Inside/Outside Strategy: the CFT PTFC and Higher Ed Issues Committee Resolution on the Two-Tier System

Yesterday John Govsky, long-time activist at Cabrillo College, wrote to Joe to say:

Hi Joe,

I just want to show you a resolution that I wrote. Today it has been approved by the CFT Part-Time Faculty Committee, and also by the CFT Higher Ed Issues Committee, so it will now go to the CFT State Council in March as a joint resolution. I thought you might find this resolution interesting …

Develop a Strategic Plan to End the Two-Tier System in Community College

Whereas, it is widely agreed that the California Community College system’s over-reliance on contingent faculty is one of the greatest problems in higher education today; and

Whereas, over 40 years of resolutions, advocacy, legislative lobbying, and other efforts have failed to make significant changes to this two-tier system; and

Whereas, there are existing models of a working one-tier system in higher education, such as those used in British Columbia; and

Whereas the California Federation of Teachers Policy and Positions Handbook states that CFT supports “the ending of the two-tiered wage system” [4.2.7];

Therefore, be it resolved, that CFT shall create, no later than January 1, 2023, a strategic planning task force, with members appointed by the president, to develop a strategic plan for transitioning to a one-tier system; and

Be it finally resolved, that this task force shall deliver its report for approval by the Executive Council and/or State Council no later than January 1, 2024.


So, you might say, OK, someone sat down late at night and had an idea and wrote it down. So far, so good, but only too often that’s the end of it. A good idea disappears as soon as you’ve exhaled it onto paper. But it’s kind of like that Marge Piercy poem, The Low Road:

So you either print out a few copies or you email it to a few friends, and they read it and think about it. These are people whom you choose because you know they won’t say: “It will never happen.” They change some of the formatting, or they put the ideas in a different order, or they want a different verb. You want them to make some changes because then they will own the ideas. Next, you send it to your caucus or committee. In this case, John Govsky sent it to the CFT Part-Time Faculty Committee. “Part-time” is the term for contingent faculty in the California community colleges, because under the law they can’t work over 67% of a load. This committee is their Inside-Outside committee, the forum where faculty who share the condition of contingency get together and hash out their concerns.

The Part-Time Faculty Committee evidently approved it. That must have required some discussion of the British Columbia model with references to many things that have been written about it by people like Jack Longmate and Keith Hoeller. They also must have talked about the long history of how the 60% cap came to be and how it got pushed up to 67%, and then what happened last fall when Governor Newsom vetoed AB375 which would have moved the cap up to about 80% and allowed part-timers, who often commute between two or three or more college districts, to consolidate schedules (more on that later). In other words, this first step of getting a resolution approved probably took some time. It may even have stirred up some fears among the committee members, who were probably angry (at Newsom’s veto on top of everything else) and cautious about expressing anger, and because it’s essentially confrontational, since it means saying directly to the next level of the union leadership, “You need to get going on doing your job!” That job having been signaled by the official state level of the CFT supporting ending the two-tier system.

So the committee, with a smile and a sigh, approved the resolution and moved it on up. I actually don’t know what happened in the committee, I’m just guessing, having been in such committees.

And it was approved at the level of the CFT Higher Ed Issues committee and will go on to the State Council in March.

This is a great example of the Inside/Outside strategy. There is a lot more to say about what will happen and I’ll try to track it. But for right now, some questions that might come up for a reader who is considering doing something like this, would be: Why those distant deadlines??? Why give the union whole year to develop a strategic plan for something that everyone (or at least a lot of people) are angry about? And then it turns out that this plan is only a report from the appointed task force and the union has another year to approve it, that is by January 1, 2024? And even then it’s only a plan?

And in the meantime, disaster capitalism is taking advantage of the pandemic to chop away at all levels of education….

Stay tuned.

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

One thought on “Inside/Outside Strategy: the CFT PTFC and Higher Ed Issues Committee Resolution on the Two-Tier System

  1. Thanks for the blog post, but let me give you a slight correction. My resolution did not come out of my local (Cabrillo College Federation of Teachers). I submitted it to the CFT (CA Federation of Teachers) Part-Time Faculty Committee, which I co-chair, which approved it. The CFT Higher Education Issues Committee of CFT then also approved the same language, so now it goes to the CFT State Council to be voted on as a joint resolution coming from both committees.

    So the resolution comes out of the CFT Part-Time Faculty Committee, not from Cabrillo College.

    And, just an FYI, the reason the resolution doesn’t call for the task force to be created until the end of this year is that CFT currently has a great deal of energy being spent on a major part-time faculty organizing campaign, focused on health care, that we do not wish to detract from as we try to turn the $200 million in the governor’s proposed budget for PT health care into reality and then into wins at the bargaining table.

    And yes, perhaps giving the task force a year to complete its work is overly generous. Quite frankly, I don’t know; I was trying to give adequate time to develop, by committee, what I hope will be a detailed plan. It’s possible that we will tighten this up when the resolution is debated on the floor …

    If you are a CFT member, please make sure your local votes in favor of this resolution!

    John Govsky


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