1998 will go down as a pivotal year in the history of part time faculty working in the California Community College System. It was that fall that a hearty band of 60+ intrepid part time faculty convened at the El Chorro Regional Park in San Luis Obispo for the express purpose of establishing an association for ALL part time faculty teaching in the California Community Colleges System.
With the wind filling our sails, we boldly set forth an ambitious agenda to address issues like “Equal Pay for Equal Work,” “Paid Office Hours,” “Job Security,” “Health Insurance,” “Retirement Benefits,” and “A Place of our Own.” But we first wrestled with more mundane tasks, like deciding on a name and how our organization would be structured.
For example, did we want to be a regional, California or national organization? Did we want our membership to be part time faculty exclusively? Would we be allowed to remain members if we secured a full-time teaching position? Would we charge dues? The answers to these questions helped to define us and to shape the organization we would become: The California Part Time Faculty Association (CPFA).
As we debated these critical details, there was a palpable sense of excitement that brought focus and energy to our deliberations. We created a list of goals, and several among us stepped forward to serve as facilitators and organizers. Some volunteered to serve as communications specialists, others drew on their training to research and analyze the demographics of part-timers.
Others shared ideas about how to organize and unite such a far-flung and diverse group of academics with a cue from organizations like FACCC, we knew our strength would come from being regionally viable, although we would pursue broad-based policy propositions in Sacramento. In hindsight, what made this group special was our relative naiveté and youthful exuberance.
From the outset, we carved ourselves the role of part-timer advocates at the local level, through and alongside the full-timer-controlled-edu-unions (wall-to-wall units), which were only just beginning to recognize part-timers as a distinct and growing sub-population of union members. By the end of our first confab, we had plans to meet in a year to assess our progress in becoming a viable and independent advocacy organization, which represented ALL part-time community college faculty.
1999 marked the second anniversary of CPFA. Our second annual meeting took place in Kern County. Over 200 gathered for a long weekend of heated discussions, which at first concerned who would become Chair of CPFA. With two strong candidates, both with large voting blocs’ discussions went on long into the night. On the second afternoon a formal vote elected Chris Storer, De Anza College, as Chair.
Next, the body settled into some serious planning and organizing that brought focus to CPFA for the next several years. We had our leader, our ratified bylaws and a small operating budget. The stage was set, we believed, for us to make waves, organize ourselves and others, and have an impact on the Edu-Unions, the Board of Governors (BOG), and the Chancellor’s office in Sacramento, as well as the state legislature. We were off and running and on a roll!
CPFA’s first ten years were marked by energetic organizing at the local, regional, and statewide levels. Our members returned to their campuses and began the difficult task of explaining who we were and why part-timers ought to join us and become members of their locals. Few in the established organizations knew how to deal with us. CPFA was not a union, but we “represented” part-time faculty across union lines.
As a part-time faculty advocacy group, CPFA wears many “hats.” Sometimes we align with Edu-Unions, while at other times we stand in opposition to the Chancellor’s office and even the Governor. No matter the issue CPFA’s single point of reference has always been, and will continue to be, the welfare of part time faculty.
During those early years, there were pockets of part time faculty working in community college districts who were not represented by either wall-to-wall or part time only units. As we continued to meet regionally and on a statewide basis, it became increasingly clear that we were being ignored, patronized, or abused by both full time faculty and district administrators. CPFA was seen first as an aberrant “flash in the pan,” and subsequently as a minor annoyance. Unions at the local and statewide levels, as well as the local and statewide Academic Senates tolerated our presence, and when times were good and budgets were reasonably well-funded, our existence was acknowledged.
However, when times got tough, looking to secure their own funding, tolerance from these organizations would wane. Their attitude toward CPFA was exacerbated by the fact that as the number of part time faculty grew, our poor working conditions, lower wages for essentially the same instructional responsibilities and lack of institutional support was an embarrassment. Nearly a decade into the 21st century, the whole devolving system of using part time faculty became an ongoing national educational scandal. The California Community Colleges System was caught squarely in the middle of this willful and abusive misuse of highly qualified teachers to keep the community colleges system afloat.
