By Robert Yoshioka, Ph.D.
Originally published in the CPFA Journal, Fall 2016

Is there a Problem Here?  

You are a part-timer.  As one of approximately forty-thousand teachers employed across California community colleges, your labor is being used to subsidize the salaries of not just full-time faculty but a hierarchy of administrators who use us as a cash cow.  If you’re okay with that—with the guy in the classroom right next to yours making double for teaching a different section of the same class—or if you find yourself relatively free of financial stress or job insecurity, then read no further.  If, on the other hand, you agree there is a problem, then read on!

I hope to explain the rationale for the CPFA’s actions and ones you can take as well.  But for starters, let me begin by saying that it is the position of the CPFA that the two-tiered employment system will always result in widespread discrimination and exploitation.  Furthermore, the CPFA argues that the community college system’s redemption will come when the exploitation of unequal pay, across the board, is replaced by a single pay scale with full benefits, retirement and security of employment for all teachers regardless of course load.

What We’re Up Against

The problem of Local Control

Working at the local level is important, but it will never lead to reform of the two-tiered system, which is legalized through the state of California’s educational code.  While there are many reasons to maintain the “local control” status quo mantra, this reliance on locally negotiated solutions to system-wide problems is not only extremely costly and inefficient, it has the net effect of keeping part time faculty in thrall to 73 different “masters,” (the 73 “autonomous” community college districts) where a mandated system wide set of regulations would result in better student outcomes and more efficient utilization of resources.

Governor Brown, sadly, is a fan of local control, having bought into the fiction that the principle is responsive to local conditions and circumstances, when in fact, it’s really a way of avoiding responsibility for a state-wide solution.

Educating legislators

Given our limited time and resources to address inequities at the local level, our better option is to work at the state level, which means going to Sacramento. One must keep in mind that this requires interacting with legislators, many of whom are new to education policy and its problems. Nevertheless, each new “crop” of legislators brings with him or her a “take” on how to identify and fix policies affecting part time faculty. Unfortunately, they usually are off the mark. Legislators who are newly elected have difficulty seeing through the rhetorical move put forth by the Edu-Unions, the Chancellor’s office, the League of California Community Colleges, and the Governor. What is that move? “The rule of local control. “ So combatting this attitude is our main challenge.

Opposing interests

In addition to the difficulty in communicating effectively with legislators, there are lobbyists who oppose our interests.  We are the source of their revenue stream after all.  A case in point is the League of California Community Colleges whose lobbyists respond to part-time faculty legislative initiatives by arguing that any programs not supported by them will end up costing the system “substantial” additional funds.”  Many times they are right.  But they could also be wrong.  A lot of administrative costs are associated with—just for instance—managing eight hundred employees at a typical community college all of whom work part-time.  

This argument about cost is also, by the way, the same claim that supports local control, as it gives local administrators more discretion in how we are exploited.  The CPFA is devising a standard preemptive response that we deploy when we begin to discuss the “pros and cons” of each piece of legislation with lawmakers as part of our outreach and education program.

What Works

In Sacramento

We at CPFA—and we’re hoping you too—can become skilled at “piggy backing” on meetings, seminars and hearings.  For instance when there is a break in your meeting agendas, ask for time to convene a part time faculty session to address some of the issues that are being discussed.   

Once in the door, we have a number of strategies.  Shaming works for us!  In some respects, being the “poor” relative in this legislative free-for-all, has its advantages.  

Another strategy is to share our stories.  We have a compelling narrative that is gritty, hard-hitting, and real.  We are our own best representatives.  We cannot be seen as “just doing our job,” but rather, as constituents with a vested interest.  As such we have a “leg up” on paid lobbyists and run-of-the-mill Sacramento gadflies. 

At Home

We visit our local legislators in their home districts, and you should too. Start petitions, delivering them directly to your legislators, utilize social media and attend “meet and greets,” to engage your legislator and continue to familiarize them with our issues. More importantly, vote in your local Edu-Union elections, demand fair and equitable representation in your locals, monitor your districts, and hold all your elected representatives responsible to YOU.

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