“The Gig is Up: Campus Equity Now!” A Campus Equity Week 2019 Call To Action

One of the main organizing tools for improving the plight of adjunct-contingent faculty has been Campus Equity Week or CEW.

Initially, CEW was a biannual adjunct-contingent organizing tool, where, during the last full week in October, adjunct-contingent faculty, faculty unions, and other supporting groups would, at their respective campuses, hold everything from rallies to seminars to guerilla theater to call attention to the unequal labor conditions faced by adjunct-contingent Higher Ed faculty.

Some campuses, such as my own, which are two-year colleges, have chosen to make Campus Equity Week an annual event because, with our ever-revolving student population and leadership, doing the event biannually would cause a lack of continuity and connection.

Some campuses and organizations, out of their own institutional necessities, will hold the event earlier or later by a week or so.

What’s important is that adjunct-contingent faculty get out and advocate, and encourage others, from students, to full-time faculty, community and labor leaders, and yes, even administrators, to push campus equity.

At my campuses (those of the San Diego, Grossmont-Cuyamaca, and Southwestern Community College Districts), I am calling for and organizing Campus Equity Week events for the week of Oct. 21st-25th around the theme “The Gig is Up: Campus Equity Now.”

Why?

Adjunct-Contingent (AC) Work is “Gig Work”:

AC teacher/workers, not unlike “gig” workers Uber and Lyft drivers, or Amazon delivery persons, are . . .

  1. Hired to work only on an as-needed basis, and paid only for their direct contact time. If there is not adequate demand as defined by management, there is no work. There are no or minimal guarantees for future work.
  2. The core or majority of employees that directly deliver a service but are treated more or less as independent contractors, generally meaning their loss of work does not make them eligible for unemployment benefits.
  3. Expected to bear the costs of additional training, certifications (talk to Nursing and Fire Science Educators about this), licensing, as well as to bear the costs for some equipment required to do the job.
  4. Often denied healthcare and retirement benefits, and in many cases, restricted from taking on additional work assignments if the additional hours worked qualifies them as full-time, or “true” employees.
  5. Not truly given a voice or allowed input on the basic management of the enterprise, which in the case of AC teacher/workers, is the institution of higher education.
  6. Made to suffer economically and emotionally due to the lack of job, housing, and even food security.
  7. Exploited in general in the name of managerial freedom, flexibility, and convenience.
  8. Looked down upon, or treated as lesser by full-time employees who see them as less qualified, unstable, and even unworthy of equal status and consideration.

Further . . .

  1. The expansion of gig jobs in academia has strained the capacity of AC teacher/workers to teach their best, meanwhile many students are bound by economic necessity to work gig jobs. The poor pay and working conditions of “gig” jobs has negatively impacted the success of students, making it additionally challenging for AC teacher/workers to help their students succeed academically.
  2. Many AC teacher/workers not only work academic “gig” jobs, but are themselves participants in other areas of the gig economy, such as Uber.
  3. “Gig” work, or contingent labor (‘freelancing”) is expected to become the majority of the workforce by 2027.
  4. Increasingly, para-professional staff are either being hired or replaced by workers whose status is decidedly “gig.”

What do We Mean When We’re Talking Equity? 

That all Work and Workers be Respected. We live in an inequitable society, and while it’s important for AC teacher/workers to call attention to their plight and its impact on students, the campus, and the community, we need to acknowledge that AC teacher/worker and socioeconomic injustice of other campus workers, our students, their parents, etc. The main goal of Campus Equity Week is to create awareness and encourage an impulse to action through the building of solidarity.

Teacher and campus workers ultimately deserve equal pay for equal work with respect to their responsibilities, work and professional experience, and qualifications, and in cases where a worker is working a percentage of a full-time position, he or she should be paid directly proportionate to the full-time wage for the duties they are assigned. (This should need no explanation, and such equity should extend to healthcare, retirement, and other benefits.

That the Other Aspects of Campus Inequity be at Least Acknowledged. Our faculty, students, and fellow campus workers are of all races, gender designations, religions, sexual orientations, and abilities. Many have faced Racism, Sexism, Religious and Gender Discrimination, along with Xenophobia and Ableism, which have also contributed to campus inequity.

That students be empowered to achieve educational success free of housing and food insecurity. While it is not unreasonable to expect students to work their way through school, it is unreasonable to place such a financial burden upon them that they effectively go hungry or homeless. In this regard, we call for: 1) Free or greatly reduced tuition, 2) the establishment of foodbanks, “closets,” and student low cost farmers’ markets supported by “fresh” programs, 3) community-supported low-cost student housing, 4) and campus-wide support and promotion of OER (online educational resources) as cheaper or free textbook alternatives.

That Adjunct-Contingent campus workers (AC Faculty, Staff) have access to these services when in need. A campus can only succeed in its mission when its faculty and support staff are secure.

That these Same Workers Be Allowed the Opportunity to Fully Participate in the Campus’s Shared Governance Structure, and be Compensated for It. These workers, who clearly represent the campus majority are vital to a campus’s operations and its students’ success. A more engaged and secure faculty means a more successful campus and surrounding community.

That So-Called “Gig” Workers be Truly Classified as Employees, thus Obligating Companies to Properly Compensate and Support Them. Security for many workers requires they be properly supported, and not forced to bear excessive costs for equipment and training, particularly when they are poorly compensated and given no or few benefits.

