By Rick Baum, Member of AFT 2121 and CPFA
I wrote the letter that is below to the leadership of AFT1512 and to the California Federation of Teachers President Jeff Freitas as a response to the indignities we part-time faculty must constantly put up with. They are dished out by administrators and even our colleagues. Additionally, our own labor union leaders impose indignities on us by continuously negotiating and supporting two tier contracts that keep us in an inferior position—a position in which we have no job security, are paid significantly less for doing the same work as our full-time colleagues and are provided with few, if any, of the benefits received by full-time faculty.
The letter focuses on the situation concerning part-time instructor Dr. Khalid Hussain based on information posted on the Elchorro Google Group. Khalid was kicked off his union’s executive board by union leaders for having, from what I understand to be, the audacity of trying to organize part-time instructors for the purpose of moving in the direction of equality by improving their and his working conditions, pay and benefits.
I am a strong supporter of unions. At some schools at which I have taught, soon after being hired, I would seek out the people in charge so I could sign up to be a member and pay dues.
Like many of you reading this, I have experienced numerous indignities coming from the leadership of my own union. Recent examples: During the last three years at City College of San Francisco, some 400 part-time faculty members have lost their jobs—most of these cuts were planned for before the pandemic. In the spring of 2021 when 161 full-time faculty were threatened with the loss of their jobs and, again, last spring, when some 60 faced job losses, the leaders of my union called emergency meetings. The meetings did not accomplish much, but no such meetings were ever called to talk about protecting the jobs of part-time instructors.
On June 8, 2022, my union’s Executive Director and lead negotiator who is paid a six figure income wrote a statement for a bargaining session. It began (click then go to ‘click here to’ read in full)
“We are here today because the decision has been made by the new chancellor to erode the full-time workforce at City College no matter the cost to the institution or the community she serves…. As a union representing educators, we know all too well that eroding full-time jobs is bad for students, bad for enrollment, bad for programs, bad for institutions, bad for workers, bad for accreditation, and bad for communities.”
What is striking is that no mention is made in her statement about the loss of the jobs of part-time faculty—Are we nobodies whose work makes no difference?
The previous year, a one-year deal involving major pay cuts was reached, in part, to supposedly save the jobs of the 161 threatened full-time faculty. You can read more about it here.
We were told that the agreement resulted in “progressive” cuts in our salaries because those with the lowest pay would be absorbing smaller cuts than more highly paid faculty. However, while the salary cuts averaged around 10%, some part-time faculty endured “progressive” cuts of 100% because they lost their jobs even though a union bulletin had assured us that the agreement would “preserve part-time jobs” two days before the quickly held ratification vote.
Please read my letter below. It is based on second-hand information. I requested a response from the union president to learn about his side. As I write this, two weeks have gone by and he has not responded.
October 22, 2022
I am writing to you in part because we are about to enter campus equity week which in CFT literature is described as “a time of education and activism that draws attention to the working conditions of faculty working on temporary, low-paid contracts, who now constitute the majority of college instructors.”
I have read the letter dated October 13, 2022 from union lawyer Lawrence Rosenzweig and yourself (which I assume is written on behalf of the leadership of your local and presumably paid for out of union dues) to Khaled Hussain (copy attached). I have since learned that Mr. Hussain has been suspended from the executive board of AFT Local 1512.
I am reaching out to hear your side of the story so you can provide proof showing why I am wrong in the conclusions I have reached that are spelled out below.
I am a longtime dues paying member of AFT 2121 which is the union representing faculty at City College of San Francisco. I believe strongly in the importance of unions.
From what I have read, I am extremely disturbed by the developments concerning Mr. Hussain.
In the letter cited above is the claim that “the Guild has been fighting for adjuncts for many years” though what has been achieved is not specified. Yet, hasn’t the Guild, for years, accepted two tier contracts in which adjuncts, teaching a class for which they are as equally qualified as a full-timer teaching the same class, receive lower rates of pay and, based on a load factor, proportionately fewer, if any, benefits provided the full-time faculty member?
The point about fighting is followed by three points seeing all the problems facing adjuncts regarding their employment, their pay, and the obstacles they face for achieving justice as the sole responsibility of the district. However, haven’t the contracts negotiated that keep adjuncts in a position of continually having to face these problems been approved by union leaders like yourself?
The last two points are about how low enrollment results in “limited opportunities for adjuncts” and that “adjuncts are vulnerable to loss of class assignments because of low enrollment and other factors” that are not specified. This comes across as a statement I would expect from management.
In the letter, you go on to write that “The Guild will continue to fight for adjuncts,” but what you are seeking to achieve is not specified. I would have hoped that you would have spelled out what is probably a most critical purpose and principle for union leaders, which is to fight more on behalf of its most vulnerable and most poorly paid members than for any other group they represent.
Instead, what is inferred in the letter is that adjuncts should expect to remain in their second-class status. That attitude is found in your Wednesday Wins October 19 message to union members (attached) in which you specify wins that include “Full-time faculty will benefit from a secure retirement that will be payable for the rest of their lives and can be shared with beneficiaries.” How could this be called a win when so many of the dues paying people you supposedly represent are excluded from this win, many of whom, while still working and who cannot afford to retire, are presumably enduring housing insecurity and on public assistance?
Had Mr. Hussain been working to organize women or people of color instead of adjuncts to achieve what I understand to be equality both as workers and as members within the union, would he have been treated the same way?
Some who are familiar with what has happened to Mr. Hussain have concluded that he is a victim of bullying, perhaps, as one means to keep part-time faculty in an inferior position.
Please clarify why I should not reach the conclusion that by suspending Mr. Hussain and not supporting his efforts, you, as president and the other responsible leaders of AFT 1521, have done a disservice to the part-time members you supposedly represent. Why should you and others responsible for Mr. Hussain’s treatment not be expected to immediately resign from your positions?
Member of AFT 2121
Member of The California Part-Time Faculty Association
“An injury to one is an injury to all.”
Rick Baum pictured left.
What I understand to be a right-wing group that is probably anti-union puts out pay figures about public employees. Attached is their list for union community college leaders in Los Angeles that shows many, like yourself, receive a salary package that is higher than many overpaid administrators and far greater than adjuncts, many of whom face difficulties covering their living costs.
- Lawyer letter. October 13, 2022 letter sent by lawyer and signed by AFT 1521 President James McKeever requesting that Khalid withdraw from the union’s executive board because he has a “goal…to fairly represent adjuncts” which is supposedly contrary to the “responsibilities of the Guild.”
- Pay level of union officials in Los Angeles provided by “Transparent California.” (figure 1 below)
- Wins.docx is Document cited presumably sent out by AFT 1521 President McKeever to union members listing “wins” achieved.