By John Martin, Chair of CPFA
Last year, community college part-time faculty activists and their allies were outraged when the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee killed AB-1269 and then again when Governor Newsome vetoed AB-375. These two outcomes brought about shock, grief and anger amongst many of us, and CPFA’s listserv exploded. So much so that some of us were reminded yet again of how the rules of political gamesmanship continue in Sacramento. For twenty plus years, CPFA has been told over and over again to “play by the rules,” i.e. work within the existing system, “make nice” with the big policy stakeholders, make regular visits to legislators’ offices and smile a lot when telling the world our personal stories of exploitation and indecent working conditions. We met with the various Vice Presidents at the Chancellor’s Office in addition to any elected officials who would listen to our plea, but we were never taken seriously. Those who actually have the power to make real changes have only platitudes to offer, ad nauseam, to the point that many of us wind up quitting and/or just accept the status quo – grateful of the meager crumbs of a class or two that trickle down to us here and there. Activists have been told repeatedly that we ought to accept defeat (which has been tempting, as there were plenty of them), but CPFA will continue to try again and again for as long as it takes.
“How much longer?” Robert Yoshioka — one of the founders of CPFA, established back in 1998 – would say at each defeat. It is a phrase repeated by those of us still working tirelessly to challenge those few who hold the power over the majority of the faculty within the community college system. I can only imagine what Martin Luther King, Jr. would say about the tens of thousands of part-time faculty still being exploited by the community college system; or what Malcom X would say about being told that the Democrats in Sacramento are “our friends,” who we ought to be nice to and continue voting for them, despite their indifference to part-time faculty issues. What would the leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) say about the fact that part-time faculty still are not allowed to vote in any capacity within our district’s own Academic Senate, or vote on any district-wide referendum, or participate in any department meetings with even minimal voting rights? Would Caesar Chavez put up with the inequity of this two-tiered system? Would Robert Kennedy accept the poverty-wages that part-time faculty get? What would Angela Davis’ views be? Perhaps she might say, “This isn’t democracy, it’s authoritarianism!”
In the movie, “Iron Jawed Angels,” the character, Alice Paul, based on the real historical person, was asked by a White House operative (while on a hunger strike in prison for protesting for suffrage rights), “Tell me about your cause. Just talk freely. Explain yourself. Do you understand the question?”
And Paul responded with the following:
“You asked me to explain myself. I just wonder what needs to be explained. Let me be very clear. Look into your own heart. I swear to you, mine’s no different. You want a place in the trades and professions where you can earn your bread? So do I. You want some means of self-expression? Some way of satisfying your own personal ambitions? So do I. You want a voice in the government in which you live? So do I. What is there to explain?”
Is the plight of part-time faculty so different from that of the suffragists? We ask the same question as Paul: what is there still to “explain”?
But, explain, we must! To everyone and anyone who will listen. And to increase our effectiveness in this effort, CPFA has recently organized two new task forces: the Legislative Task Force and the Direct Action Task Force, both with the aim of taking an out-of-the-box approach. The Legislative Task Force is tasked with exploring how better to improve the livelihood of part-timers by way of improving upon the ancient and archaic Ed Code, particularly when it comes to our status as “temporary” workers, which has incorrectly designated us as “at-will” employees who can be dismissed at any time without any just cause or due process. The Direct-Action Task Force is aimed at building upon the 1960’s social movements’ playbook: be visible and be loud. In both cases, all of CPFA’s efforts are intended to do just that.
If you are interested in helping to amplify our voices, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other news, it’s been a while since CPFA published hard copies of the CPFA Journal for physical distribution. We had to stop distributing thousands of copies of our biannual journal publication to many of our campuses due to the COVID pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic we have taken to publishing the journal electronically, and our e-distribution has taken place primarily via email and social media (so be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!). We have also added a monthly electronic newsletter, (which will, hopefully, become more regular in the future) as well as podcasting and video-recording personal stories. All this to help “explain” our issues.
We are also going to bring back the print version of the CPFA Journal this spring, but in a more cost effective manner. It will be designed for print, but only a limited number of hard copies will be published, and mainly for distribution in Sacramento so we can better target the various institutional power-brokers, such as the Governor and Chancellor’s Offices, as well as legislators. We hope that our printed version will enhance our visibility at our state capitol.
We are confident that these new methods of distribution will help us achieve wider readership of part-time faculty issues and gain broader support with time. Of course, all of this is not possible without the hard work and dedication of our members and volunteers, so if you are in any position to get involved, even if only to write up an opinion piece or two, we would welcome your support. If you are not getting our free electronic versions of the monthly CPFA E-newsletter or our biannual CPFA E-Journal, please go to our website to sign up, or email us at email@example.com, so we can add you to our mailing list.
Elections this year will be held electronically like last year. If you are a member-in-good standing, you are able to be on the EC. If you are not, then you can sign up! Look for details in an email/website.
The following seats are open:
- The Legislative Analyst
- Director of Finance
- Director of Membership (Incumbent, David Donica)
- Director of Communications
- Director of Social Media (Incumbent Heather Emerson-Young
- Greater Los Angeles Representative
- Southern California Representative
- Northern Representative (Incumbent, Kristie Iwamoto)