Valencia College adjunct faculty, along with community groups and local politicians, rallied outside a September 12 board of trustees meeting to demand that the administration agree to hold a union election and to cease delaying a fair vote and derailing any good faith effort to bargain with the resulting union. Adjuncts delivered a petition to the administration asking Valencia College to follow Seminole State College’s example and respect their right to vote.
“Valencia College’s effort to stonewall our union through continued delays, rather than listen to its faculty, is insulting,” said Teresa Greene, an adjunct professor of psychology at Valencia College.“As adjuncts, we are united in our fight to improve our working conditions so that we can make a difference for our students who are increasingly graduating with insurmountable debt while our public colleges continue to invest in administrators.”
Facing the fallout from Valencia College’s increasing reliance on lower-wage, untenured faculty positions, adjunct faculty have been organizing to improve stagnant, low wages, job insecurity and lack of resources to educate students. While adjuncts at Seminole State College are preparing for their union election later this month, Valencia College administrators continue to deny faculty their legal right to vote. Adjunct faculty at both Orlando area colleges filed for a union election back on April 20.
“It’s disheartening that the administration would continue to delay our union effort rather than letting us decide for ourselves if we want to form a union,” said Ryan Rilea, an adjunct professor of political science at Valencia College.“The school should be focused on making sure that we have the resources necessary to provide our students, who are paying thousands to attend, the best education possible.”
In 2016, 75 percent of faculty at Valencia College were working part-time and with little job security. Despite being the majority of faculty, adjunct professors make about $1,800 for a three credit course and have no benefits through their employment at the college. Valencia College has the second largest pay gap between administrators and faculty in Florida’s College System. Additionally, Valencia College has the fifth-highest student-to-faculty ratio in the Florida College System (28:1).
Years of austerity in Tallahassee have resulted in a broken higher education system that leaves too many in debt and poverty in Florida, adjunct professors say. The state is ranked 50th in the nation for investment in public services and has seen substantial cuts to education. Higher education funding is down by more than 23 percent from a decade ago, while tuition is up by 62 percent over the same period. 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.
While Florida has become a symbol of challenges in the higher education system, it has also become the center of a growing movement to organize for change. Over the past two years, adjunct professors at Hillsborough Community College, Broward College, and University of South Florida have formed their unions. Faculty at Valencia College, Seminole State College and Miami Dade College recently filed for their unions and others are actively organizing across the state. These 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.
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