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Support paid office hours for part-time faculty

Send a letter to Gov. Brown asking that more money be put in the State Part-time Office Hours Fund. These letters work. A similar campaign last year helped secure a $5 million increase in the fund, an increase of over 70 percent. That said, the state fund only matches about 10 percent of paid part-time office hours funds, which is why office hours funding is either limited or non-existent in most districts.

Download the letter asking the governor to more money in the State Part-time Office Hours Fund. Sign it and send it to him at the address on the letter.

Oppose creation of unnecessary, fully online college

All of California’s 114 community colleges offer online courses, so why do we need a fully online 115th college, especially a non-union one which would hire adjuncts to work for even lower wages, without union protections? The $120 million the governor is budgeting for this college could be better spent on increasing full-time positions, part-time pay equity, and more paid part-time office hours.

Download the letter opposing the fully online college proposal. Sign it and send it to the governor at the address on the letter.

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Yes, Virginia, adjuncts can get unemployment benefits

Even if you have received a tentative offer of employment for the next semester, you are entitled to apply for unemployment benefits over the break immediately upon completion of your last working day of the semester.

Adjunct instructors are considered at-will employees, because despite the “tentative assignment offer” one may receive, this is not legally considered a “reasonable assurance of employment.”

This means over the winter and summer breaks, adjuncts who are either fully unemployed or underemployed can be entitled to unemployment benefits through the Employment Development Department. The benefit provides you a percentage of your income each week.

This benefit is the result of CFT’s landmark victory in Cervisi v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. In 1989, CFT mounted a legal challenge to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and won.

After part-time French instructor Gisele Cervisi and other part-timers at City College of San Francisco were denied unemployment benefits at the end of an academic term, the so-called “Cervisi ruling” held that temporary (i.e., part-time) faculty are eligible for unemployment benefits between academic terms because they do not have “reasonable assurance of reemployment” given that future assignments are contingent upon enrollment, funding, or “bumping” by other faculty members.

In order to apply, you must file a claim online with the EDD. All claims are processed electronically and any necessary paperwork is mailed to you.

If you aren’t sure what to do, or need help in applying for unemployment benefits, the union has developed a step-by-step guide to applying for unemployment benefits online. Thanks to the CFT Part-Time Faculty Committee and the AFT Guild, Local 1931, part-time faculty members can learn how to answer questions asked by the EDD, when to reference the Cervisi case, and what to say in the event of an interview with the EDD.

Find the union’s guide to applying for unemployment benefits here.

Los Rios wins top award for its Part-Timer’s Almanac

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There are adjunct survival guides out there which give basic union info, and perhaps maybe where the copy machines are located on campus, then there’s The Part-Timer’s Almanac, which is perhaps the most comprehensive, adjunct-oriented union publication put out by a local union ever.

It has it all, from a quick explanation of basic academic freedom and worker rights, to union representation, salary and benefits, to things like campus mailboxes, office hours space, and more. As a result, the The Part-Timer’s Almanac, A Compendium of Valuable Information, won a first place honor in the CFT Communications Awards this year. The almanac, written and prepared by Los Rios part-time faculty, is a model for other local unions.

Download it here and see for yourself.

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Membership drives in the community colleges mean more adjunct power

The forthcoming Supreme Court ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME poses a serious threat to union strength. Any union is only as strong as its membership base, and when unions have higher percentages of the workers in its unit as active members, they are stronger at the bargaining table, and better able to protect its workers from violations of their rights.

Clearly, CFT’s community college locals have gotten this message and put it in into action. Six of the eight memberships awards given out at the CFT Convention went to community college locals (by comparison K-12 locals, with a larger core of full-time educators, usually have higher membership). Each local awarded had increases of well over 100 members in their respective bargaining units, with some locals enjoying as much as a 26 percent increase in overall membership.

Topping the list in numbers was the AFT Guild, Local 1931, representing the San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca districts, having signed 302 new members, the majority of those being adjunct instructors. The Guild’s success, in large part, is a combination of giving several faculty release time to sign up new members, and strategic examination of class schedules. Presently the Guild has an overall membership rate of over 90 percent.

“I’ve found that the best time to get new faculty to sign is by catching them after their classes,” said Perla Vizcarra, a Guild membership vice president at San Diego City College. “And contrary to what you might imagine, everyone I’ve spoken to, whether they sign or not, has been agreeable,” she added.

