COCAL Updates

COCAL logo smallby Joe Berry
21 San Mateo Road,
Berkeley, CA 94707

COCAL is the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, a nearly 20 year old network of contingent activists and their organizations that does a conference (now tri national – USA, CAN, MEX) every other year, usually in August. It also sponsors a listserv, called ADJ-L, and has an International Advisory Committee and a website and Facebook page

NOTE: As noted previously, your COCAL UPDATES editor (Joe Berry) and his spouse/partner/colleague Helena Worthen, are going to teach labor studies in Viet Nam for the fall 2015 Semester. We would like to take some gifts related to the union/workers movement in the US to give to folks there. We are leaving from CA August 14. If any of you would like to have us take union or other movement hats, T-shirts or similar union gifts to VN from your organization as a gesture of solidarity for their labor movement and as a gesture of support for us, please send them to us at the address above so that we receive it by August 13, 2015. Unions in Viet Nam are grappling with how to deal with the influx of foreign (capitalist) direct investment there and the need to build local unions that can effectively fight for workers in this new context. Thanks in advance for your assistance.

1. Accreditor, ACCJC, unfair and rife with conflict.


1. Education International report: EDU businesses pose threat to education.

2. Academics unhappy in Ireland.


1. More on Friedrichs v CTA (agency fee case in CA).

2. The pernicious effect of corporate influence.

3. Tuition rollback in WA.

4. More true stories on Precaricorps, “I used to be an adjunct …” and check others stories there too.

5. Campus diversity efforts ignore widest gulf – class.

6. All faculty deserve academic freedom, not just the few with tenure.

7. Right to work means right to freeload

…and is an attack on free speech.

8. Adjuncting is the kiss of death (Actually there is some real research on this. In the book “Contingent Work“, <>  the chapter “Working for piece rates and accumulating deficits” Kathleen Barker and Kathleen Christainsen, eds.. It clearly showed, through blind survey research of hiring officers, that more than 2-3 years as a a contingent becomes detriment, not “experience”.)

9. Another company converts workers from 1099 contractors to full employees.

10. MA adjuncts to get sick leave benefits.

11. National adjunct labor action

12. As a CUNY adjunct I make less in my career than my colleague Paul Krugman makes in a year

13. IL Valley CC adjuncts.

14. With new overtime rule, Obama may have given 5 million people a raise.

15. Keene State College (NH) unionizing.

16. On the 80th birthday of the Wagner Act (NLRA) is it time lessen the burden on this law?

17. Interesting piece on Social Security and the offsets some of us in 13 states suffer if we also get a state pension. Of especial interest in CA, but also elsewhere and the basis of why this perhaps should be a national issue. The author is also an officer in the new AFT national contingent faculty caucus. She originally wrote this for the CPFA list serve (CA Part-time Faculty Assoc.) , which is a group advocating for PT faculty in the CA community colleges (where all pters are contingent and nearly all FTers are tenured or tenure track).

Dear List,

I was stunned to visit the social security office yesterday and learn that “because of” my tiny $790 CalStrs monthly pension, my tiny $890 social security check would be cut in half (to around $450), in accordance with the Windfall Elimination Provision).

Yes, that is correct, my retirement just went down from a dogfood level of  $1720 a month (plus supplemental of $350 for 5 years) to a nutri-loaf  level of somewhere around $1220 a  month (plus supplemental of $350 for five years) .  For those of you unfamiliar with nutri-loaf–private prisons use nutri-loaf as a disciplinary tactic: curse a guard who taunts  you,  and you get a week of nutri loaf (sawdust, vitamins and protein powder). It costs about 28 cents a serving and meets federal nutrition guidelines ). Presto! They “save” money on food under cover of a “disciplinary” technique that they are permitted by law to use.

Had I stayed in social security, my retirement would be somewhere around $1900-2200 per month!  If I die young (that is under 72), the Calstrs route is still slightly better, because of my “overwork” –that is working  at three districts, for about an extra .5 FTE load, for around 8 years. If not, the $413 loss ($5000 a year)  will begin to erode the benefits of the marginally more “generous” Callstrs system, after age 75.

Yes, that is right, I just lost, as one of the lowest wage workers in the United States, an additional $413/month for life! (the maximum amount a social security benefit can be reduced as an “offset” for my “windfall” of about $1220 a month from Calstrs (for 5 years) and  $860 thereafter.

Though there is no way (that I can think of)  to prepare, game, or to offset this “offset”, I thought I might warn others nearing retirement of how it works!  No one told me, in all the years that I have asked about  the effect of the WEP, in general, and in fact I was counseled to “not worry”–that it would be a very small loss.  Well, folks.  It is time to worry! the WEP constitutes a 24% loss to one of the lowest retirement benefis of any worker in America, for those CA CC PT faculty who have not taught in the CC system their entire working lives!

Here’s the details:  if you do not have 30 years of “significant” employment you will get an offset of your social security check ( the table goes from a modest offset that will leave you with 90% of your “deserved” SS benefits down to only 40%).  I had only 17 or 18 years of significant employment, because a number of years of my work as a higher education faculty were “under” the significant threshold, and six years I was unemployed and raising children.

Women (or any parent) who takes any years off their work-life for family duties, or are underemployed in states where adjuncts routinely earn “under” what the SS office considers significant, will virtually all trigger a social security reduction.  Women are thus (no surprise there)  the big losers in this scheme, that was enacted in the  1990s  (coinciding with the steepest rise of the adjunct numbers)  and meant to rein in  those trying to boost their pensions by working two tracks.

