USF adjunct faculty overwhelmingly wins right to unionize

They'll soon be able to bargain for wages and benefits — to the chagrin of university administrators.

click to enlarge USF adjunct faculty members protested on the university's Tampa campus late last year. - Alex Pickett
Alex Pickett
USF adjunct faculty members protested on the university's Tampa campus late last year.

The votes are in, and adjunct professors hope their newfound right to unionize will mean an end to their troubles.

For years, instructors with advanced degrees have been teaching under adjunct status. The pay is low, the hours long, the benefits nonexistent and the chances of advancement nearly nil. So, with the help of the Service Employees International Union, adjunct faculty at USF called for a union

USF administration pushed back.

State officials told the USF system they had to hold a vote on the matter, and after hundreds of faculty members — adjunct and otherwise — weighed in over the last several weeks, the adjuncts came out victorious. They won by a nearly three-to-one margin.

“After a long fight, we couldn’t be more excited about today’s victory,” said Dana Corrigan, a University of South Florida animation adjunct professor, from the Public Employees Relations Committee vote count in Tallahassee. “We’ve been standing up for what’s right and it feels so good to finally have official recognition of our union.”

Now, adjunct faculty will be able to bargain with USF administration for better pay, benefits and job stability.

They say a sense of security and the ability to earn a better living will boost morale and thus create better outcomes for the students, which are the whole reason universities exist.

“As adjunct faculty, we teach so many of the courses and interact so frequently with students, that we know our insights into the classroom are valuable contributions to the campus conversation,” said Gary Simon, a University of South Florida history adjunct professor. “Adjuncts working with our administrators can build a better USF for students and educators alike.”

The vote makes USF the third postsecondary system in Florida, a so-called "right to work" state, to have an adjuncts' union. The other two are Broward College and Hillsborough Community College.

“We’re excited to have our colleagues at USF officially join those of us at Broward College and Hillsborough Community College in the fight to transform Florida higher education,” said Carolina Ampudia, a Broward College anatomy and physiology adjunct professor. “By coming together, we know that not only can we change our campus, but together we can lead the way toward affordable, accessible quality education that values educators across our state.”

Adjuncts and their supporters plan to toast their victory Wednesday night, March 14, at 7 pm at the Independent Bar and Cafe at 5016 North Florida Avenue in Tampa.

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