By John Martin, Chair of CPFA Executive Committee

John Martin

John Martin

In a December edition of the Los Angeles Times, the editorial contributor, Charlotte Allen, offers an implausible solution for the nearly forty thousand part-time faculty who teach in the California Community Colleges System: QUIT.  She points out that—were it to happen—by dramatically removing the “supply of academic victims” from the faculty equation, CEO’s and unions would be unable to continue “victimizing” us.  These actions would then force the teaching market to improve wages and working conditions.  For alternative work, Ms. Allen suggests, “if you love to teach, teach high school.” Ms. Allen only offers this solution after considering what she rightly suggests has been a red herring: using unions to solve the inequities of part-timers.  She further points out an all too common experience—union negotiations have resulted in salary increases for part-timers amounting to merely “a few hundred dollars more per course.” More importantly, she notes that these same unions have had a strong hand in making part-time faculty into a “permanent second-tier faculty,” an underclass in the system.

While the fanciful notion that ALL part-time faculty should simply quit en masse certainly has its appeal, this “final solution,” is as unrealistic as it might have been to tell black South Africans to just leave their own country in order to solve the problem of apartheid. We could add that, the very few who actually followed this strategy did so leaving apartheid intact.  By contrast, there are many among us who recognize that the struggle for a more equitable educational system, as arduous as that might be, is preferable to jumping ship, as well as more realistic. But how?

This is where the California Part-time Faculty Association (CPFA) comes in. Now in its 15th year, CPFA believes that real solutions in addressing our multiple and diverse issues are to be found working with legislators at the state level.  Because 73 individual district contracts govern how part-time workers are defined, paid, denied benefits and restricted to teaching just 67% of a full-time load, CPFA recognizes that best place for us is to be working for change and advocating for a system-wide set of solutions.  Change the State Education Code that governs all California Community College districts and all of us benefit.

CPFA takes the position that legislators, their aides and consultants need to be apprised of the unfair working conditions of part-timers and how a greater investment in part-time faculty will positively impact student success. If they become aware of our current experiences and those of our students, we feel that system-wide mandates can and will be implemented to make our community colleges live up to the ideals to which they say they are committed and upon which they were founded.

There is already evidence that CPFA has the right strategy for bringing about positive change. In particular, the CPFA was able to move the cap on the part-time workload from sixty to sixty-seven percent.  How?  By getting on the inside of the legislative process when Peg McCormack and Robert Yoshioka worked closely with Assembly member Mervyn Dymally in 2007 on Assembly Bill 591. While in its original form, AB 591 sought a 100% workload per instructor per district and modest health benefits for those who teach 40% or more, the full effect of the measure was blunted (and eye witnesses stated it was also “shouted down”) when a meeting was held in Dymally’s office with lobbyists from the California Federation of Teachers. CFT lobbyists threatened that the bill should be scaled back or they would pull their support for Dymally’s reelection bid. Though lobbyists were successful in opposing a bigger change than we wanted, there is no reason why this push to increase the cap should not continue.  This is the model for change:  it worked then and it can work again.

Currently the CPFA—we are hoping you will join us and become part of this effort—is focused on establishing communication with a variety of stakeholders throughout the state.  The willingness of stakeholders in the educational arena to listen to us is partly because they are coming to understand the importance of including our perspectives when it comes to improving education.  By some estimates, part-timers are doing three-quarters of the teaching at community colleges.  They should be listening to us.

Clearly the CPFA has a lot more to accomplish. There is still a two-tier system within the community college system.  We still lack offices and time available for our students, job security, academic freedom, and opportunities for career advancement.  And the unions, the Chancellor’s Office, institutional organizations and legislators so far continue to support this inequitable arrangement.  But in spite of these challenges, it’s important to keep in mind the advantages that the CPFA offers part-time faculty for influencing positive change.  As an organization, the CPFA is unique in not being beholden to ANY institutions other than ourselves and, most importantly of all, we are not beholden to full-time faculty. We decide on a strategy, and we then test it in Sacramento.  You can expect the CPFA to always be pushing the envelope; that is, we are continually educating and advocating for changes to those who are involved within the California Community College system.

