devastating. Add a possible uninsured family member or members to
the mix, and the reality becomes even more frightening.
“Bittersweet” might be the best word to describe CFT’s
legislative efforts on behalf of part-time faculty this year,
with gains in categorical funding, but a last-minute veto of the
union-sponsored bill to raise the teaching cap in a single
community college district from 67% to 85% — AB 375.
Several months ago, when Congress began the budget reconciliation
process, there were significant aspirations that the final bill
would result in a significant uptick for higher education,
including funding for free community college.
It is vital in what has been the long struggle for part-time equity and social justice that we fully acknowledge those activists who up until their passing, gave their all and inspired many. Two such figures are Paul Baltimore and Ken Taira. Both members were recognized at CFT State Council on September 25.
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.
Please take a moment to
urge Governor Newsom to sign AB 375, which would formally
increase the workload cap available to part-time faculty from 67%
up to 85% of a full-time faculty workload in California’s
Equal pay for equal work. It’s a simple idea, but one that has
remained all but elusive for part-time faculty, so much so that
some have decried the quest for it as a Sisyphean effort.
However, the recent gains made by the Peralta Federation of
Teachers shows that parity is possible.
Now, Peralta pays its adjuncts at the same hourly rate for
teaching and office hours as its full-time faculty — a first in
the California Community College system.
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.
After last year’s heavily pandemic-impacted legislative session
reduced the number of bills signed to its lowest number since
1967, the CFT is again taking up the adjunct cause on bills
directed towards raising the part-time percentage cap on teaching
in a single district, and in developing a path towards
part-time/full-time pay parity.
At this year’s virtual CFT Convention held March 26-27, the
Part-Time Faculty Committee sponsored two resolutions reflective
of both the longstanding and new problems beginning to emerge in
the wake of the pandemic which has impacted adjunct health and
While the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified longstanding societal
inequities in America, public higher education was already in a
state of crisis, from the staggering costs of college, to the
lack of access and support for lower income students, Black,
indigenous, and people of color, the deteriorating, or clear lack
of infrastructure, the reciprocal increase in highly paid
administrative positions, and last but not least, decrease in
full-time tenure track positions.
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.
While the COVID-19 pandemic meant that this summer’s AFT
Convention had to go virtual, and in turn, resulted in format
changes which made schedules tighter, and the work of those
attending harder in many respects, one of the great achievements
for CFT was the passage of a resolution calling for the right of
contingent faculty to participate in shared governance.
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
By Mark James Miller, Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought its own unique challenges to
every facet of society. Everyone has been seriously impacted by
the virus, and students in higher education are no exception.
Nationwide, students are delaying their education until the
pandemic is over and colleges return to the traditional classroom
approach instead of the online model being used in its place.
Some are simply uncomfortable with online learning, and others
are fearful that the education they receive remotely is not of
the same quality as what they get in the classroom with the
By Mark James Miller, Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan
“I miss the face-to-face contact.”
“Something is missing.”
“I miss being with my students.”
As Hancock College’s part-time instructors adapt to the “new
normal” brought on by the coronavirus, one theme is constant:
With all classes now being taught remotely, they miss being in
the classroom with their students.
The ongoing COVID-19 experience for part-time instructors has demonstrated their great collective strength and resiliency, despite limited pay, benefits, job security, and often minimal support.
Several local union leaders — who are part-time faculty — report that beyond the initially hectic and at times frenzied process of transitioning to remote instruction and services, faculty have more or less still been able to teach a semblance of their face-to-face course.
Within the span of just two weeks in early March, California Community Colleges, along with the rest of American higher education, were forced into the perhaps the largest and most radical pedagogical shift in its history.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, part-time faculty — beyond
dealing with protecting the health and safety of themselves and
their families — are facing threats to their economic security,
including loss of income, access to health insurance, and their
capacity to pay for housing and utilities.
It is essential part-timer faculty are aware of recent actions
taken by the federal government and state of California to
provide relief for people facing these challenges.
Members, officers, and activists from higher education unions
throughout California came together for a full day during Campus
Equity Week to chart a strategy for defending public higher
education. They denounced especially the way education
institutions, under corporate pressure, increasingly rely on
contingent instructors while treating them as outsiders.
One of the great powers of a union is its ability to uplift the
living conditions and status of its members, not just at the
bargaining table, but within the structure of the union itself —
when the seemingly most marginalized members assume leadership
In local unions representing all faculty, there has been a recent
trend of the membership electing a part-time faculty member to
lead the union, with significant support from the full-timers.
There is perhaps no better example of this, though he might be
reluctant himself to say so, than Keith Ford.
Budgetarily, it’s been a tough year for winning greater gains for
part-timers in Sacramento, but with regard to legislation which
CFT succeeded in getting to the governor’s desk, and for
legislation already in the wings for next year, part-timers are
on the edge of good things.
Most teachers speak with authority about the subjects they teach
but Glendale Community College’s newest political science
instructor speaks with the voice of personal experience as well.
Adam Schiff knows the workings of California state government
from the inside, as well he should — he’s Glendale’s state
My dissertation research focused on the perceptions of the impact
of adjuncts on community college campuses in Southern California.
I specifically wanted to understand the reality of involuntary
adjuncts — those whose who want full-time tenure track jobs,
couldn’t get a position, so worked as “full-time” adjuncts (those
whose adjunct work is the majority or entirety of their income).
Los Angeles adjunct becomes chair of California
Rusty Hicks, known to the larger California public as the newly
elected leader of the California Democratic Party, is known to
the students of the Los Angeles Community College District and
the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, Local 1521, by another
title since 2016 — Adjunct Instructor of Labor Studies.
It is not a level playing field in the world of higher
education. The longstanding and systematic underfunding of
higher ed has to a crisis in which 68 percent of California
community college faculty now work as part-time, or temporary
In an event which channels the spirit of Campus Equity Week,
leaders from the Peralta Federation of Teachers, San Mateo
Community College Federation of Teachers, UC-AFT, and San
Francisco State will host a free conference on the future of
higher education at Berkeley City College on October 25.
The term “freeway flyer” has for years been synonymous with
California part-time community college teachers. Since 1968,
California part-timers have been legally restricted to teaching a
faction of a full-time load in a given community college
district, and then generally paid only for their instructional
The rationale for this rule was that it allowed administrators
more flexibility to deal with the drop in student sections from
the fall to spring semesters, and at the same time, a way to get
out of paying healthcare and retirement benefits.
While the issues of pay inequity, the lack of job security, and
access to health benefits are major challenges that plague
part-time faculty —collegiality, inclusion, and connection with
their campuses and fellow faculty are also important for a
part-time faculty member’s long-term involvement with a
Key to increasing adjunct involvement and connection in the
California community colleges is increasing both the
opportunities for and compensation of part-time faculty
participation in shared governance.
Pregnancy is a medical condition that requires women to take time
off either to deal with the pregnancy itself and potential
complications, to recover from child birthing, or bond with a
child, which often requires far more than a just the few weeks
that many female adjuncts may have in accumulated sick leave. It
is not an illness, like a cold, nor a disability like throwing
out your back. It is a temporary disability specific to women and
needs to be treated as such.
Sam Russo, one of the core group who organized Adjunct
Faculty United, AFT Local 6106, died on May 5. He was
president of the local for 12 years, and served on the
negotiations team for a number of years.
Update: The governor signed AB 463 into
law on October 4, 2019.
Presently working its way through the Assembly,
AB 463, Cervantes, D-Riverside, seeks to make it easier for
California part-time community college instructors to gain
eligibility for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness