Members of SCFT Local 1533 might not know that the By-Laws of the Federation establish a standing committee for adjunct instructors: the Part-Time Advisory Committee. The Federalist checked in with the group recently to hear about their recent work and ongoing concerns. The plague year of 2020-21 has had a disproportionate impact on adjuncts, a devastating impact for many of them. The Part-Time Advisory Committee is working to strengthen the position of adjuncts by giving adjuncts a place to talk, come up with ideas, and make decisions and recommendations outside of a structured environment. A think tank for adjuncts is the way one member describes their work. They want to create activities to bring adjuncts together; they hope to raise awareness of adjunct issues and communicate adjunct concerns to other adjuncts, to full-time instructors, and to district administration and the board. This will require continuing to research and publicize district policies and practices which are part of a long-standing culture of neglecting and disvaluing adjuncts.
One project the Part-Time Advisory Committee was able to complete this semester was the organization of an Adjunct Relief Fund through GoFundMe (please go to the SCFT website if you wish to contribute). The fund raised over $21,000 to help State Center adjuncts who have lost income during the pandemic. More than twenty adjuncts have already received cash grants through the fund. (The group thanks Ria Williams (English, Fresno City) for the suggestion of a relief fund for adjuncts, and Todd Kandarian (Math, Madera) for help with logistics in getting the fund set up.) The group hopes that a permanent Emergency Fund for Part-Time Instructors can grow out of their work this semester. They want to signal to other adjuncts that their work is long-term; it may take a while to make the changes they would like to see. This is not just for current adjuncts, but for future adjuncts as well.
One of the major issues for the Part-Time Advisory Committee is pay parity. The group calculates that adjuncts do 15 hours of work per class per week that they are not paid for. Another comparison sheds light on the district’s attitude towards its adjuncts. Last November the district “reclassified” its middle managers (deans and directors). Their announced intention was to raise the salaries of these managers 2-4% above the average in 16 “comparable” districts.
Regarding adjunct pay in those comparable districts, there was just one district that paid adjuncts less than State Center. If part-time pay in the State Center District were raised 2-4% above the average in those 16 districts, it would go from the current $53.85 per classroom hour to $72.10 per classroom hour, an increase of one-third. (For more details on pay parity for adjuncts, please see the article “Walk Like A Dean” in this issue of The Federalist.)
District negligence is another issue the adjuncts are focused on. It is not uncommon for an adjunct who does not get paid as expected on the 10th of the month to be told that they will have to wait until the 10th of the next month to get their check. Sometimes repeated phone calls are effective (try to get ahold of the Vice Chancellor of Finance herself). But the district has no policy that correcting payroll mistakes is any kind of priority. A payroll manager told a full-time instructor pleading for an adjunct who had not been paid, “I would have to pull some of my people off what they’re doing, and then there would be somebody else who wasn’t getting paid.” Bad arguments are the stock-in-trade of the slothful as well as the deceitful (to his credit, the payroll manager eventually relented).
Last year there were two mandatory trainings for adjunct instructors, a state-mandated sexual harassment training, and a COVID training. State Center adjuncts are still waiting to be paid for attending these trainings. Some adjuncts might not even know that they have not been paid. Human Resources tells them it’s a glitch outside of their control; but it’s a glitch HR has allowed to control them for six months. Full-timers would not be treated like this. (There is danger in pointing this out; district logic may require them to begin treating full-time instructors equally poorly.)
The members of the Part-Time Advisory Committee point out that their workforce upholds the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The district should hold up their end through actions that demonstrate a commitment to simple equity for part-time instructors. The current policies, attitudes, and actions of administration are unacceptable.