The California Part-time Faculty Association is not alone in these efforts. Other activists are doing hard work on behalf of their part-time colleagues in their own way. They participate as leaders, often in an official capacity, with their respective local bargaining units, their Academic Senates and some work and participate statewide or nationally. That being said, it is up to each of us as an activist to make judgments about where our energies can have the greatest impact, and I would argue that if you are an activist and your time is limited, consider the CPFA. True, there are community colleges that have made strides to improve the campus environment for part-timers.  But these are isolated cases. Other districts struggle with chairs who refuse to offer part-timers more than a single class each semester, with campuses that offer teaching awards to full-time faculty only, with departments that don’t include part-timers in meetings.  On the other hand, any change the CPFA makes won’t just impact one community college; it will impact all of them.

Regardless of how each of us decides to be an activist something we can all follow is to document our experience at work and how it affects our personal lives, share our experiences, and blog about them. We can all continue to be observant about how we are treated, clarify what we know about our rights and those of our students. We can continue to think about how the current sets of policies affect learning and education. And finally we can share share share. It’s only if the clear light of day comes to shine on the set of misguided policies that are now in effect that positive change will occur.

(For more of my views, see my previous IMHO column in the last spring 2013 edition of the CC Journal:



  1. Andy Vranich January 18, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    (… While in its original form, AB 591 sought a 100% workload per instructor per district and modest health benefits for those who teach 40% or more, the full effect of the measure was blunted (and eye witnesses stated it was also “shouted down”) when a meeting was held in Dymally’s office with lobbyists from the California Federation of Teachers. CFT lobbyists threatened that the bill should be scaled back or they would pull their support for Dymally’s reelection bid. …)

    John .. this really begs the question about the College’s claim to be a leader in Sustainability; specifically with respect to economic and social equity. An example .. who would knowingly support coffee brands that do not pay a living wage to the workers? Yet here is the full time teacher’s union in full combat mode ‘forcing’ the politicians to keep 3/4 of the teaching staff with essentially low pay, zero benefits and impotent to affect real change. Does Butte College and the CCC System support Sustainability or not? Do they support paying a living wage, or not? Do they support social justice or not? I would think the PFA might want to publicly point out that you cannot map how part timers are reimbursed, and treated, to any kind of Sustainable model. ALL Sustainable model’s support paying a living wage and social equity/justice. Perhaps it is time negotiate with more up to date and relevant examples like using the declared academic support of Sustainability and point out that the College does NOT adhere to it; where is the social justice, where is the behavior behind the words that ALL academicians should support??


  2. David Milroy February 11, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    I was there on the day that CFT arrived en masse to kill the CPFA bill to change the PT load limit from 60% to 80% or 100%. We had all worked very hard to make the case for increasing the limit so that PT faculty could work enough in one college to make a living, just like the CSU lecturers. The CFT group brought in some sell-out PTers who said they would never want to work more than 60% and that if the law passed they would be “exploited even more!” It was an absurd and in-genuine argument, but the political power of CFT forced Dymally to reconsider.

    Fortunately, instead of killing the bill, Peg McCormac and I marched into Dymally’s office and showed him the amendment to 67% and asked if he would support it and he agreed. THAT is how CPFA increased the work-load limit from 60% to 67%… spite of the efforts of CFT to kill the bill and keep PTers stuck at 60%.

    CFT should be ashamed of their actions. If they had not forced their “no-change” position on Dymally, PT faculty in California would be able to work full 100% loads, have health insurance and would have far more professional working conditions than they do now. Thanks for nothing CFT and a real thank you to CPFA for actually doing something that helps part-time faculty!!

    • Jim Weir February 12, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      I echo Brother Milroy’s comments. I was there also and were it not for a small band of us trying to hammer out the 67% compromise (*) we would still be stuck at 60%. Shame, shame on those who shouted down the 100% bill and the ringers they brought in to sob that 60% was quite enough.

      (*) 67% instead of 2/3 (66.666%)??? That’s because those who teach 5 unit classes (Chem, Math, Physics, Languages) can now teach 2 classes a semester which is covered by 67%. jw

  3. Peggy McCormack March 6, 2014 at 1:08 am

    IT STARTED WITH A DARE – My Response to John Martin’s Blog

    In September 2006, I participated in a telephone conference call with other members of the CPFA executive committee. We were discussing possible legislation in the coming legislative session. I had contended for some time that it was necessary to spend an inordinate amount of time in the Capitol to lobby properly for a bill, but that I thought we could get a bill to eliminate the cap if we lobbied correctly.

    One board member said it was wasted effort because the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) would oppose it, and that would be that, so I said I’ll take that as wager, and he said it was definitely a dare.

