On Saturday, October 26, adjunct faculty from locals around the Puget Sound area came together at South Seattle College’s Georgetown Campus for AFT Washington’s Adjuncts Building Community Conference. The conference was organized and created by AFT Washington’s Contingent Faculty Issues Committee and co-sponsored by WEA, and AFT Seattle Community Colleges Local 1789. AFT Washington’s president, Karen Strickland, began the conference with an overview of the current state of affairs of adjunct faculty in Washington State.
Next were table discussions to further define issues important to adjuncts and strategize around ways to strengthen adjunct power at the local level. Participants attended breakout sessions on communication strategies, building adjunct advocacy in local executive boards and bargaining teams, mobilizing new members, and doing new member outreach. Also included was a breakout session on the Washington State Best Practices for Part-time Faculty, which were adopted by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges in 2017 but are not yet implemented in most CTCs. There was also a representative from AFT National who facilitated a clinic on student loan forgiveness programs.
The day ended with a presentation by Political Organizer Sandra Toussaint about the [Re]Invest in Our Colleges campaign, which has a large focus on working toward higher salaries for adjunct faculty, equal pay for equal work, and conversion of positions from part-time to full-time.
Despite some gains in salary and job security for contingent faculty, there is much more our union can fight for and much more to be done. In the gig economy of the 21st century, fifty years of increasing dependency on non-tenured, lower paid faculty has led to 70 percent of faculty being contingent labor. Our conference was one important step toward addressing this issue. Participants shared their thoughts and ideas among colleagues and a lot of good ideas arose from these conversations. AFT Washington’s Contingent Faculty Issues Committee encourages active union members to make a commitment to join our committee and become more active in the important work of creating a system of higher education hiring that insures all faculty a living wage, job security, and a safe and supportive workplace. Thanks to Irene Morrison for facilitating this conference and to our union member break-out facilitators: Jacqui Cain, Kent Hill, James Pyle, Tobi Rosenberg, Natalie Simmons, Antonia Bennie-George, Annette Stofer, and of course AFT Washington’s Cris Rice, Sandra Toussaint, and Bob Downing.