When possible, and in a timely and consistent manner, Contingent Faculty, Staff, and Workers at Large should Be Informed of Future Work Assignments or Schedules. Because many if not most contingent workers need to juggle multiple gigs, stable and timely scheduling will ensure their ability to both do their jobs and manage their lives as well as possible.

 

How Do We speak of Equity?

Rallies/Panel Discussions: Mass Actions which include not just AC teacher/ workers, but as much of the institution’s community as possible:

Curriculum: Lesson plans and assignments which focus on worker equity and encourage students to make true intellectual inquiry on the issues and grow academically. In many cases, teachers can be more effective in conveying awareness through classroom-based education than through rallies or panel discussions.

Street/Guerrilla Theater, Artistic Expression: This can involve everything from props and costumes, to game play activities, to spoken word and musical performance.
Petition/ Signature Gathering: Everything from petitions to local governments or board of trustees calling for policy changes to support for resolutions calling for the implementation should be considered. This can be done at a number of venues, or in conjunction with other Campus Equity Events.

I would like to humbly suggest that the embrace of such a theme and approach at your local would do well to further the cause of Campus Equity. It is my hope that you can take up it and make it your own.

In solidarity,

Geoff Johnson
AFT-ACC President, and
A Good Adjunct

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Getting Adjunct Progress: Going Beyond the Local Part I: Local Limitations

This is the first in a series of entries looking at the needs and challenges of addressing the adjunct crisis beyond the immediacy of the local bargaining unit.

Adjunct activists, (and by the way, if you 1) have happened to read this, 2) are an adjunct/contingent teacher, and 3) want to be paid or simply treated like the academic that you are, guess what: you’re an activist, which means you’re responsible for sticking up for yourself. Welcome to the club.  I’m not sending you a card, but like your department chair, I will let you know that you’re “appreciated.” If it has not become already apparent, your local union is generally limited in the gains they can make for you. The main reasons for this are as follows:

It’s Not Their Main Concern. Yes, some “wall-to-wall” locals (units which include full-time tenure track faculty and adjunct/contingent faculty) act more on behalf of the full-time tenure track faculty, and sometimes at the expense of the adjunct/contingent faculty, by being, among other things, loathe to even small, incremental percentage increases for adjunct/contingent faculty as a path to pay equity, or pushing for adjunct/contingent health benefits, as well as paid office hours, professional development, departmental inclusion, shared governance, etc. At the same time, many wall-to-wall units are not necessarily this callous, but might perceive that if the full-time unit suffers it could impact the overall effectiveness of their local, if not it’s viability.  The often limited involvement to outright apathy of adjunct/contingent faculty in contrast to full-time faculty is the driver for this thinking. (In other words adjuncts, don’t be apathetic or uninvolved.)

They Lack Local Political Capital. Too many union faculty simply think that if a local concentrates singularly on internal solidarity that somehow they might prevail, falsely assuming that what happens regarding their working conditions only does so at the bargaining table. These people assume that somehow administrators are more moved by a committed faculty who 1) never hired them, 2) can’t fire them, 3) have forgotten that administrators are hired more to control than to empower them. Administrators, while often given varying degrees of free reign to manage their faculty, operate at the pleasure of Boards of Trustees or Governing Boards which are either locally elected, or appointed by politicians, usually at the state level.  In some cases, these administrators may be taking a hard line with faculty not of their own accord so much as at the behest of their Board.  To better control the local situation, the local needs to either have the ear of, or simply control, the board by getting faculty-friendly members on it.  Too few locals have PACs (Political Action Committees) which vet prospective board candidates, financially support the faculty-friendly ones, or better yet, search for, recruit, and groom them. And in those cases when board members are not elected or appointed, many locals lack governmental-relations committees that can meet with and influence the politicians who make the appointments.

They are Unable to Create Solidarity with Other Groups. On any campus, faculty play a crucial, if not the crucial role in what happens regarding student learning, but faculty are not alone. Besides administrators, there are para-professional office/support staff from IT, admissions officers, tutors, custodial and food service workers. Too often (and if it’s happening at all, it’s too often), faculty units will ignore the needs and concerns of these workers, whether these workers have unions of their own or not.  Imagine that the custodial or office/clerical units might just have an issue with faculty clamoring for cuts to these units in exchange for salary increases.  Add in that faculty often (though not always and especially not in the case of adjunct/contingent faculty) are paid better, enjoy greater benefits, and job security, and you can imagine that when local faculty members are engaging in a contract campaign, that their calls for fair faculty working conditions will fall on deaf ears.  Add further that there are often great disparities between faculty and staff in terms of class, race, and gender, and the problem become worse.  While it’s a problem that can be remedied, it’s one that takes time, and considerable empathy.

Working Conditions and Pay are more Controlled by Legislative Bodies and Statutes than by Local Institutional Bodies. While many public institutions rely on a variety of sources for funding, the funding which faculty unions can most directly impact is the funding institutions receive from state or local government bodies. What this means is that unless there is a mandate at the state or local level for significant change in terms of educational funding, with an eye to improving faculty working conditions as a path to improving student learning, any local institution’s budget will have little room for change. As for standards regarding faculty working conditions, decisions made at the board or administrative level are often guided by statute. In the California Community College system, for example, a 67% load limit/district for adjunct/contingent faculty is set by State Ed Code. The only way to have this cap lifted is by getting the state legislature to do so.