A double-award winner in terms of both numbers and percentage increase was Adjunct Faculty United in North Orange County, which enjoyed a 26 percent membership increase, which breaks down to 207 new members.

Executive Director Judi McDuff to an extent downplayed the numbers, saying they “didn’t do anything special…it’s the Janus thing.” Adjunct Faculty United is working even harder on signing members and started a new membership drive in early May.

The State Center Federation of Teachers in Fresno experienced not only an increase of 13 percent to the existing membership (with 75 percent of that increase being adjunct faculty), but also got adjuncts to contribute to the COPE (Committee on Political Education) fund in such numbers that their collective contribution just exceeded the full-timer contributions, according to Treasurer Inez Zuniga. These are adjuncts who know the power of union and are acting upon it.

Other award winners were Sacramento’s Los Rios College Federation of Teachers (214 new members), and the Glendale College Guild, with a percentage increase of 20 percent.

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Part-timer health benefits: The successes and challenges ahead

Among the many challenges that part-time, or contingent faculty face, health care benefits, or rather, the lack thereof, has been one of the most significant.

According to Bloomberg, healthcare is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States, and in spite of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, in March 2010, the number of bankruptcies attributed to healthcare costs tripled in 2017, while the general rate of bankruptcies fell overall.

Health coverage for adjuncts was at the center of the Adjunct Issues Roundtable, held Friday, March 23, at this year’s CFT Convention. Members spoke about adjunct healthcare benefits with respect to their own locals. What was revealed in the roundtable was a mix of successes, and, in some cases, a lot of work still to be done.

One of those successes is Cabrillo College, where adjuncts, if they have worked a 50 percent full-time equivalent load for two academic years, become eligible for a district-paid benefits stipend for a Blue Shield HMO/PPO plan and Delta Dental, along with access to an Employee Assistance Program.

After enrolling in the plan, an adjunct must maintain an annual load of 40 percent, or 12 units. Notably, units taught in either the summer or winter intersession can also count towards one’s annual load. If an adjunct has a class cancelled, and this puts him or her under the under the load requirement, he or she will not lose their eligibility.

Still this plan comes with costs. Though primary and preventative care are excluded, deductibles for other services can run from $300 to $600, and in some cases families could have to pay up to $3000 for an annual deductible.

For what might be termed a “cadillac plan,” one can look at the San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College Districts, represented by the AFT Guild. For adjuncts who have worked at least a 50 percent load, they can receive full benefits for themselves and their family members through Kaiser-Permanente. Though there are some exceptions, the usual prescription co-pay is just $5. The highest medical expense one may have to pay in the plan (excluding drugs or prescriptions) is just $50, for an emergency room visit.

Additionally, adjunct health benefits include vision and dental, with up to 80 percent off some dental procedures, and a free pair of eyeglasses annually. Further, the AFT Guild’s healthcare plan allows for acupuncture and chiropractic care at $10 a visit, as well as individual counseling through its EAP.

The San Diego/Grossmont-Cuyamaca districts are able to offer such a plan through their participation in the VEBA, or Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association, which allows the districts to team up with other public employee groups participating in employee-sponsored health plans to lower overall costs.

Robin Watkins, a library technician at Miramar College and VEBA co-chair, says another significant factor is that the AFT Guild has had a longstanding commitment to providing adjuncts healthcare. In fact, the AFT Guild, which represents not only adjuncts, but full-time and classified employees, placed securing adjunct healthcare as a priority over raises for all unit members.

“With the perfect marriage of contract and adjunct faculty making healthcare benefits a priority,” Watkins explains, “and our having the ability to purchase quality healthcare benefits at an affordable rate, we were able to successfully negotiate and win benefits for our adjunct professionals.”

In rural Northern California, there are fewer options. At Yuba College, with campuses in Marysville and Yuba City, there are no adjunct health benefits, but as Elaine Robinson, president of the Yuba College Federation of Teachers, explains, it’s not for lack of trying.

The college administration has been so problematic on other basic issues that “our energy has been spent on simply trying to get the administration to comply with the language already in the contract,” Robinson said.

