This year marks CPFA’s 25th anniversary. There are still a few of us who remember those early days, and who are hopeful that the next 25 years will bring even greater changes to the work-scape for roughly 35,000+ highly qualified educators who toil daily to keep the community college system in California not only afloat, but also healthy.
Employment, job security/retirement, health benefits, equal pay for equal work, and longevity of employment, membership and participation in Union organizing activities all remain important concerns and goals for precarious edu-workers.
CPFA works to provide a framework within which part-time, precarious faculty both inside and outside of wall-to-wall or separate union bargaining units have their issues fairly represented and forcefully bargained locally. In the past quarter century, CPFA has learned a great deal about how we are perceived, what is possible under the current set of rules and regulations, and what should be possible in the future. CPFA brings to the table a unique advocacy, non-union perspective that we hope will give individuals a meaningful way to advance their own professional development within the community college system.
ALL FOR ONE…
One of the biggest challenges over the last 25 years has been the various complications associated with organizing and recruiting rank and file members – currently disenfranchised, part-time faculty – to participate in and move arguments forward with regard to representing themselves in negotiations between edu-unions and administrations. This kind of grassroots organizing requires more resources than most unions are willing to expend or allocate. So over the last 25 years this lack of support has resulted in part-timers being woefully underrepresented or not represented at all by their unions on the whole. Asking the unions to work with each other on the behalf of the underprivileged majority is difficult at best, as in each of those situations the current policymakers and union officials are biased towards full-time faculty; full-time faculty concerns are always put before the issues of part-timers are ever brought up for discussion and/or negotiation. How often do we hear, “Maybe next time!”? It’s the excuse each time part-time faculty issues are pushed again to the bottom of the priority list.
Cumulatively, this kind of benign neglect or lack of concern, has resulted in the situation we are in today, where 35,000 plus well-trained and highly qualified educators cannot make a living just working in a single district, while 12,000 full-time faculty system-wide enjoy benefits that are, under most circumstances, excessive in the extreme. Grouping districts into more homogeneous governing units regionally might be a better way to go. Time will tell, but groups like the academic Senate and the system-wide administration loath to make any changes in that direction. And so, CPFA is one of the few organizations in this venue that is exploring ways to bring part-timers together to work on common causes – like a single tier system, equal pay for equal work, healthcare, a viable retirement program, representation within the union hierarchy, participation in local and statewide academic Senate venues, and access to the Chancellor’s offices through a standing part-time-issues committee – something that we have been trying to achieve for the last 25 years, with little or no success! We are hopeful that this too shall change in the near future.
PLUS ÇA CHANGE
What started as an experiment in expanding course offerings to meet new challenges and demands, has turned into a means by which college administrations have finagled hiring more precarious workers to expand programs without bearing the true costs of fair pay for professional quality education. Workers casually hired under these circumstances have continued to work in the community college system, and, over the last 25 years, have seen little progress towards building secure, gainful employment. In other words, those who have, get to keep; those who don’t have, never will.
Well paid administrators and entrenched faculty have helped create a cheap job pool into which they dip shamelessly to meet districts’ changing instructional needs, without incurring appropriate costs or providing secure employment for such precarious workers. All this continues on abated. While the names of the privileged few may change over time, the outcome is always the same: those who have, get to keep, while those who don’t must continue to live a marginal existence. The obvious solution is to motivate part-timers to organize and stand up for themselves en masse. So far, no one has been successful in getting part-timers to organize in large enough numbers and to work together on their own behalf, both within and outside of union contacts, to achieve their just desserts!
TENURE IS UNTENABLE
Tenure is a hot button issue that needs to be diffused. No one is against tenure in principle, we are merely against the use of tenure as an anachronistic term whose content still holds some utility. Whenever tenure is raised as an issue, the word opens up a huge can of worms and prevents fruitful discussion of viable alternatives, thereby leaving those who already have, with, and those who are standing outside, without. If we can only shift the discussion away from “lifetime employment” and “freedom of speech” toward more practical terms, like “due process” and “employment security,” then we might be able to reach the common ground needed to unite around a healthier, more just system that truly protects and uplifts us all.
COME PLAY & WIN
What CPFA has learned over the last 25 years is that we need consistent input from our members, and consistent numbers when it comes to motivating other organizations to act on the behalf of part-timers, or even to start recognizing our point of view. Outreach is something that we need to continue to do and which we need to continue to make the budget for. Without our numbers, we will continue to fail to get anyone to listen to us. Short of staging city-ins at the Chancellor’s office, or the governor’s mansion, or in the assembly and state Senate we need to make our presence felt in a consistent way that will get us the attention we need and the results that we deserve. So, the major task for the next 25 years, seems to me, is: organize, organize, organize! Which brings me to the last point:
HOW MUCH LONGER, PART-TIMERS?
We will continue to be marginalized, dismissed, disenfranchised, and ignored, until we present a formidable interest group that can work in a number of venues to move our issues forward, without alienating others! The best governance results in a situation where everyone gives a little and everyone gets a little! So far, part-time faculty have given a lot and gotten very little in return. That balancing act and equation needs to be changed, and people need to understand that continuing to dismiss part-time faculty concerns is resulting in damage to the whole education system.
I am hopeful that the youthful energy and foresight demonstrated 25 years ago at the El Chorro regional Park in San Luis Obispo county will continue to fuel CPFA’s march toward fair and equitable treatment, a one-tiered pay system, security of employment, due process, solid gains in negotiated benefits for part-timers, and the overall success of the system in which the least of us are finally taken care of.
How much longer, part timers? You hold that answer in your willingness to organize, stand up for yourself, and prevail! Let us hope that by age 50, CPFA will be able to look back and detail even greater gains than we have in our first 25 years!
~Robert Yoshioka, CPFA Ex-officio
One of the founders of CPFA in 1988
For more observations about CPFA, see Robert’s 20th Anniversary article of 2018.