Adjunct professors at St. Petersburg College and six other institutions in Florida filed to unionize this week, joining many others across the state in fighting for better working conditions and pay.
Now, more than half — about 9,000 — of the state's adjunct instructors are either already represented by a union or organizing toward that, according to the Service Employees International Union. The ratio is even higher in the Tampa Bay area, at 63 percent.
It is an "unprecedented upswing" for union enrollment for Florida, Dr. Judith Bernier, director of the Florida International University Center for Labor Research and Studies, said in a news release.
"This level of union representation reflects a 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," she said. "Uniting in one organization gives this group a collective voice and a powerful say in the future of education in the state."
The simultaneous filings were organized by SEIU's Florida Public Services Union, which represents about 19,000 workers across the state, including many at USF.
Along with St. Petersburg College, the involved institutions are: Santa Fe College, Lake Sumter Community College, Polk State College, Florida Gateway College, Chipola College and South Florida State College.
Faculty at those colleges join others who are already members of the Florida Public Services Union at USF, Hillsborough Community College, Broward College, Seminole State College, Valencia College and Miami Dade College.
"We're excited for our colleagues to join us in our fight to fix our broken college system," Jared Fennell, an adjunct professor at USF and the University of Tampa, said in the union's news release. "Lack of money shouldn't keep any qualified students from learning and no professor should have to live in poverty."
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