Pay Parity–Start Talking About Your Salaries

Hello Good Adjuncts,

Sorry I’ve been gone for over three months from the site.  Like the rest of you, I’ve been a bit busy, but I’ve tried to address the adjunct issue these past few months more directly through union and political involvement. 

This brings me to the thing that I think we, as adjuncts, can do to begin being effecting change immediately.

Start publically and factually talking about our salaries

This past Spring, a retired but returned former full-time colleague of mine began talking salaries, and told me, that in spite of his longstanding sympathy for adjuncts, he hadn’t really gotten the message of how our salaries are, to be polite, “deficient”, until he started getting paid in adjunct wages.

You see, my colleague, who retired from San Diego Mesa College as head of the English Department in 2003, was making $86,000/year in his final year.  He then went on for a number of years being paid “pro rata”, which meant he would teach two classes paid on a graduated scale proportionate to what he had made as a full-timer.  However, “pro rata” status doesn’t continue forever, and so eventually he saw his pay reduced to the standard adjunct rate for a person of his experience and educational attainment.  He saw his wages cut to almost a third of what he was making.

As an adjunct at San Diego Mesa College, I now make $67.10 an hour.  Because I have taught three classes a semester for over ten years, I am at the top of the pay scale for people with a MA and 60 Postgraduate units.  This coming academic year, I will teach six three-unit (3hr/wk) classes which run 16 weeks.  If one multiplies $67.10 X 6 X 3 X 16, this will come to $19,324.80.  If I were to teach a full-time load of ten three-unit classes, my pay for the year would be $32208.00. 

For a person of my experience and educational attainment, were I actually working as a full-time contracted employee, I would make, (being on Step M of Schedule A),  $6,290.00 a month on a ten-month contract for an annual total of  $62,900.00, excluding Health Insurance, which thanks to my union, I also receive.

In other words, I make approximately 51.3 % of what my comparable full-time colleague makes.  In fact, if I had  really started as a full-timer, I would have actually accumulated an additional 144 units putting me at Step X, which means I would receive $8,477.00/month for an annual salary of $84,770.00.  In fact, I really am getting paid 37.9 % of what my comparable full-time colleague makes.

As an adjunct at Southwestern Community College, I am paid better on an hourly basis, but receive no benefits with lesser job security.    At Southwestern I am paid $75.70/hr.   I teach two four-unit classes  per semester for 8 hours a week for two 18.5 week semesters.  My annual salary from Southwestern next year will be $75.70 X 8 X 2 X 18.5, which comes to $22,407.00.  If I worked I to work a full-time load at this rate, I would make 42,013.50 annually.  The actual salary for a full-time contracted employee with comparable experience and educational attainment (Step 12 Class IV) would be $82, 405/yr., not including HW and welfare benefits.  Adjuncts, if they receive any HW benefits from any other place of work, receive no benefits, and in fact, will only receive percentage pay on any health plan (i.e. 20% pay for a 20% load).  Excluding benefits and just going by salary, Southwestern College pays me 51.2% of the salary a comparable full-time colleague makes.

Now granted, I do not have outside committee work like my full-time colleagues, but I have sat on academic committees, participated on an academic senate as an adjunct rep for five years, and participate in department meetings (unlike some of my full-time colleagues).  I easily exceed 40 hours of work a semester on professional development, none of which I am compensated for.  I have consistently positive evaluations at both institutions.

I ask therefore, how is my work worth 37.9%, 51.2%, or even 51.3% of a full-time contract employee’s, especially when I face the loss of work from even one bad evaluation cycle, or a downturn in funding?

If the above facts don’t point out the glaring inequities of the system, I don’t know what does or will.

So I say, good adjuncts, speak of your salaries, what you do make, what your colleagues both full-time and adjunct make, and of the sharp disparities.  Do it in emails, to your colleagues, to governing boards, to the editorial sections of newspapers and blogs.

Maybe then the larger academic community, and perhaps more importantly, the public will finally “get it.”

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct in Search of Pay Parity