They Lack Knowledge and Expertise. In addition to not being aware of any of the four afore-mentioned points, many locals and their officers 1) have limited knowledge of labor law, 2) fail to understand the negotiating process and what qualifies as a fair or unfair labor practice, and 3) have frequent leadership turnover or limited commitment by local faculty. Sometimes even change in local working conditions can be better achieved by local officers and bargaining units being exposed to what has been achieved elsewhere by other locals’ faculty bargaining units.

One way to addressing each of these problems involves working with other similarly-affiliated locals, or state and national umbrella organizations, but this is not without challenge as well, which I will address in my next post.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

No One “Deserves” to Be An Adjunct

Considering highly frustrated adjunct instructors, I will often hear even from some of the more “woke” full-time faculty, comments like, “it’s no wonder he/she is an adjunct,” or that “so and so deserves to be an adjunct.”

This needs to stop.

Sure, there may be adjuncts who, in applying for full-time jobs, either present themselves poorly or simply are weak in comparison to other prospective candidates, but no one “deserves” to be an adjunct.

When people ask me, in terms of my job, what I like to be called, I answer in two parts:

  • If you’re asking me to define how I’m regarded by the institutions I teach at, the state and federal governments that fund or define my working conditions, the tenure track faculty and administrators I work with, and even the unions that represent me—I am an adjunct.
  • I otherwise choose to define myself as a community college professor or faculty member. It is, after all, my task to “profess,” and in fact, my students make and see no distinction between me and my full-time contracted faculty colleagues. Yes, I am aware that the term “professor” is a term to define a faculty member of the highest rank, but it is largely an internal academic distinction.

In the academic world outside of the Full-time Tenure Track Faculty, a variety of semi-stratified terms to describe instructors is bandied about, from adjunct, to part-time, to contingent, to associate, to Non-tenure track, to visiting professor, to lecturer, and so on…

The term “adjunct” largely seems to occupy the lesser strata of these terms in that an adjunct is generally distinguished as one who is “supplemental” to the larger academic mission of the institution, and as such is…

  • Temporary, or only to be used as needed
  • Limited in knowledge or expertise(academic or institutional)
  • Of lesser value, and thus deserving fewer resources, lesser academic freedom and pay.

So it should be pretty clear, I don’t like the term “adjunct,” but if I need to remind faculty of how I am regarded, I refer to myself as such.

That said:

  • No one deserves to be hired and fired on a term-by-term basis for unending consecutive terms. When, as in the California Community College System, close to 70% of faculty are “adjunct,” and by this hiring practice, are consigned to, in some cases, up to four to five decades of subsequent term “rehiring,” such adjuncts are in fact permanent workers and should be given the job security guarantees that reflect this.
  • No one deserves to be forced to teach in multiple institutions or districts to cobble together a livable wage, when the arbitrary caps on part-time work at particular institutions prevents an adjunct from taking on more work at one institution which the Dean and department chair would be happy to grant him or her. Necessary non-instructional academic time should not consist of uncompensated multi-hour off-campus travel from one site to the next.
  • No One deserves, particularly when he/she needs and has the same job qualifications as his/her full-time colleagues, to be thought of as lesser in knowledge, or lacking in the capacity to understand an institution’s culture or mission. Perhaps another way to put it is to say that all Higher Ed educators deserve a right to participate in departmental matters, and in shared governance, i.e. academic senate, and to be paid for it.
  • No One deserves to be denied the basic tools to complete the same job as his/her full-time colleague, like an office space to prep, grade, and consult with students and fellow faculty.
  • No One deserves to be denied the capacity in a Higher Ed setting to conduct classes as he/she sees fit on the basis or whether they are a full-time tenure track faculty or not. When being evaluated on their teaching, both full-time and adjunct should be evaluated by the same standards.
  • No One deserves, taking into account seniority and qualification, to be paid less for doing the same instructional or professional work.

To say that any Higher Ed instructor “deserves” any of the above is to not see them as a person, let alone as a colleague.

But, if an argument that one should recognize the basic humanity of one’s fellow colleagues can’t convince you, consider this: You’ll be hard pressed to find any public Higher Ed. institution’s mission statement that declares or even implies any student deserves to get a lesser education because his/her instructor was impacted by the arbitrary title of “adjunct,”especially when that institution aspires to the notion of equity.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

California Community College Adjuncts Take Action: Send a Letter to Governor Newsom

In conjunction with the 2019 objectives of the CFT Legislative Committee, and in consultation with Bryan Ha, CFT’s lobbyist for California Community Colleges, I have composed the following letter (see below the sign out) to get our incoming governor to dedicate categorical funding to the tune of:

  1. 150 million dollars (ongoing) for more full-time positions
  2. 150 million dollars increase (ongoing) for paid part-time office hours

Signing and sending letters like these in physical form is important.  They have and do impact the budget process, and we have made small but steady gains for adjuncts over the past few years because of them.

Adjuncts don’t have to, and shouldn’t be the only ones signing and sending in these letters.  Get other faculty, students, staff, community and family members to sign and send in these letters.

And by the way, some of the more eager signers of these letters have been administrators and governing board members or trustees.

Some of you might want to say more than the letter, or think you can say it better in your own words.  Just use the letter as a draft which you can personalize as your own.