Here is a sample of “significant’ employment thresholds: 1991 is $9,900.   2000 it was $14,175.

In the United States at large, the average earnings of PTF, even those working the equivalent of a FT load, were typically just under the “significant earnings” threshold, or some years, just above.

Who will this effect:  Any Part-time Faculty  who is relying on social security for part of their retirement–ie anyone who worked 1-30 years in another job, other than the California CC system, and expects –has been expecting– to receive their modest social security check!  The offsets are shocking and even the SS employee  looking at my numbers was apologetic and a bit  perplexed.  He kept saying: you were a college teacher for 26 years????. My partner, a lawyer who worked for the NY controllers office and worked with the pension system there before his retirement, and who accompanied me to the visit, was absolutely astonished.  He kept saying, but this is so unfair!  Are you sure?

Again: Below 20  years of “significant” earnings, the worker can only keep 40% of their social security check (or a maximum of $413 in 2015–adjusted yearly).   27 years of “significant employment” permits you to keep 75% of your calculated SS benefits!, 25 years of significant employment allows you to keep 65%  and it goes down (the SS benefit that is not “offset”  by a reduction) precipitously.  With 20 years of “significant’ earnings for which you paid into social security system,  you either loose 60% of your SS benefits or the maximum ($413 in 2015).

Who this will NOT effect: Those PTF who have been working in the CA CC system for most of their working life.  That means their retirement, whatever it is,  will be  “intact”–that is they will  receive the Calstrs formula retirement, and they will not have any social security check at all–presumably a slightly to moderately better deal than SS!

As far as I can see there is no possible  remedy for this except for me to work a 1.5 load for  3 or 4 more years, past my “full retirement age”–in order to “make up” the $413 loss of SS benefits.

But as we at CPFA and around the state work on raising the “cap” to 85 or 90% (and work on mechanisms to assure a roadmap to full per course/per hour parity at the state level) at least the impoverished elderly  might have the minor benefit of just having to work at one district in their aging years to backfill the “offset” that SS applies!   According to the datamart, the largest group of “over 65” employees in the state system are Temporary Academic  employees, and the largest number of part time faculty are now in the over 50 group–so this retirement indignity will be occasioning a chorus of new outrage in the coming years.

It is gravely unfortunate that we were not ahead of this flush budget year and that we did not spend the last year lobbying to boost our cap or our parity pay.  The WEP provision has the capacity for a great many PTF to loose almost 1/4 of their lifetime retirement benefits.  For a twenty year retirement, that constitutes another $100,000 loss to put on top of the stack of losses  (nationwide, around $1,000,000 loss of pay and $750,000 loss of benefits) throughout our working careers in higher education!

We need to move more forcefully next year to get in place more protections and to educate legislators and our own unions about factors that affect our retirement.  I would think that we would also want to work on an overload cap for FTF, alongside pushing for an increase in the PTF cap to 90%.  Can we work on this sort of legislation this year?

It’s too late for me, but there are somewhere around 7,000-10,000 PTF nearing retirement in the next decade or so, who need to understand the Windfall Elimination Provisions and who need to have the opportunity to try to offset the offset by working more, ideally at one college, for a fair wage.  That is currently not the option at most colleges, and because of the statutory limit on load.

Does anyone know how we can figure out the number of  “nearing retirement PTF” who are relying on SS benefits from previous work as adjuncts in other states or in other sectors in CA?  How would I go about trying to get that data?  Let’s just take the El Chorro folks. Who is expecting to earn SS benefits?

Margaret Hanzimanolis

18. Interesting paper on the history of tenure, given at the AAUP annual meeting/conference in DC in June.

It was good to meet you yesterday. My paper from the panel is attached. Please feel free to share it. I put a note on top to explain that it contains no notes or references.

Since you had expressed interest regarding my book, you can find more information about it here:
Hans-Joerg Tiede, PhD
Professor and Chair of Computer Science
mail: Illinois Wesleyan University
Department of Computer Science
P.O. Box 2900
Bloomington, IL, 61702-2900
phone:  +1 309 556-3666
fax:    +1 309 556-3864

19. New from Notes from the Academic Underground, (Barry Greer) some suggestions for summer reading for radical adjuncts:

The prologue and first 13 chapters are online for “Kill the English Department” at campusreports dot com.  Kindle publication is scheduled for this October.  The soft cover edition will see print shortly thereafter.

Chapters are linked at the top of each page and in the right column should you decide that further reading is necessary.  Each person to correctly identify all literary allusions wins a free soft cover copy of the completed text.

Have a fun summer of deconstruction.

Barry Roberts Greer
barryrobertsgreer dot com
“Notes from the Academic Underground”

20. Union County College (NJ) responds to adjunct complaints.

21. Salon staff to unionize with Writers Guild-East..

22. Culture isn’t free. This article on artists and musicians could apply to contingent academics too.

23. Greek vote on on permanent austerity. This is too important to ignore and it raises the issue of whether we in the US should get to vote directly on a things like TPP(or war for that matter). One of the first victims of austerity all over the world has been education.

24. Ohio U student workers demand a union (AFSCME).

25. Why labor moved left.

26. Protest arrest of Iranian teacher union leader.


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