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By Gabriella Landeros

Each summer, approximately 6,000 educators across the country meet to debate the vital issues that impact American public education and set HE policy and activities for the year ahead. And this summer was no different. These delegates represent the three million members of the NEA. The NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly (RA) is considered the world’s largest democratic, deliberative body, by educators, for educators. This year, CCA had 16 members, part of the California delegation of just over 500, attend the RA in Orlando, Florida in July. Some were statewide delegates, and a few were local delegates. CCA brought up critical issues impacting higher education and advocated for equitable policies, including pay parity for part-time faculty.

From left to right: NVCFA President Kristie Iwamoto, CCA Vice President Randa Wahbe and former CCA Part-Time Director South Josue Arredondo

“It always gives me goosebumps when I think about the RA, the largest democratic body in the world. We are setting policy for the nation when it comes to public education. This year I put forward a new business (NBI) item #10 calling on NEA to create a nationwide campaign for part-time faculty parity, in support of part-time faculty wages, benefits and working conditions. The delegates approved the NBI with over 95% support! I also collaborated with a higher education colleague in Minnesota on NBI 9, focused on creating a higher education program where we look at capturing statistics and data to improve higher education,” said CCA Vice President Randa Wahbe. “The energy among 5,000+ educators powered us through that week. Hearing stories from other states about women’s right to choose, LGBTQ+ issues and the use of pronouns renewed our passion for the profession. I appreciate CTA President David Goldberg on the first day of the California Caucus meeting saying that we should feel humbled by the rights afforded us in California and need to be conscientious of these basic rights we take for granted.”

Randa Wahbe at the podium with delegates standing behind her.

In Wahbe’s speech, powerful words were addressed to delegates in the room: “There is a crisis in higher education! Nationally, part-time faculty make up 70% of the faculty across the higher education system. They must have the same qualifications to teach as their full-time counterparts, yet they are paid about 1/3 of what their full-time counterparts earn for doing the same work. Our contingent faculty colleagues are an invaluable labor force who have few benefits, no job security and inequity in pay that necessitates they teach across multiple districts earning them the moniker of freeway flyer and road scholar. Adjunct faculty and staff are the backbone of the higher education system. Without them, our system of higher education would collapse.”

“I was impressed with the NEA leadership in regard to their political acumen. There are a lot of skills that one must have to be leading the NEA, and everyone was prepared. Active vendors had a computer system set up where you could contact any state representative about any topic you choose. It was uplifting to see TV screens announcing support for policies.”

–Judith Kreft, Vice President of Sierra College Faculty Association

“It was a great opportunity to see and learn about how NEA works as well as how states have a say and influence the education agenda forward. I felt inspired and empowered, specifically to help and support our higher education union members,” said Ricardo Aguilar, who is on the CCA Board of Directors representing San Joaquin Delta College and Solano College.

Judith Kreft in red on the left standing with Randa Wahbe at the podium and joined by other CCA delegates (from left to right in the back): Bianca Swan-Finch, DeWayne Sheaffer, Jonathan Ausubel, Kristie Iwamoto, and Josue Arredondo

“I have attended twice before. Once online and once in person. I felt inspired that I am helping our state teachers take part in the democratic process,” said Josue Arredondo, who teaches English as a part-time professor at Southwestern College.

“It was a great learning experience to witness so many educators in one room,” said Bianca Swan-Finch, who is a full-time theatre department chair at Mt. San Jacinto College.CCA delegates also joined the National Council for Higher Education, with the support of United Faculty of Florida (UFF), in a postcard-writing campaign to encourage UFF members to sign up for eDues. A total of 2,000 cards were written and mailed to UFF members.

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