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California Bill Would Give Community-College Adjuncts New Workplace Rights

A bill moving through the California Legislature would require the state’s community-college districts to contractually guarantee seniority and due-process rights to adjunct instructors.

The measure, Assembly Bill 1690, would make California the first state to legally require colleges to give part-time instructors such rights. It has received strong support in California’s Democratically held Legislature, where the Senate Appropriations Committee approved it last week and the Assembly overwhelmingly passed it, along partisan lines, in June.

The bill calls for community-college districts’ future collective-bargaining agreements with part-time instructors to include several provisions: They must place part-time instructors on seniority lists after six semesters, or three years, of satisfactory performance evaluations. They must guarantee part-time instructors who have earned seniority at least the same workload they had had in their sixth semester. They must require colleges to use seniority as a basis for offering instructors new assignments or denying them work when assignments or classes are pared back. And they must offer remediation in response to the first unsatisfactory performance review given to part-time instructors with seniority.

Both the Community College League of California and the Association of California Community College Administrators oppose the bill. In a one letter to lawmakers, a league representative argued that the measure would hinder community college districts’ ability to negotiate contracts responsive to local conditions, and that the best way to improve the lot of community colleges’ part-time instructors would be to increase financial support for such institutions. Some Republican lawmakers have raised concerns over the plan’s projected costs, with the Senate Appropriations Committee estimating that the state would need to spend at least $2 million to maintain seniority lists at every campus.

The bill is supported by the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges and other advocates for part-time instructors. Maria Maisto, president of New Faculty Majority, a national advocacy group, predicted on Monday that California’s adoption of AB 1690 will inspire other states to consider similar measures. Describing California as “far ahead” of other states in terms of its public colleges’ treatment of contingent faculty members, she said, “People look to California on these issues.”

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