By Jack Longmate
“Pay parity” is a term perennially associated with part-time faculty in a two-tiered workplace, not part-time workers in other professions paid on the same basis as full-time workers, such as part-time engineers, physicians, retail cashiers, or K-12 teachers.
The “parity pay” bill, AB-1752, is described by the CFT as intended to “create pay parity for part-time faculty of the California Community Colleges by requiring districts to adopt terms of compensation for part-time faculty of at least the same ratio to the full-time faculty for comparable duties.” To part-time instructors whose pay is discounted—and whose workload is capped at no more that 67 percent of full-time—AB-1752 might sound like the promise of justice.
But the bill offers false justice. First, it is not equal pay but “parity” pay that is promised, which is predicated on the dubious assumption that part-time instructors “just teach and therefore should be paid only for their teaching,” to quote Keith Hoeller’s analysis posted Feb 12, 2022 on Elchorro. Generalizing faculty “comparable duties” is imprecise and subjective, and, in theory, has already been accomplished via the collective bargaining process, with some colleges paying part-timers at 40 cents on the dollar; in a Feb 23 message on ElChorro, Sue Broxholm, author of flyer “Two-Tier Is Unjust and Immoral!,” reports that most California colleges are between 60 to 85 percent.
Last year’s parity bill, AB-1269, called on the Chancellor’s Office to develop a plan “to achieve pay equity for part-time faculty,” but in his May 13, 2021 letter opposing the bill, Vice Chancellor David O’Brien explained such an initiative would not be “appropriate” as it would intrude upon the domain of local collective bargaining.
Further, even if the parity bill resulted in better pay for part-time faculty, it would not constitute true parity since pay based on “comparable duties” is but one aspect of the total compensation provided to full-time instructors. Along with job security through tenure, full-time instructors receive health care, retirement, annual raises, leaves, professional development funds, opportunity for sabbaticals, and other benefits rarely provided to part-time instructors, including license to teach more than 100 percent of full time for additional income. In light of such perks, as Keith Hoeller points out bluntly, “to discount part-time pay down from full-time salaries, when full-timers are in fact receiving twice their salaries in total compensation, is a scam being run on the part-timers.”
Instead of determining the correct fractional “parity pay” based on alleged “comparable duties,” a more just alternative is equal pay, whereby part-time and full-time instructors would be compensated according to the same salary system with a single set of workplace expectations as is the practice for part-time instructors of the Vancouver Model. Such an approach avoids the need felt by some to contrive a distinction between full-time and part-time instructors in order to avoid equal pay.
Not everyone sees the denial of equality to part-time instructors as a priority. In opposing last year’s AB-1269, Vice Chancellor David O’Brien, in his May 13, 2021 letter, recommended leaving pay for the state’s 40,000 part-time faculty as is, and instead adding more full-time instructors:
To resolve concerns regarding pay equity, we encourage the Legislature to instead consider additional investments in full-time faculty hiring to lower the abundance of part-time faculty.(emphasis in original)
Adding more full-time positions does not aid underpaid part-time instructors whatsoever. Still, parity pay for part-time instructors is not the answer: equal pay is. Tenured and non-tenured instructors, after all, satisfy the same credential requirements, award grades and credits that have the same value, have the same tuition charged for their classes and thus perform the same job. Differences in “comparable duties” are likely attributable to the stark differences in compensation alone. Especially as instructor time status is usually transparent to students, full- and part-time instructors should be compensated on the same basis, which is how they are at Vancouver Community College, Langara, Camosen, and other colleges in British Columbia.
Commissioning studies or debating whether part-time instructor parity pay should be 60, or 75, or 90 percent of full-time pay brings to mind a similarly legalistic scheme: until 1865, the U.S. Constitution stipulated that slaves would be included in a headcount of citizens, but they would be valued at 3/5 of a person. Discounting people was wrong then for the same reasons that denying equal pay to part-time instructors is wrong now.
Parity pay is a way to legitimize wage discrimination, denying equal pay for equal work, enabling opponents to equal pay to say, “Since part-timers don’t do equal work, they don’t deserve equal pay.” Unfairness is unfairness and is not sanctified by being collectively bargained, especially in a two-tiered workplace where self-interest of one tier works against equality for all.
Equality is the proper solution, and of all professions, education and educators should be devoted to equality.
About the Author: Jack Longmate, M.Ed, served as an adjunct English instructor at Olympic College (Bremerton, WA) from 1992 until 2020. He is a former union officer with the NEA-affiliated faculty union at Olympic College. He is an active member with the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association. With Frank Cosco, of the Vancouver Community College Faculty Association, Longmate co-authored the Program for Change, a strategic plan dealing with how the two-tiered faculty labor system can be converted into a single tier based on the Vancouver Model.