Sound great, right? What could be fairer, you say, than the “same” raise for everyone?  When your union announces an across the board raise, even a substantial one, like 4 or 5%, hold on to your hats.   This is not a cause for celebration!

Across the board raises actually worsen the parity gap for Part-time Faculty.

Why?  Well, because the statewide average parity gap is so massive, each across the board raise widens the considerable gap even farther, in dollars.   Roughly 40,000 PTF teaching in the 72 Community college districts in California earn, on average, 39.46% of what their Fulltime colleagues earn  (in terms of full time equivalent workload pay (FTE)]

An across-the-board raise, because it is being applied to a grossly “unequal pay” structure, is not good news because it is widening the dollar gap between full and part time faculty.  When someone who makes $100,000 gets a 5% raise, her pay goes up $5000.  Someone’s whose annualized Part time pay is $40,000 will only get an additional $2000 (was she working full time at a Part-timer’s rate of pay, an abstraction that is called the FTE or full time equivalent pay), or $1000 if she was  working half time.

Unless a negotiated contract contains differential pay raises (a higher percentage for Part time faculty than full time faculty), the dollar gap will widen significantly each and every year.  Even at a 2% annual raise for Part timers alongside a 1% raise for full-timers, it would take more than 40 years to reach parity, in most districts in California.

Step Gap.  An equally problematic issue is step gap. The fewer steps available for Part time faculty (usually 6, compared to fulltime average of 22) is a drag on the overall parity record of virtually all districts.  Though City College of San Francisco has, admirably we think, parallel pay steps, other districts have a pay step schedule that is less than half the steps of the fulltimers.

The combination of the “step gap” –which is not well understood—and the pay differential, which most people understand, but perhaps do not recognize how dramatic it is—combine to drag parity figures down to, in the best cases, around 60%, and in the worst cases a shocking 19%.  See the  Community College Journal for the full breakdown of parity, pay, and representation.

Just a teaser, before you study all the relevant facts and figures: FTF earn, statewide, an average pay of $85,708 (2011). Compare that to the average PTF pay (annual salary at a FTE workload) of $31,505.

Other Appealing-Looking, “Fair for Everybody” Tricks.  The appeal of “across the board raises” is similar to the appeal of flat tax proposals, that seem to “simplify” taxes; however, when there is gross existing inequality in pay, the poor, of course, suffer more than the rich from such a scheme.

“Across the board” tax cuts have a similar appeal: How wonderful, the poor say, we are going to save 5% on our tax bill! Whippee!  But if you only earn $30,000, that five percent saved on your tax bill might only translate to $500. Those with a $1,000,000, a year income, save vastly more money, taking at least a generous $50,000 out of the tax pot.   And the billionaire (there are 25 in the United States) could recoup $50 million in previously owed taxes, with a “mere” 5% tax cut.  Across the board tax cuts are deeply damaging, in exactly the same way that across the board union-negotiated pay raises are.

When there are existing inequities, any across-the-board anything is cold comfort and bad policy.

How do you know you are voting to ratify a fair contract for Part time faculty?  Look for additional salary steps, if your contract does not have “mirrored” pay steps (the same number of steps for PTF as FTF have). And look for a differential raise.   Outside of the provision of new, more generous, employer-paid health care options or additional office hour pay, more salary steps and a differential pay raise are  the only sure paths to  parity progress.

about Margaret Hanzimanolis, Ph.D.

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Margaret teaches writing at City College of San Francisco, De Anza College and Cañada College,  in the Bay Area.

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