United voices and action

Faculty and state representatives alike advocate for adjunct faculty healthcare

San Jose-Evergreen Community College District Trustee Tony Alexander talks about his three “L’s” and “V” plan to help institute healthcare for adjunt faculty, on Oct. 27.

Videography by Jason Torres Iraheta and Reporting by Madison Wilber / Times

State leaders, labor organization leaders and college faculty met together to rally for Campus Equity Week at Mission Community College on Thursday, Oct. 27.

Together they championed equal health care benefits for part-time educators as well as full-time faculty.

Members of the California Federation of Teachers, which represents over 120,000 educational employees, spoke about their decrease in morale over the past year.

“Over 60% of our members said they felt like leaving education in the last year,” President of CFT Jeff Freitas said.

Throughout the event, protesters held signs reading slogans such as, “Part-Time Faculty equals Full-Time Human,” and “Faculty Wellness equals Student Success.”

This was also reinforced by Freitas who said, “That is what this is about, it’s providing for the students, being able to be here on campus in a healthy situation.”

Campus Equity Week, which was held this year from Oct. 24-28, brought attention to the poor conditions professors and educators deal with in their careers. While protesters spoke about how inequality exists on every level, the rally focused particularly on the disparity of healthcare between part-time and full-time faculty. Governor Gavin Newsom approved a $200 million yearly budget through Proposition 98 for healthcare for part-time faculty, on June 27.

Faculty members stepped forward to share their experiences of the obstacles they have faced without healthcare.

“I myself was an adjunct, I was working as part-time faculty at UC Berkeley. I actually was being shoveled on and off health insurance and there was actually a time, because I would commute by bike to campus, I was hit by a car,” Marianne Kaletzky, an executive secretary for the American Federation of Teachers said. “In the moment that it happened I wasn’t that hurt but I thought, ‘Maybe I should go to a doctor?,’ but then I thought, ‘I don’t know how much it’ll cost,’ because at that time I wasn’t on the university health coverage.”

Educators have reported having to forgo their appointments, skip on medical exams, and cut their medications because they lacked health coverage.

“We are the fourth largest economy right now as a state, and we are probably the richest county in the state, it is unacceptable that people get that way and until we achieve universal health care, we have to be doing these patchwork things and making sure everyone is done right,” State Assemblymember Alex Lee said.

For the past 15 years there has been a budget of half a million dollars for some health care benefits for faculty Frietas mentioned.

“Half a million doesn’t go very far when you’re talking about thousands of employees across the state. The state governor and legislature approved 200 million dollars a year and now we need to get the districts to actually implement that,” Freitas said.

Steven Mentor, a language arts professor at Evergreen Valley College, made a call to action echoing Frietas’ push for district level implementation.

He said that he would like to think the administrations would immediately step up to utilize the funds for adjunct faculty but, “I [Mentor] also want a unicorn and a pony for my birthday.”

Mentor went on to say that the faculty must hold the Board of Trustees accountable and not allow them to drag their feet when it comes to pushing for part-time faculty healthcare.

An important factor about this new $200 million is that it does not only happen for a year or two, but rather is recurring.

“97% of the state budget, all these things that you hear about on climate, on homelessness, you name the issue, is one time money… so the importance of this money ongoing coming through prop 98 means it’s not going to go away,” Senator Dave Cortese informed spectators.

Advocates also spoke about how these new implementations would affect them and their own experiences with the inequity in the past. Also mentioned at the rally were general faults of America’s present health system.

Executive Director of Latinas Contra Cancer Darcia Green, a group that works to create a more impartial and accessible healthcare system for the Latin community, educated participants that 100 million adults have health care debt.

She reported that 12% of adults owe $10,000 or more, and that 41% of adults face debt ranging under $500, obligations which disproportionately affect minorities and the disabled.

San Jose-Evergreen Community College District’s Board of Trustee Tony Alexander mentioned how he would continue to advocate following his “LLLV,” (learn, listen, lobbying and victory). He explained that he feels protesters must learn how exactly to achieve full time benefits, listen to know how to make action happen, lobby state legislatures and keep going until they reach victory.

“Victory, we will win, we are going to be victorious,” Alexander said.