This letter is also available on the CFT website. (Go to this link and look at the item following the one calling for support of UTLA teachers).

This letter is just a part of a larger campaign this year to improve adjunct working conditions on a number of fronts. I will speak of these in future entries.

Sign and send these letters.  Be the change you want to see.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

See the letter  below

 

Governor Gavin Newsom

State Capitol Building, 1st Floor

Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Newsom:

One of the critical factors to increasing student success in the California Community Colleges is ensuring faculty-student interaction.

However, nearly 70 percent of community college faculty are temporary, part-time instructors, who are largely paid only for their time in the classroom. Most part-time faculty are disproportionately paid significantly less than their full-time counterparts, meaning they often have to travel and teach in multiple districts to make ends meet. This leaves limited time to fully interact with students.

In her 2016 study about the effects of part-time instructors on student success, Cheryl Hyland, an expert in the field from Motlow State Community College in Tennessee, stated: “Part-time students taught by adjunct faculty are retained at a significantly lower rate than first-time, part-time students taught by full-time faculty.” Hyland concluded that the nature of “having to teach at several institutions simultaneously in order to garner a livable income, hindered their [part-time faculty’s] interaction with students outside the classroom” … and this, along with other factors, “result in delayed or reduced instructor responsiveness to student needs and inquiries regarding classroom progress and performance, ultimately impacting student intellectual development and success.”

Increasing student-teacher interaction can be done, in part, by hiring more full-time instructors to come closer to reaching the 75-25 ratio of full-time faculty to part-time faculty mandated in AB 1725 nearly three decades ago, or by paying part-time faculty more equitably in relation to their full-time counterparts.

Another way is to increase paid office hour funding for part-time faculty. There is little money in the state’s fund for paid office hours, and any district that applies for funds has to pay the majority of the costs, so many districts have no paid office hours program, When districts do choose to participate, they are reimbursed for only 28 percent of program cost, and as a result, may offer very limited paid office hours. For example, during an entire semester at Southwestern College, part-time faculty got only 2-3 paid office hours for a 3-unit course, and at Pasadena City College part-time faculty got a total of 8 hours for the entire semester regardless the number of courses taught. Though the Legislature dedicated an additional $50 million to this fund in 2018, it was only one-time money, and not enough to expand sustainable office hour programs.

I ask that you consider increasing the allocation of funding in your January budget proposal for these important programs:

1) $150 million in ongoing funding for more full-time faculty positions;

2) $150 million in ongoing funding for paid office hours for part-time faculty.

Faculty working conditions affect our students’ learning conditions. We can and must do better.

 

Sincerely,

NAME (Print)_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

ADDRESS _________________________________

CITY & ZIP_________________________________

NAWD/Adjunct Action Day 5.0–Yeah, It’s Gotta Happen!

On February 25th, 2015 adjunct/contingent faculty rallied on more than 100 campuses across the United States to speak out against decades of their exploitation and both unfair and unequal treatment. This was obviously not the first such event in which adjunct/contingent faculty spoke out against their working conditions, but it was the first which captured the larger mainstream media narrative.

At the time, there were calls for a National Adjunct Walkout Day, and though a small number of adjuncts did in fact, walk out, many still rallied and spoke out.

In some cases, such as in the state of California, the actions helped to launch state legislative categorical funding initiatives which have in successive years lead to increased funding for more full-time positions, paid-part time office hours, equity pay, and a minimum bar for rehire rights language for California Community College Adjuncts.  The gains were small, but significant.

In successive years, the idea of such an event has morphed into an Adjunct Action Day, during which adjuncts, students, full-time employees, and other members of a particular campus community including administrators and para-professional/classified staff spoke to the issue of adjunctification.

While there were large numbers of campuses who participated in events in 2015, the following years have seen drop offs to where a smattering of campuses will mark such an event over the course of a Winter of Spring term.

We in San Diego have held the event every year in the San Diego, Grossmont-Cuyamaca, and Southwestern Community College Systems, and once again will do so on February 28th, 2019.

The date is significant for us in that the first NAWD/Adjunct Action Day Event was held on what was the fourth Wednesday in February, which by its very placement in the middle of the school week, and relatively early our Spring Semester allows for us to put forth ideas on the improvement of adjunct/contingent working conditions that we can carry forth on the state level up through the Spring, into June, when the state budget is settled, and into early Fall, when legislation is signed.

This year, we will be pushing for the following:

1)  Expanding part-time office hour funding by 150 million dollars statewide

2)  Increasing funding for more full-time positions, also by 150 million dollars

3) Ending the proposal for a performance-based funding model for California Community

Colleges (which will directly hurt students and adjuncts if enacted)

4) Providing up to twelve weeks of maternity leave for female educators which is not  taken from

either their sick or disability leave

5) Raising the single-district teaching cap from 67% to 85%

6) Increasing transparency while improving rehire rights language

We will also be standing in solidarity with CUNY’s call for 7K per class.

Our efforts with past Adjunct Action Days have borne fruit, but we can only truly harvest our activism if more groups hold Adjunct Action Day Rallies, either on February 28th, or another day in the Spring.

Make it happen adjuncts, and fight for what you deserve!

