Adjunct professors at seven public colleges in Florida filed to unionize this week, becoming part of a movement of thousands of educators across the state who say they want better wages and job security.
Part-time faculty at Santa Fe College, St. Petersburg College, Lake Sumter Community College, Polk State College, Florida Gateway College, Chipola College and South Florida State College filed the paperwork to form a union, according to a news release from the Service Employees International Union. The next step is for a majority
of union members at each institution to vote on their union.
The seven colleges join six other colleges and universities, including Valencia College
and Seminole State College
, that have filed for a union or have already formed a union with SEIU's Florida Public Service Union Faculty Forward.
With 13 institutions, the union group is poised to represent 9,000 adjunct professors – more than half of those employed in the Florida college system.
"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, in a statement. "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."
Though these part-time faculty often make up the bulk of educators at institutions, a report from SEIU found that an adjunct teaching 12 courses a year might have an annual income of $21,600 to $33,600. In the past two years, Florida lawmakers have refused to increase funding for state colleges.
The past two years have seen an "unprecedented upswing in organizing amongst college faculty," said Judith Bernier, director of Florida International University's Center for Labor Research and Studies, in a statement.
"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," Bernier said. "Uniting in one organization gives this group a collective voice and a powerful say in the future of education in the state."
SEIU argues Florida lawmakers who've gutted higher education programs are filling the gap with more part-time adjunct professors who make less money and have restrictions on how many courses they can teach.
"We're excited for our colleagues to join us in our fight to fix our broken college system," said Jarad Fennell, an adjunct English professor at the University of South Florida, in a statement. "Lack of money shouldn't keep any qualified student from learning and no professor should live in poverty."
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