Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Can New Jersey Adjuncts Break Down a Stone Wall? by Bill Lipkin

On October 26, as part of the start of Campus Equity Week activities in New Jersey, United Adjunct Faculty of NJ held its Delegate Assembly meeting. Present were 68 delegates from 10 Community College Chapters and members of the AFTNJ Executive Board. A major focus of the Assembly was on the Affordable Care Act and how it was already affecting adjuncts in the state.

The State of New Jersey had issued a letter several weeks before concerning the ACA and the four year Colleges and Universities in NJ. This letter instructed HR directors to determine hours worked for adjuncts by crediting them 8 hours for every day they had a class on the campus. In other words if you had one Monday/Wednesday/Friday class (3 credits) that would count as 8 hours per day or 24 hours a week. You would not be able to teach on Tuesday or Thursday. We did convince the State how ridiculous this was since an adjunct would be able to teach all day on those three days, teaching 18 credits and still be credited with 24 hours a week. Plus this did not address on-line courses.

New Jersey Community College students support adjunct faculty
The State of NJ backed off and has not issued any directives since. That is fine since the IRS Regulations currently state that it is up to each College to determine the teaching load for adjuncts.

No mention was made by the State regarding Community Colleges, and the 10 that were represented by delegates had varying degrees of definitions.

At the meeting we had a health care expert from AFT give us an update on what AFT was doing to protect adjuncts from being hurt by the way Colleges were using the ACA as an excuse to cut our hours and the power of AFT chapter leadership. AFT has had several meetings with the White House on this issue, bringing up among other things, issues that were brought to their attention by our leadership in NJ.

Also, at a recent AFT Legislative Conference in DC the Executive Vice President of UAFNJ, Lynne Cummins, met with Randi Weingarten, president of AFT, on a one to one basis. Lynne described what is happening in NJ to adjuncts due to the Colleges' interpretation of the ACA and Randi guaranteed her that AFT would work harder on our behalf with the White House.

One thing that our Delegate Assembly strongly approved was the possibility of getting waivers to the Colleges for adjuncts who already have health care coverage through Social Security, a retirement system, their full time employment or their spouses employers. Lynne brought this up to Randi Weingarten and hopefully this will become part of the discussion.

There seems to be a stone wall separating the true working conditions of adjuncts from the public.

NFM has brought much attention to these conditions and moved the conversation to the national level. In order to sustain this momentum, we need to take action at our state levels and continue to pressure our College administrators and state legislators that the time for Campus Equity is now!

New Jersey has pending legislation on Unemployment Insurance that would change the wording that would disqualify adjuncts from collecting UI between semesters and in the summer from 'reasonable assurance' to ' a contract.' We have been working very hard to gain support to get this bill out of committee and get this legislation passed. We in New Jersey are committed to improving adjunct working conditions and hope others states will follow to break down the stone wall.

submitted by Bill Lipkin

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