Geoff Johnson

A “Good Adjunct”

 

Equity Extends Beyond Ourselves-A Poem on Labor Day

Below is a poem about a situation I witnessed on April 30th, 2002, the first day I came back to San Diego to live and plunge myself into adjunctification after nearly a decade of living in Japan. Nine months later, myself and my family were living at the point of economic desperation and the threat of homelessness.

I think and have thought of this incident as the time at which my Polyannish economic optimism of living in America as an educator, or as any working class individual without the risk of destitution ended.  What struck me then, as it does now, is how the abject defeats of the poor in this country are but trivialities in the minds of those who set and enforce policy.  Some people refer to this as simply a matter of falling through the cracks.

The fact of the matter is that increasingly, a smaller number of folks with wide feet are allowing the cracks in the floorboards to broaden, thinking only of the things they want to do in the room rather than the precarity of others trying to simply cross or stand on the floor.

For those adjuncts out there struggling to get by,  think of their own plight and exploitation, consider on this labor day the struggles of those who precariously stand on this cracked floor, other laborers, our students, or simply the person who can’t scrape up the 15 dollars to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

As you reach the poem’s end, you might rightly ask why I didn’t just step in and pay the 15 dollars. All I can say is that I was stunned by the moment, and have to live with the thought that I should have.

525

Standing tall, head erect, black and beaming

New shirt, pants creased, shoes shined

He strides to the desk with an uplifted gait,

and tells he’ll no longer make her wait.

 

“It took me a while to get paid, and just so you know,

I got a place, so I’ve come to get the stuff

you have. Here’s what I owe,

it’s 525.”

 

And she, holder of keys, old white and drawn, behind the barrier sent out a smile.

 

“It’s good to see you got it together.

Now let me go and check accounts so we can

Confirm the correct amount.”

 

“By all means, go ahead,” he said with pride,

“But I am sure, as I heard you say it’s 525 for rent unpaid

when you said I had to leave. It’s been just three days and

now I’m back and ready to make good.”

 

“Well I see here it was 525, just as you say,

but it’s been three days, and there’s a fee,

of five dollars for every day, which brings it up to 540.

I need all this before I can let your stuff go.”

 

Eyes wide, arms tensed, surprised he speaks,

“But I’ve not been here, I’ve not used your space.

I’ve given you all that I have. Beyond what you,

see, all I’ve got is a change of clothes.

I think that I’ve given you enough,

could you please understand and let it go?”

 

And she said, “No, I’m afraid the rules are clear, and

after all, I’m just the manager here.What do you expect me to do?”

 

“Have it in your heart ma’am, just 15 dollars, and

it’s all my stuff. I’d give you the money if I could.”

 

“I’m sorry that’s the way it is.”

 

“Well, if I were to come in a few days, could I give you the 15 then?”

 

“Yes you could, but then it’d be 5 dollars extra for every day.”

 

“But that’s crazy! For every day I try

my stuff is farther from me!

You can’t do this!

 

“Yes, I can,” she said low and tense.

 

“Goddamn!” he cried, turned on his heel

and stormed out, reached the corner, lowered his head,

and marched out of sight.

 

A young man helping in the back rushed to the woman’s side and asked, “Are you OK?”

 

As if she was the one who was hurt.

 

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

Help California Community College Wildfire Victims

In the past two years, wildfires have taken a particularly deadly and damaging toll on Californians from Ventura County in the South, to the Carr and Mendicino Complex fires in the Counties of Shasta, Mendicino, and Lake in the North.

While this might seem an item more connected to general news, the fact of the matter is that these fires have greatly impacted students and faculty who have lost work, homes, and in one tragic case, their lives.

Jeremy-Stoke-official-320x438

This is Jeremy Stoke.  He was a Fire Inspector for Shasta County, and an Adjunct Instructor for the Shasta College Fire Academy.  He lost his life while assisting others escape the fire.

He was/is a hero, and adjuncts, he was one of us.

For me these fires carry a personal weight.  John Rall, one of the co-founders of Adjunct Crisis, who now teaches at Mendicino College, is presently under evacuation orders and cannot return to his home.  My Stepmother’s oldest brother, Eldon Diettert, died in the infamous Mann Gulch Fire of 1949.  Eldon was a college Freshman doing a Summer job as a firefighter.  My father worked as a Physical Sciences Technician for the US Forest Service helping to develop fire retardant and aerial firefighting techniques.

Below are links to sites where you can help students and faculty affected by these fires.  Please do.

Shasta College

https://www.gofundme.com/shasta-college-employee-help

Mendicino College

https://give.classy.org/mcgiving2018

Take care and be safe.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

Campus Equity Week 2018: It’s Happening Here, but It’s Up to You to Make it Happen at Your Campus

 

Good Adjuncts,

Around this time last year, I gave my first post on Campus Equity Week for the year 2017.  Traditionally, Campus Equity Week was held every other year during non-election years at the end of October.

As I’ve also stated, I’ve made it a mission of mine to see that it is observed every year, and tied to adjunct actions in the Spring (like National Adjunct Action/Walkout Day) which help us to push budgetary, legislative, and even electoral goals (Ex. Proposition 55).

Both the San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College Districts, along with the Southwestern Community College Districts, will be observing Campus Equity Week October 22nd-26th this year.

I am working with both the AFT/CFT Partime Committee and the NEA/CTA/CCA Part-time Faculty Issues Committee to help them make Campus Equity Week happen in one form or another on other California Community College Campuses.

