Adjunct faculty at Seminole State College of Florida voted to form their union with SEIU Faculty Forward. With this breakthrough, Seminole State faculty join their colleagues at Hillsborough Community College, Broward College, and University of South Florida who have already formed their unions with SEIU Faculty Forward in Florida. Adjunct faculty at Valencia College and Miami Dade College have also filed to form their union as faculty across Florida organize for change on their campuses and across Florida’s higher education system.
“Winning our union is an important step for us to be able to advocate for our students and for the resources that we desperately need in order to improve the quality of education we can provide,” said Nancy DeLong, an adjunct professor of English at Seminole State College. “As an adjunct professor for 15 years, I know the impact that budget cuts have had on our educational system in Florida. We are an important part of an educational system that is short-changing educators and students alike.”
Florida invests the least out of all 50 states in public services, and higher education has borne a huge portion of disinvestment. Over the last decade, Florida elected officials have slashed funding for higher education, while tuition has increased by 62 percent in that same timeframe.
Like K-12 teachers across the country, adjunct faculty have joined together to call for greater investment in the state’s higher education system. In addition to better wages, job security and access to quality education for all Floridians, adjunct faculty are organizing Floridians to vote in the upcoming midterm elections and advocating for candidates that support fully-funded free college, student debt forgiveness and a minimum of $15 an hour minimum wage.
“We are less than a month away from the midterm elections that are of great significance for the future of higher education in Florida,” said Carol Miller, an adjunct professor of Social Sciences at Seminole State College. “Winning our union for Seminole State College adjuncts is the first step towards ensuring we have a voice on our campus and then go to Tallahassee to advocate for our students, our profession, and the future of higher education in Florida.”
While faculty at Seminole State College celebrate their union, faculty at Valencia College and Miami Dade College continue to wait on their respective administrations to agree to an election. Adjuncts at Valencia College filed for a union back in April, the same day as Seminole State College, while adjuncts at Miami Dade filed in July. Both administrations are yet to allow faculty to exercise their right to vote to form their union.
In Florida, more than 3 million people live in poverty and 1 in 5 workers find themselves working in low-wage jobs. Workers are paid less than $15/hour, and their power to join together and negotiate for higher wages, affordable healthcare, and other improvements is under attack. At the same time, years of austerity in Tallahassee have resulted in a broken higher education system that robs too many young people of opportunity, while leaving others in crushing debt, adjunct professors say. Today, Floridians hold nearly $80 billion in student loan debt and adjunct professors are paid so little that many have to rely on government assistance. This has left more Floridians trapped in low-wage jobs with little opportunity to improve their lives.
Adjuncts, who are part of the growing SEIU Faculty Forward movement, have called on political candidates at the gubernatorial debate and town hall meetings in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Miami to commit to reinvesting in students and educators alike by supporting free college and the right to form unions for all Floridians. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum recently endorsed unionizing efforts by adjuncts and joined adjunct faculty from across the state this summer to deliver food to Miami Dade College’s food bank, which serves students and faculty in need.