Job Insecurity 101

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At California College of the Arts in San Francisco and Oakland, adjunct faculty have been trying for two years to win their first union contract. They are part of the Service Employees International Union’s Faculty Forward movement, through which some 13,000 adjuncts at fifty colleges across the nation have unionized in the last three years. In the Bay Area alone, 1700 faculty at seven colleges have unionized and three have won their first contracts.

Adjuncts unionized because they are paid per course with no job security and no benefits. California College of the Arts annual expenses are on the order of $80 million, yet the adjuncts who teach 78% of the courses earn at most $31,000 per year with no benefits. CCA spends about 5% of its budget on adjunct faculty, but 11% on its administrators. That’s double what the average Bay Area school spends on management. In fact, President Stephen Beal’s compensation has risen 62% in the last five years, placing him in both the 1% and the top 10 most highly paid university presidents in California.

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Even for artists and academics, the lack of job security takes a toll. Recently, adjuncts made a chapbook to tell their stories called Job Insecurity 101: The Precarious Lives of CCA Faculty. Here are their stories:

In response, dozens of prominent writers and artists have signed on to an open letter calling on CCA President Stephen Beal and Provost Tammy Rae Carland to agree to a union contract providing job security, fair wages, benefits, and a career path to the faculty.


Nato Green is a San Francisco-based comedian and writer. He has a regular column in the San Francisco Examiner, a regular show on KALW public radio, and hosts monthly comedy shows at the Alamo Drafthouse, the Verdi Club, and Modern Times Bookstore. More from this author →