Still, Robinson, whose union exclusively represents part-time faculty, is working towards the goal of paid health benefits for her members. Following an analysis of benefit costs to the district, the union is working with other bargaining groups, like full-time faculty, to encourage a shift to lower-cost health plans which provide the same benefits. By doing this, she hopes to get Yuba College administration to see part-time healthcare benefits as viable.

Robinson is also a member of the CFT Part-Time Committee, which recently surveyed parity among adjunct healthcare benefits statewide. The Yuba district is one of the few in the state that does not contribute to adjunct health care benefits.

As a result, the union bargaining team is pursuing health benefits for adjuncts in "parity bargaining." The disparity between health benefits of full-time and part-time faculty is a parity issue that has been sunshined for the coming negotiations.

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Convention votes to raise part-time workload cap to 80 percent

At this year’s CFT Convention, delegates passed Resolution 15 calling for the CFT to support changing the workload cap in a community college district to 80 percent of a full-time equivalent load, effectively allowing part-time faculty to teach up to 12 units.

Presently, existing California law (Assembly Bill 951 passed in 2008) established that contingent or adjunct faculty can teach no more than 67 percent of a full-time equivalent load, meaning they can teach no more than 10 units per semester.

Such a load limitation, coupled with the fact that adjuncts may receive sometimes half or less of what their full-time colleagues earn proportionate to their hours in the classroom, has meant extensive travel from district to district at times over several hundred miles a week, just for part-time faculty to earn a basic living.

Find Resolution 15 in the Convention Report on page 20

This basic reality, along with other factors, spurred Veronica Miranda, an adjunct instructor with the Cerritos College Faculty Federation, Local 6215, to write Resolution 15.

“As a part-time English instructor, I had an up close and personal view of the many effects the 67 percent cap workload had on me and many other fellow adjuncts.”

Miranda explains that the problems caused by the cap are many, and range from limiting student-teacher interaction outside of instruction time, to leaving adjuncts disconnected from their respective campuses, to creating scheduling issues for both the adjunct faculty and their departments, as well as full-time faculty losing out on the contributions and insights of their adjunct colleagues who have the perspective that comes from teaching at other colleges and in other programs.

Another factor that Miranda and Cerritos faculty mentioned in their resolution was the curricular changes that are occurring as a result AB 705, passed last year. The legislation, as stated by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, “requires community college districts to maximize the probability that a student will enter and complete transfer-level coursework in math and English within a one-year time frame.”

What this has meant in a number of cases is that many pre-transfer level math and English courses have been eliminated, and that in their place, students be enrolled in transfer level courses, yet given “additional concurrent support…during the same semester that they take a transfer-level English or mathematics course.”

This has resulted in many traditionally three-unit courses, being expanded to four units or more units, and in turn, it has reduced the number of classes adjuncts can teach in a district. For example, a math adjunct once able to teach three three-unit courses for a total load of nine units at one district, can now only teach two four-unit courses for a total load of eight units.

Another issue delegates brought up in CFT Convention’s higher education resolution subcommittee was that the 67 percent cap has made the push for lab-lecture equity a challenge. Presently, in a number of districts, many classes, from the sciences, to nursing, to computer information systems have intensive labs which are every bit as demanding as an instructional course, yet are paid at a percentage of the instructional hourly rate, often around 83 percent.

To raise the rate higher means raising an instructor’s load calculation. Many locals are reticent to raise the rate beyond the aforementioned rate as it would lead to adjunct load calculations exceeding the 67 percent cap, which would prevent adjuncts from teaching even two such courses in a district.

What both circumstances boil down to is adjuncts doing more freeway flying from one campus to another to make ends meet, and raising the cap to 80 percent of instruction would help to reduce this.

With the passage of Resolution 15, it becomes CFT policy, and down the road, the CFT Legislative Committee will work to sponsor legislation to raise the cap to 80 percent.

There are still a number of issues to consider before moving forward. Despite the CFT-sponsored adjunct rehire rights legislation, SB 1379, signed by the governor in 2016, many locals are still working to negotiate meaningful or timely seniority language in their contact.

In addition, many districts, in spite of SB 1379’s intent to provide all adjuncts a path to being scheduled a maximum load of 67 percent, still prevent this from happening. As long as districts defy the mandate to allow adjuncts to reach 67 percent, the raising of the cap to 80 percent would be moot.

This said, the overwhelming passage of the resolution, and the spirited arguments made in favor of it, point to a strong desire to see the cap rise sooner rather than later.