Press "Enter" to skip to content

Adjunct instructors in LA score full health benefits

Last week, the American Federation of Teachers’ local 1521, which represents the faculty members of the Los Angeles Community College District, announced that the union had reached an agreement with the district to offer full health care benefits to the district’s part-time instructors. Under the new agreement, adjunct instructors will receive the same health care stipend ($1,300 per month) that full-time faculty members receive.

Previously, LACCD’s adjunct instructors could buy healthcare coverage through the district, using a $500 stipend. The rest of the premium often consumed the rest of the instructor’s paycheck. The new agreement applies to adjuncts who teach at least one-third time. A $200M ongoing appropriation from the California State Assembly will fund the new benefit.

The LACCD relies on its adjunct instructors to deliver nearly half of the college’s classes. At Washtenaw Community College, the part-time faculty delivers more instruction than the full-time faculty does. The current contract allows part-time instructors to purchase single-subscriber health care with no subsidy.

This is interesting because the AFT hopes that this will become the model for health care benefits for adjunct instructors around the nation. It makes sense. If part-time instructors are a critical element of college operations, then the College should take care of its part-time instructors in a manner that doesn’t involve consuming their entire paycheck to pay for healthcare premiums. (Especially when those premiums were negotiated for full-time employees who earn substantially more than adjunct teachers do.)

Adjunct instructors pay issue is here to stay

As I predicted last year, the issue of how to treat part-time instructors isn’t going away. Having a full complement of adjunct instructors is vitally important to the College yet paying them is not. At WCC, in addition to self-paid healthcare insurance, the adjunct instructors’ “benefits” package includes Social Security and Workers Compensation insurance coverage.

I’m just going to point out that FICA/Medicare payments and worker’s compensation insurance coverage are not benefits. The federal government legally obligates employers to collect FICA taxes from the worker and pay the employer’s portion of the FICA tax. The state requires employers to pay for workers compensation insurance. To couch the collection and payment of taxes or the purchase of required insurance coverage as “a benefit” is ludicrous. (If they’re benefits, try cutting them and see what happens.)

Colleges rely heavily on adjunct instructors to avoid the salary and benefits costs associated with full-time employees. Agreements like this will make it harder for community colleges to justify using low-wage labor to deliver coursework. By putting the cost of adjunct instructors on par with regular, full-time instructors, unions can discourage heavy usage of part-time instructors and open the door to adding more full-time faculty.

Photo Credit: Rae Allen , via Flickr