The push for adjunct professors in Florida to collectively organize accelerated this week, with instructors at seven more state colleges filing to unionize.
If the instructors at all of these schools ultimately decide to vote to unionize, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Florida Public Services Union would be representing 9,000 adjunct professors, more than half of all of the adjunct faculty in the Florida College system.
Adjuncts are part-time professors who are not on a track to become tenured. An estimated 16 percent of part-time faculty in Florida are living below the poverty line and 27 percent of part-time faculty are living at or near the poverty line, according to a report by the SEIU.
This week, adjuncts at Sante Fe College, St. Petersburg College, Lake Sumter Community College, Polk State College, Florida Gateway College, Chipola College and South Florida State College are all filing for union representation, according to SEIU organizers. Those professors now join their colleagues at six other Florida colleges and universities who have formed unions or filed to do so with the SEIU.
“I’m tired of seeing my students and coworkers skip meals and doctors’ appointments,” Angela Edwards-Luckett, an adjunct professor of World Religions at St. Petersburg College, said in an SEIU statement. “We can’t afford to sit quietly and just hope things change.”
There are more adjuncts than ever in our country’s history. Seventy percent of college professors across the country are now part-time adjuncts, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“We are witnessing an unprecedented upswing in organizing amongst college faculty. The fact is that in just two years, the majority of adjunct professors in the Florida College System are on their way to union representation,” Dr. Judith Bernier, Director of Florida International University Center for Labor Research and Studies, said 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. Uniting in one organization gives this group a collective voice and a powerful say in the future of education in the state.”
The SEIU’s push to organize on behalf of adjunct professors is being conducted simultaneously with campaigns to reform higher education by calling for student loan forgiveness, tuition free college and a $15 living wage.
“We’re excited for our colleagues to join us in our fight to fix our broken college system,” says Jarad Fennell, an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida. “Lack of money shouldn’t keep any qualified student from learning and no professor should live in poverty.”