To this end I will be working with CFT to update the Campus Equity Week Toolkit, and when the PTFIC has materials in place, I will share them on this site. To this end, if you, in your respective AFT locals, think you have good stuff and would like to share it, please submit it to me via email at mixinminao@gmail.com, and we’ll see if we can add it to the toolkit, with your permission.

Over the next four months, I’ll be weighing in on what I’m doing.  If you look through this site, you will note that I have written upon a variety of activities you can do, and constituent groups you should talk with.  It’s hardly an exhaustive list, but it should get you pointed in the right direction.

As I coordinate events at the aforementioned community colleges, and work with the following committees on these projects, I am doing all I can. I can’t help you organize your sites or your adjunct/contingents, full-time faculty, staff, and students (by the way, if you’re able, you should get all these groups involved).

Will Campus Equity Week happen at your campuses?

That is entirely up to you.

Geoff Johnson

A “Good” Adjunct

The Post-Janus Path Forward

On June 28th, while I was in the midst of considering the impact of one of my locals losing dues from over 300 “fee-payers,” I saw a piece of commentary titled, “Why the Supreme Court Ruling on Unions Could Be Good for Adjuncts” by Keith Hoeller, a retired philosophy adjunct from Washington state.

In the commentary, Hoeller primarily argues that 1) particularly wall-to-wall (those faculty unions will both full-time and part-time members) have systematically underserved the needs and interests of full-time faculty; 2) that, clearly, adjuncts would be served better by adjunct-only unions; and 3) that the path to this is by adjuncts pushing for the de-certification of wall-to-wall units, with the apparent goal of using the leverage to realize supposedly one-tier faculty labor system known as the “Vancouver Model,” whereby uncoming part-time instructors are paid at the proportional full-time rate, and, after teaching a 50%+ load for more than 18 months, would become full time.

Along with this, Hoeller also effectively called for an end to the tenure system, and additionally asserted that in California, it was,CPFA, the California Part-Time Faculty Association, that had been responsible for improvements in adjunct/contingent working conditions, rather than the unions that represent them.

What Hoeller does here is take his first assertion, which sadly has some truth to it, then follow with a series of some questionable and outright false assertions before calling for adjunct/contingents to undertake a risky labor action which may in fact cost them any collective bargaining rights in the quest for an ideal, but a tremendously costly and politically unachievable goal in light not only of the current political environment, but of a political environment which in truth has existed for over 40 years.

As an adjunct who faced the threat of homelessness, and has been on some form of public assistance in the past and on more than one occasion, I fully get the anger, frustration, and sense of desperation.

But the Janus decision will not work as a bargaining chip to get better things for adjuncts in the long run. The threat of opt-out language has had teachers’ groups nervous and watchful for years.

First, it’s hardly a secret that full-time faculty in many but certainly not all wall-to-wall locals have placed full-time priorities over adjunct/contingent needs.

I am in fact familiar with one local, whose union affiliation has since changed, in which the leadership took state equity money meant for adjuncts and diverted it to full-time salaries.

That said, there are a number of locals within the California Community College System who have won their adjuncts health insurance and paid part-time office hours. Moreover, many of these same locals have sought to consistently give adjuncts higher percentage pay raises than full-timers to progressively more towards pay equity within the budgetary limitations created by a fiscally conservative governor. Much of this was achieved when adjuncts became more participatory in their wall-to-wall unions, and in the case of Cabrillo and Ventura Community Colleges, actually assumed leadership.

Separate full-time and part-time units, in a number cases, are often the result of full-timers wanting to disregard the interests of part-timers in favor of their own exclusively. This cuts directly against what Hoeller asserts. I myself wonder how pay equity is achieved with separate bargaining units when a simple “me too” clause would necessarily force administrators to give across-the-board raises to both full and adjunct units at the same percentages.

It’s better to make full-time faculty aware that adjunctification and the exploitative incentives which fuel it will ultimately harm their own working conditions, student learning, and academic freedom.

Hoeller also claims that whatever improvements that have come for adjuncts in California were the result of CPFA’s advocacy, and not unions like CTA and AFT/CFT. This is false.

CPFA is a relatively small organization which has maybe 100-200 paying members, and a smaller core of maybe 50 activists. While CPFA has called for improvements in working conditions, the actual legislation and budget lobbying was in much larger proportion done by CTA, AFT, and other groups like FAAAC, and the California Community College Academic Senate. I can speak to this directly as a member of CFT’s legislative committee. Our pushes for categorical funding for pay equity, paid adjunct office hours, along with maternity leave legislation, etc, were not generated by CPFA influence. Hoeller’s assertion is in fact an insult to the very hard work done by union officers, staff, and rank and file members, both adjunct and full-time, in mobilizing support, giving testimony, and lobbying legislatures to do the right thing.

But if Hoeller’ s claims here are problematic, his solution to the problem would in fact be seriously injurious. De-certing a union is no small enterprise, requiring the consent of over half a union’s given membership, both adjunct and full-time. Any such action requires a high degree of disaffection with a union, but it may also mean, among some faculty disaffection with the very concept of a union itself. Those who de-cert may not be inclined to have any union, leaving those adjuncts who had and wanted union protections and collective bargaining completely without power.

This said, what’s more likely to happen is for disgruntled adjuncts to simply become non-members, weakening the bargaining power of their union.