    I called my good friend Mervyn Dymally, and he said he would do it if I wrote the bill. After that, Robert Yoshioka and I began meeting regularly in Sacramento working on the language for a bill to remove the cap. Assemblyman Dymally even gave us a desk in a corner to do our work, and permission to meet with the Legislative Counsel to hammer out language.

    By December 2006, we had the language and sent it to our members, discussed it, and in February 2, 1007, we introduced the bill. The original bill included money to raise the salaries of non-tenured faculty along with the elimination of the cap.

    On March 1, it was assigned to the Committee on Higher Education. Assemblyman Dymally introduced author’s amendments to take out all of money.

    The bill was heard in the Higher Education Committee on April 23rd, where Dymally, the members of CPFA, and other testified in favor of the bill. California Federation of Teachers remained opposed. The bill was referred out of committee to the committee on appropriations.

    Between April and December 2007, the bill languished in Appropriations Committee. Assemblyman Dymally turned the bill into a two year bill, and it sat in Appropriations until January, 2008. In January, Dr. Dymally met with the consultant of the Appropriations Committee, and after a lengthy meeting, the bill was taken from Appropriations and sent directly to the floor of the Assembly, where it was passed and sent to the California Senate on January 30, 2008.

    By this time, I had been employed half time by Assemblyman Dymally and I was able to have all of my classes in the evening. I commuted daily to Sacramento, to work in the office. I was working on AB 591 and another bill for neo-natal care stuck in the Health Committee.

    At this time Assemblyman Dymally was also running for the State Senate being opposed by a man named Rodney Wright. As AB 591 was now speeding through the State Senate, the AFL-CIO COPE meeting was coming up in Los Angeles. Without the COPE endorsement, he would have a difficult time winning the endorsement. I walked into the office on the morning the bill was passed out of the Senate Committee to the Senate floor, to discover Mr. Dymally was quite upset. The LA COPE meeting was scheduled for that coming week-end, and the CFT had called him saying they were going to stop his COPE endorsement if he did not pull AB 591. I called CWA, one of our AFL-CIO Sponsors, but it turned out that CWA was going to be in Hawaii at their annual convention at the time of the COPE endorsements. Dymally was caught in a trap.

    I called an emergency meeting for the next afternoon in the Assemblyman’s office with all of the Stakeholders. I asked them to bring only two members each as we had a small room. The next day, CFT showed up with six people led by their lobbyist Judith Michaels. CPFA, CWA, FACCC met, squeeze in with extra chairs. Basically the CFT dominated the conversation saying that part-timers would be more exploited working full time, and that it was an attack on tenure. Dymally walked into the meeting and said he was pulling the bill at this time unless there was an agreement. With that the CFT group left, along with Patrick McCullum who had come to observe, and Andrea York who said she had to get back to the office.

    The rest of us sat around stunned. The bill had been sailing toward passage. I told the group I had to go see someone about my neo-natal bill and left the room.

    When I got back, everyone who remained, CPFA, PFA, and CCCI had stayed in the room and was working on writing an amendment to AB 591 calling for the cap to be raised to 67%. We tried to reach Judith Michaels with the new language, but were unable to do so. We then called David Hawkins, the head legislative analyst for the California Faculty Association (CFA) and got his approval for the new amendment. We asked him to write a support letter for the new language and he said it had to go to committee for approval, but that it would be faxed to Sacramento as soon as he had it approved.

    We waited for Dymally, and when he arrived, he approved the amendment, gave it to me to take to the floor for an amendment, and said he wanted some letters from everyone.

    COPE met the following week-end, and Dymally was endorsed by labor, but the endorsement did not translate into “on the street” help, and the local newspapers were quick to print the split in labor over support for Dymally.

    He lost the election in June.

    AB 591 passed out of the State Senate and the Assembly in the amended version on June 23 and 26, was signed by the governor and chaptered into the education code on June 10, 2008.

    Let there be no doubt, CFT opposed this bill every step of the way, and their letters of opposition still remain in the bill’s jacket if any serious historian wishes to pursue the information.

    Peggy McCormack

    PS I still consider I lost the bet, and until I find another author with as much courage as Dymally, I will continue losing.

    • Addy Junckt March 20, 2014 at 6:02 pm

      Forgot this:
      “Legislature should let community college faculty manage their own affairs”
      by 2 AFT Washington state council members.


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