Washington State Capital in Olympia.

Community and technical college faculty members are preparing for the legislative session in Olympia, and among the top priorities for the American Federation of Teachers of Washington is pay parity between adjunct or contingent professors and their full-time peers.

Jacqui Cain, contingent faculty at Pierce College and vice president for contingent faculty issues for the Federation, said some colleges are doing better on pay, but at others, adjunct professors make about half what full-time faculty make, doing the same work.

"We are having a hard time keeping contingent faculty in the workforce, and one of the number one reasons I hear is the fact that these jobs are not sustainable," Cain asserted. "A lot of the faculty start out doing this for a few years with the idea that it's going to result in full-time work. For many people, that just doesn't happen."

Cain pointed out because adjunct teaching jobs are low-paid, it also can hurt diversity in the profession. She stressed her organization will also be pushing lawmakers to approve more wraparound services for students and removing barriers for DACA students.

The pandemic has affected students' performance across the board. Cain noted it can be seen in lower test scores from high schoolers, who were relegated to remote classes. In light of this, her union would like to see free college tuition for students' first two years of school.

"Because of COVID, and because of the damage that was done to the educational experience, we're going to be advocating for free college for those students coming out," Cain emphasized. "So that they won't be disproportionately impacted by what we've gone through for the last two years, and can sort of make up that work."

Cain added the union has worked with a coalition of groups in the past in Olympia, including the Washington Education Association and the student-led Communities for Our Colleges. The legislative session starts in January.