And by the way, this wouldn’t lead to the realization of a “Vancouver “Model” anytime soon if ever.

First of all, the “Vancouver Model” is supposedly a system which eliminates the two-tiered adjunct/full-time model, except that it doesn’t–you have to be teaching over 50% over 18 months to get a full-time position. Even if this system were adopted, admin would likely find ways to string adjuncts along at under 50% for years, or simply fire/rehire them every fourth semester (Ever heard of “churning” anyone?).

Of course, there’s the idea that adjuncts would be paid at the same rate as full-timers proportionately. Good idea. Damn straight, should happen.

I just have one question. Where’s the money going to come from?

Here’s a little surprise–they hire adjuncts because we’re cheaper. They don’t hire full-timers as much as they should because they cost more money.

Realizing the Vancouver Model, at a typical California Community College, where 50% of sections are taught by adjunct making half as much as full-timers, would conservatively require an increase in a school’s ongoing budget of at least 25% and likely more like 35+%, once you kick in the health insurance and other benefits that would have to be accorded to the new full-timers.

And by the way, what about all the Classified Staff who are adjunctified as well? Don’t you think they wouldn’t want, or deserve similar equitable working conditions?

In order for this to happen at public institutions, a particular state would need to bring in significantly more revenues. We’re talking billions of dollars just for the California Community College System. While Californians have passed limited revenue-enhancing measures in the past, and might go along with a proposition to raise funds, it’s not likely to the degree or extent it would take to make the Vancouver model viable in the immediate future. There still needs to be a significant cultural, and subsequently, electoral change at all levels of government for this to occur.

However, a bigger obstacle to overcome to move towards a Vancouver Model in California would be Ed Code language covering the hiring process for full-time hires. Written in part to supposedly insure against undue impartiality and equal opportunity, this code, commonly referred to as Title V, prevents straight adjunct to full-time conversions, and demands a significant advertising of an open position, and then a fairly rigorous vetting and interview process. Because it is in part tied to EEOC regulations, amending it has always been a place legislators avoid for fear of an obvious backlash on the grounds such actions could lead to discriminatory practices.

And this is coupled with the fact that though the adjunct population is more culturally and racially diverse than the full-time population at a given campus, it still is, for the most part, primarily white, and significantly more so than the students they teach, or the community at large.

This is not to say that this disparity has in part to do with minority individuals, out of economic challenge, either not seeking advanced degrees for low-paying jobs–it does–the fact still remains that higher ed faculty, both adjunct and full-time, need to be more diverse, and until this happens, Title V will be hard to amend.

Of course, adjuncts and other supportive souls can still, in spite of all this, push for a Vancouver Model, but they don’t need to de-cert their unions to do it and form separate adjunct unions. On that note, how does creating two separate bargaining units lead to a one-tier system? This seems awfully counter-intuitive.

Hoeller also has it in for tenure, which he simply views as merely a lifetime employment policy for full-time faculty, rather than as a tool meant for the protection of academic freedom.

Coming from Montana, and growing up in Missoula, a college town, I heard stories of how mining interests, among other extraction industries, would seek to have professors fired for publishing research which in fact would show how their activities were inflicting ecological damage and potentially endangering the public. Tenure protected these academics so that they could in turn protect the common interest.

What tenure is really about is not an individual academic’s job security. It’s really about insisting that if an academic is to be fired, it is with just cause, and that the instructor is given a chance to defend his or her self.

Ultimately, this is what rehire rights language is all about–ensuring that adjunct instructors who have proven themselves receive continued teaching assignments, and at a certain load, unless it can be established that their teaching was persistently subpar, or that they violated the terms of their contract through unethical, inappropriate, or criminal behavior.

Of course, it’s not tenure, because adjuncts are still only hired on a contingency basis, and yes,  there are problems with rehire rights language even in the places that have it, but this is one of the challenges of negotiation—you persistently need to work to expand it. Another thing adjuncts should encourage their locals to do is to look at the evaluation process, as is being called for by UC Lecturers, who are arguing that, as student evaluations carry with them sex and gender bias, they no longer be used as a tool for determining whether a lecturer should be rehired or not.

The path forward is for adjuncts to further involve themselves and engage other adjuncts on the periphery within the structure of a union, and aim towards realistic and tangible goals in the short term, with the intention of creating a tipping point towards more substantive change.

And adjuncts will need full-time allies to achieve this.

Yes, it’s slow, it’s messy, and there will be those full-timers who don’t get it, but adjuncts and the full-timers who support us are the majority.  We can and will prevail.  Consider that for academics to organize in general was a fight in California that took decades, as it has elsewhere. We can’t stop now, or those who truly keep us down, those who hate unions and favor the exploitation of all workers in general, will win.

A National Adjunct/Contingent Caucus: What it Can and Should Be.

On July 14th at the Biennial AFT National Convention, members of the American Federation of Teachers Adjunct Contingent Caucus will convene to select caucus leaders who, in the face of a post-Janus America, along the increasing threats expanding labor contingency and academic corporatization, must work in conferring with and guiding AFT to more effectively understand and act upon adjunct contingent Issues.  To be effective at this task, here are the basic steps and actions it must undertake, or encourage the High Ed. Division of AFT to undertake:

  1. Define and Recognize the Varying Degrees of Educational Labor Contingency

Adjunct/Contingent teacher plight is in part plagued by a literal soup of job titles from, “part-time” and “adjunct,” to “associate,” “lecturer,” and “non-tenure track.” The wide variety of these terms, none of which are truly understood by a general, non-academic public, only serves to shroud the nature of their exploitation under a false narrative which suggests such teachers/instructors/and professors are “professionals,” in the sense that they are fairly remunerated, enjoy job security, and benefits, and possess collegially equal footing with their full-time, contracted and tenure-track coworkers.

