MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member Luci Levesque, a retired adjunct professor at Kennebec Valley Community College, testifies May 2 in support of LD 1538, An Act Regarding Compensation Equity for Positions in the Maine Community College System.
Senator Millett, Representative Kornfield, distinguished committee members and guests. My name is Lucille Levesque but most people know me as Luci. I have been a science educator for the past forty years, first, as a 7-12 public school employee, then, for the last eight years, as a science adjunct at Kennebec Valley Community College.
When I was first hired in 2010 at KVCC, I was shocked to learn that the adjuncts did not have a contract and that as a group, they had not received a raise in, at least, the previous 5 years. At that time, I decided to become involved with the union and serve on the negotiation team. Two years later, we finally agreed on a contract. Since then, I have served on two more negotiation teams. Our primary objective was to increase salaries and give our members some security. However, we have been unable to achieve one of our most important goals – equal pay for equal work throughout the Maine Community College System. The team meets with an administrative team which represents the system, not individual colleges. Their team must then consult with all seven presidents at each college to make any decisions. In the last round of negotiations, when we couldn’t get them to agree to equal pay across all seven campuses, we offered to accept a lower percentage increase at the southern campuses in order to give more to the northern and eastern campuses which helped them some but in no way brings them to the amount earned by adjuncts in York or Cumberland counties.
The justification that we were given as to why the administration felt justified in offering differing compensation was based on the cost of living and the ability to attract qualified employees. We presented a comparison of different counties in Maine and there was very little difference in the cost of living. Suffice it to say, there is very little argument which supports their reasoning in this area. As for qualifications, we all have the necessary credentials for teaching at this level. Furthermore, many adjuncts would like to teach more classes but there has been an unspoken policy at some colleges that adjuncts can teach no more than two courses. This does not apply to full time faculty who have been known to carry as many at 10 courses in a semester.
Adjuncts teach by the semester. What courses and how many they teach is determined by administration. Many adjuncts are struggling to make a living by teaching for the Maine Community College System. They do not receive any benefits and are not sure from semester to semester what income they will receive. Many are afraid to become involved in our union or negotiations for fear of retaliation which has happened in the past.
In our society, we believe that equal pay for equal work is a right under our constitution. It is a moral responsibility that we speak of in addressing the change in language which established the Maine Community College System. While historically, these colleges were independent, this centralized organization currently in place lends itself to a consistent treatment of all employees. While this is true for full time faculty, administration support staff, and, custodial staff, adjunct employees are treated and compensated according to past practices and geographic location regardless that they do the same amount of work across the system often times using the same textbook and materials. I find this an abomination. As a qualified instructor, am I worth less if I teach in Machias? I have prided myself to give my head and my heart to making the educational experience the best it can be for my students. That wouldn’t be any different no matter what county in which I am teaching.
Therefore, I ask for your support in passing LD 1538. The Maine Community College System is a single employer and needs to treat all adjunct instructors fairly and with dignity.
State Representative and Education Committee Member Justin Fecteau, seated third from left, thanks MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member Luci Levesque, at podium, a retired adjunct professor at Kennebec Valley Community College, for everything he learned from her as a student.