Shouting “What do we want? Health care! When do we want it? Now!” and shaking signs saying, “Part-time faculty are full-time humans,” protestors rallied Friday demanding health care for part-time teachers.
Car horns honked as teachers from the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District protested outside the downtown district office. Union members from community college districts across the Bay Area and state joined the protest—including the California Federation of Teachers, West Valley-Mission Federation of Teachers and the South Bay Labor Council—to advocate for a new state program that would give part-time faculty full-time health benefits under certain conditions.
Assembly Bill 190 provides $200 million annually for community college districts to fund health care premiums for part-time faculty carrying 40% of the full-time workload. Participating community college districts that opt in to the program are reimbursed 100% by the state for part-time teachers who reach the 40% benchmark at one or multiple community colleges.
West Valley-Mission Federation of Teachers President Kate Disney said a rally held last October at Mission College and the passage of AB 190 helped move her district to offer health care to its part-time faculty.
“Once AB 190 went through, we went to work and sat down with the district and crafted a (memorandum of understanding),” she told San José Spotlight. “We don’t understand why trustees in other districts don’t get on board with it. We plan to continue to apply pressure on those districts that still do not have agreements.”
Disney said having health care premiums covered changed the lives of part-time faculty, as some were previously paying exorbitant amounts or couldn’t afford insurance. But some districts are taking a wait and see approach.
“They may be concerned they won’t be fully reimbursed by the state,” she said. “That kind of conservative, cautious attitude can’t really be justified because it translates into people who desperately need health care not getting it.”
Interim Chancellor Beatriz Chaidez previously told San José Spotlight the district was in talks with the union representing its teachers.
“While we do not comment on specific details during active bargaining, our most recent bargaining session leaves us hopeful that we can reach agreement soon,” she said.
California Federation of Teachers President Jeff Freitas said the district’s fear that the money will run out is unfounded.
“These people are providing an education to the students,” he told San José Spotlight. “It is immoral (for the district) not to provide health care for their own workers.”
Jean Cohen, executive officer of the South Bay Labor Council, said the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District board needs political will and desire.
“Elections have consequences and if you don’t stand with us, we won’t stand with you,” she said, sending a message to the board. “The labor council will continue to advocate every day for everyone who has a need for health care and can’t afford health care.”
Steven Mentor, president of the San Jose/Evergreen Federation of Teachers, told San José Spotlight part-time faculty are waiting to take care of themselves so they can afford to take care of their children’s health. Meanwhile, he said the district wants to come up with its own health plan because it considers it “political suicide” to give something to teachers and then have to take it away.
Robin Pugh, a member of City College of San Francisco Faculty Union, said AB 190 provides stability and livability to part-timers. She said it’s a win-win because college districts get increased funding and they get to provide better health benefits.
“This is a battle that we fought and won recently at our college,” she told San José Spotlight. “We can certainly empathize with the need of part-time faculty to have health care. Faculty are living in their cars in some places, and this is one step in support of eliminating that precarity for our educators.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].