One thing all these adjunct/contingent instructors share is precarity.  In this regard, the Adjunct-Contingent caucus should impress upon the AFT that any instructor who consigns to work under these conditions out of economic or professional necessity is in fact a precarious worker, and that at as a central mission, AFT is dedicated to the reduction and ultimately the elimination of academic precarity.

This is itself a first step, which has been partially addressed by resolution. However, working conditions vary from not simply state to state, but from system to system, and sometimes from institution to institution. Most locals, and even larger state federations, lack knowledge of the variances.  While certainly some of this is controlled via local contracts, many of limitation/classifications imposed on these workers via state law or code. This often involves, but is not limited to the following:

  • Cap limitations (restrictions on teaching above a particular “full-time” percentage at a given institutions or within a given district.)
  • Contract limitations (restrictions on how long a person’s term of employment may be before they are given a permanent, or long-term contract.)
  • Re-hire rights (do teachers working term-by-term have, provided if classes are available, a reasonable expectation that they will be rehired in a successive term, and entitled to some due process if not.)
  • Access to unemployment or retirement benefits.

The Adjunct-Contingent caucus should then work with AFT to create a readily access electronic resource which allows members in one state or system to access and see what is happening in other systems without having to wade through state Ed code or local contracts to do it.

  1. Facilitate inter-system and inter-Federation discussion of Adjunct/Contingent Issues

Presently, the Adjunct/Contingent Committees of various systems within particular state federations do not interact.  For example, in California, UC Lecturers and AFT Community College “Part-timers” only come into contact with one another peripherally and then only really within a Higher Ed. resolutions session within a State Convention which is now only going to be held biennially. Their interaction at the last convention led to the passage of a Cap-raising resolution for Community College faculty, and the passage of a resolution calling for rehire rights language legislation for UC faculty.  More could be accomplished in terms of resolution and legislative policy were this interaction to more frequently occur.

Further, there needs to be interaction between Adjunct/Committees from different state federations. While preferably this interaction should be physical and in person, this interaction might be cost effectively achieved through wider usage of Zoom, Blue Jeans, or even Google Hangouts.

AFT needs to take advantage of electronic technology to put adjunct officers and representatives in better contact with one another.

  1. Provide a Tracking of Individual State Budget or Legislative Campaigns Concerning Adjunct/Contingent Workers

The California Federation of Teachers, generally by late November, is able to list its budgeting priorities, and by early Spring is able to indicate what bills it is sponsoring. Publicization of these priorities, in conjunction with adjunct organizing and mobilization has led to some modest successes.  Having an updated, but simple and basic list of these priorities for each federation published nationally would allow other federations to draw inspiration, consider their own priorities, and create greater solidarity.  AFT communications could arrange for this data to be reported from the state feds to them, and then posted on a national site.

  1. Update Contact Information Regarding All Higher Ed Locals and Indicating whether those locals represent exclusively represent adjunct/contingents, full-timers, or are wall-to-wall units.

Presently, much of the information provided on AFT’s main site is out-of-date or vague regarding various locals.  Only if this information is up-to-date and complete can it fully facilitate understanding.

  1. The Creation of Timed, Monitored Discussion Boards focused on Specific Contract or Adjunct Issues

Because of the prohibitive cost of travel and the limited time frame that exists within a 2-3 day conference, or even a week long retreat.  The creation of a board focused on, say rehire rights, ancillary duties, or healthcare, may be far more useful, AFT Staffers with specialties in these fields and having and the opportunity to examine and negotiate multiple contracts could serve as moderators.

  1. Better Outreach to Isolated Locals who are not Active within their Respective Federations

Within the CFT, many locals will not send representatives to either State Councils, CFT committees, or the State Convention.  Notably, many of these same locals also have some of the poorest working conditions for Adjunct/Contingent Faculty.  Many of these locals are strapped for resources, and may lack the knowledge expertise and generally encouragement to improve their unit members working conditions. AFT should encourage federation staffers to make available to committee members the contact information of adjunct officers within these isolated locals for the purposes of creating greater knowledge support, and solidarity.

  1. Provide Grant Monies so that Empowered Adjuncts Might Help in the Accomplishment of the Aforementioned Points

Many of AFT’s staffers are already stretched. Providing grant monies for motivated adjuncts to assist in the accomplishment of these tasks would be an effective way to help take the weight off of AFT staffers, and allow Adjunct/Contingent members to engage in greater self-reliance, and for some who are financially strapped, a chance for some small income.

These seven steps would be first points that an Adjunct-Contingent Caucus should strive towards, while at the same time pushing/promoting larger adjunct issues/campaigns that extend beyond Higher Ed. to the general economy and society as a whole.  Contingency is itself driven by forces which seek to reduce the human condition to a commodity to be necessarily undervalued and had on the cheap to the advantage of those who learn how to game the system.  We simply need to end the game.