Also, during our first decade, CPFA initiated, participated in, and supported faculty/student marches – the March in March – picketing the BOG, lobbying Legislators’ and the Governor’s offices, testifying before legislative committees, such as the JLAC, and before commissions like the Little Hoover Commission, to name a few. At one point, a member of CPFA drove her “office” (car) onto the north lawn of the State Capitol to protest our lack of paid office hours. Over time, our focus and mandate has changed.
Succeeding CPFA Chairs began to spend more and more time in Sacramento, trolling the halls of the legislature for Senators and Assembly members to sponsor our bills. It also helped that many of our members were gaining experience with the legislative process, serving on legislative committees with their unions and in organizations like FACCC, and liaising with the Academic Senates – locally and at the state level.
Our legislative successes have been modest. We successfully supported the passage of AB 420 – our so-called Part Timers’ Bill of Rights, sponsored by Assembly member Scott Wildman (D) Pasadena. We also worked on and supported changing the 60% Law to its current cap of 67%, as well as other legislation.
With the biannual publication of some 80,000 copies per year of our CPFA Journal we have established ourselves as THE voice of part time faculty. Back issues of our journal can be found online at cpfa.org/journal/.
A few observations regarding who we are, why we are not cohesive nor singularly focused. Common knowledge would have our members divided into thirds: 1/3 are dedicated part timers who teach for their primary source of income, hoping against hope to be hired full time; 1/3 simply choose not to teach more—such as working professionals who wish to give back to their profession and community; and 1/3 are retired full time faculty who now teach part time.
Given this division, is it any wonder that as a “group” we experience ongoing difficulties acquiring, maintaining, and sustaining members? People in the first cohort are “afraid” that any activism will reflect poorly on their ability to be hired full time; the second cohort as “at-will” employees who do not want to work more and are busy with their lives, and the third cohort are returning annuitants who are just here for the additional income, and who are not interested in changing the labor landscape on their way out. As you may have surmised, most, if not all of our active members have consistently been drawn from the first cohort.
In the beginning, when there were fewer part time faculty, and when our exploitation was new, most of the original CPFA El Chorro participants were, for the most part, new hires, and as a group were drawn together and communicated through the Internet, energized by the possibility that our efforts would get the community colleges to be more responsive to our needs, and the needs of our students. Little did we know at the time that the Ed Code was being modified and morphed into the draconian web of interlocking rules that have so effectively kept part time faculty exploited, under represented, and largely disenfranchised.
Over time, after only a handful of employed part timers were offered full time tenure-track jobs, did a sense of disillusionment begin to pervade our ranks. We are moving away from traditional modes of interaction and cooperation. We are exploring how we might secure a front row seat at Consultation Council, and forging firmer bonds with the Chancellor’s Office by requesting he convene a Part-time Issues Standing Committee. On the legislative front we foresee a change in all faculty terms of employment, beginning with the removal of the 67% rule and culminating in a revitalized and merged salary schedule. We are looking to standardize the disbursement of parity funds via our standard salary schedules, with mandatory reporting and enforceable compliance measures, and not least, seeking a way that health insurance can be offered to all part timers and their families.
We are the largest group of professional employees in the community college system who lack systematic and consistent representation by labor advocacy groups. To our knowledge, CPFA is the only non-union advocacy group that has consistently fought for part time faculty rights in California. All others serve at least two masters, and these groups routinely encourage part timers to “opt out,” of participation in local/statewide union sponsored activities as a regular practice, unlike with full time faculty who are welcomed into the union hierarchy because they must “opt in,” when they are hired. Under these circumstances, we are generally called upon to “ratify” contracts that we have no input in negotiating, and as regards other union and governance matters, in general, we are NEITHER invited nor encouraged to participate in, since, by law, we cannot be routinely compensated for such activities.