Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Adjunct Faculty - Write your U.S. Reps today in support of HR 1205 (worth thousands to you in retirement)

This month, our AAUP chapters of the CCCS urge you to write to your U.S. representatives in support of federal legislation HR 1205, to repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Together, these federal provisions are devastating to CCCS adjunct faculty, especially, and need to be struck down. 
Were you aware of how two Reagan-era provisions (Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision) (GPO/WEP) unfairly impoverish CCCS adjunct faculty for the rest of their lives? The two programs do not hurt CCCS career employees such as full-time faculty, administrators, and staff. The six initials have life-altering and devastating effects on workers who paid into Social Security for years, then became part-time college teachers who paid into Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) instead of SS for several years. The latter typifies CCCS adjunct faculty. Adjunct faculty are 80% of CCCS faculty and are nearly HALF ofthe entire CCCS workforce (4,613 of the 12,590 CCCS employees in 2017).
How do the two programs work to hurt adjunct faculty? Briefly, when PERA worker/members retire, Social Security (SS) will deduct from their SS benefit 2/3 of whatever they may receive from PERA. Lifetime-career PERA-only workers are thus not affected. However, those adjunct faculty who worked in professions previously and now bring that professional expertise to CCCS classrooms will be penalized mightily in retirement, financially.
For example: Perhaps from previous work in the private sector, you are slated to receive $1,100/month from SS, and then, from dozens of years working "part-time" as an adjunct faculty in the CCCS, you are slated to receive $1,000/month from PERA. What you don't realize is how the GPO/WEP programs require SS to deduct 2/3 of the PERA amount from your SS payments. In this example, you might have believed you would be receiving a total of $2,100 month in retirement from the combined SS and PERA ($1,100 + $1,000). However, SS will deduct $666 from that $1,100. Instead, you will be receiving only $1,434/month. At $1,434/month, that puts you at an annual retirement income of $17,208. In other words, your income throughout retirement will be $6,933 below the living wage for the Denver metro area($24,141 in 2017).
In this way, as if poverty level wages working as an adjunct were not devastating enough, as a final and enduring insult, you learn that years of top-notch work in the CCCS will make you $666 poorer the rest of your life.
Wouldn't it be helpful if, when new adjunct faculty take a position in the CCCS, we could let them know about how these two programs will deduct funds from their SS payments when they retire because of how PERA interacts with the GPO/WEP?
            While CCCS presidents boast about a faculty of working professionals and about "appreciating adjunct faculty," they do nothing to look out for that same faculty by pushing to change the PERA/GPO/WEP issue. A vibrant and employee-focused CCCS HR division would be doing so. Are they? If lobbyists under contract to the CCCS were similarly focused, they, too, might be working to change this situation. Are they? Who is? Only the AAUP chapters are doing so. Our AAUP chapters of the CCCS learned of these provisions through our own research as part of our Adjunct Survival Workshop Series.
            Most adjunct faculty believe they'll snag all their SS retirement when they retire AND their PERA. They are unaware of how the GPO/WEP will HURT them in retirement. Your single letter to a U.S. lawmaker might help, but just think of what a difference it makes when a juggernaut organization like the AAUP gets behind a push for needed change. Our AAUP chapters have been writing to U.S. lawmakers and colleagues for some time now about the GPO/WEP. Please join us, and add your voice to our chorus.

Monday, February 20, 2017

How do I exploit thee? Let me count the ways

by Caprice Lawless     
          Our advocacy work on behalf of faculty may seem to be eclipsed, at present, by national events, but the stellar AAUP members in our Colorado Community College System (CCCS) Chapters, befriended now by scores of authors, activists, lawmakers and organizers around the country, tirelessly persist, in this, the Age of Persistence.
          It looks as though our request for a legislative audit has been successfully railroaded by those under the dome who are opposed to social justice. Those of  you outside Colorado may be interested to know that in November, Colorado voters determined that an aged statute legalizing slavery in Colorado, in certain circumstances was worth saving and so it stands. We have many downtown who ARE dedicated to social justice, but they are in the minority, at least for now.
          When you understand that so many in Colorado eye slavery as a useful employment model, it makes it easy for the high rollers in our system to cast those of us asking for a living wage as less than grateful, I suppose. Paging Karl Marx, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo and Upton Sinclair.
          Meanwhile, in the rapidly corporatizing 13-college system of community colleges, communicating with peers grows more difficult by the day. Our once friendly and spacious mail room, its walls lined with big faculty mailboxes, has been replaced by a wall of slots into which we are allowed to leave a folder or two, under the watchful eye of a staffer, but never much more and AAUP items are strictly verbotten. All the shabby and endearing bulletin boards crammed with evidence of community and life have been removed. They were replaced with new, smaller bulletin boards, postings for which must be approved by the vice president. Furthermore, the individual presidents at the 13 colleges, it appears, have determined that the AAUP is a so-called "outside group" and so we are not allowed to set up a table to pass along literature about the AAUP, without first paying a hefty "table" fee of $50 and then showing proof of a liability policy, should someone trip over a chair or sprain an ankle. Those policies run about $200/per event, thus effectively killing any presence of the AAUP on our college campuses.
         It is in this Orwellian environment that we filed a Colorado Open Records Act Request in early January, to get a bit of the information that is never made available to the public in our increasingly non-transparent public institution.
          Briefly, here's a breakdown on the categories of employment by headcount (not by FTE).
          From our AAUP 2017 Colorado Open Records Act Request, we have learned that, of the 12,590 CCCS employees:
   • 6,831 are administrators, professional-technical, classified, hourly or student employees;
   • 4,613 are adjunct faculty
   • 1,146 are full-time faculty
   • 80% of all faculty are adjunct faculty
   • Only 9% of its total employees are full-time faculty
   • More than half its employees are not faculty
          Notably, salaries at the top continue to rise. See the chart at the bottom of  this pdf that we received from CCCS headquarters in response to our CORA Request.
          Now that non-faculty outnumber all faculty in our college system, it is no wonder that the most recent vision statement was created without even one faculty member present. Given the abysmal state of affairs for the profession of teaching in the CCCS, it is yet the latest example of poetic injustice.
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