FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
To address chronic underfunding,
Professors at Seven Florida Colleges File for their Union
In just two years, 9,000 adjunct professors — more than half of those in the state college system — have organized or are moving toward union representation
NATIONAL – Adjunct professors at seven public colleges in Florida are filing to form their unions. Like K-12 teachers across the country, adjunct faculty there are joining together to demand greater investment in the state’s broken college system. They are part of a growing national movement for fully-funded college for all, student loan forgiveness and $15/hr and a union for all campus employees.
“I’m tired of seeing my students and coworkers skip meals and doctors’ appointments,” said Angela Edwards-Luckett, an adjunct professor of World Religions at St. Petersburg College. “That’s why I’m joining with my fellow educators from across the state and across the country. We can’t afford to sit quietly and just hope things change.”
As part of a week long blitz culminating this Friday, adjunct professors at Santa Fe College, St. Petersburg College, Lake Sumter Community College, Polk State College, Florida Gateway College, Chipola College and South Florida State College will have filed their unions. They join their colleagues at six additional colleges and universities — Hillsborough Community College, Broward College, University of South Florida, Seminole State College, Valencia College and Miami Dade College — who have already filed for or formed their unions with SEIU FPSU Faculty Forward. The group is now poised to represent 9,000 adjuncts or 55 percent of adjunct faculty in the Florida College system. In the Tampa area, union density will be even higher at 63 percent.
“We are witnessing an unprecedented upswing in organizing amongst college faculty. The fact that in just two years, the majority of adjunct professors in the Florida College System are on their way to union representation,” said Dr. Judith Bernier, Director of Florida International University Center for Labor Research and Studies. “This level of union representation reflects deep dissatisfaction with a college system that has pushed many students and educators into poverty through increased tuition, mounting student loan debt, and low wages. Uniting in one organization gives this group a collective voice and a powerful say in the future of education in the state.”
As is true nationally, politicians made up for state budget shortfalls by gutting higher education. As a result, tuition and student loans increased, while colleges increasingly looked to lower-paid adjunct professors to fill the gaps. This has created particularly challenging circumstance in the college system, which often caters to lower income students and students of color; the Center for American Progress recently found that Florida spends less per student on educating students of color than on educating white students. Today, in total Floridians owe $80 billion in student loan debt, and 70% of faculty in the Florida College System work as part-time adjuncts with little to no job security.
“We’re excited for our colleagues to join us in our fight to fix our broken college system,” said Jarad Fennell, an adjunct professor of English at the University of South Florida. “Lack of money shouldn’t keep any qualified student from learning and no professor should live in poverty. Education should open up opportunities, not limit those who can succeed. That’s what this is all about.”