A new union representing adjunct faculty members at St. Petersburg College in Florida had agreed on a three-year contract with the college’s bargaining team, but trustees blocked the deal.
The contract appeared to be headed for approval at a Board of Trustees meeting last week, with the lead union organizer thanking college administrators for recognizing adjuncts, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Then a trustee, Deveron Gibbons, asked to remove the union contract from the board’s agenda, saying many are looking for jobs as colleges enact cuts but the board was “talking about spending more money.”
Trustees voted to reject the contract and talk about the issue behind closed doors, with some saying additional discussions were needed.
“I think I’ve pretty much made myself very clear where I stand on the whole unionization thing,” Gibbons said, according to the Times. “We have employees cleaning buildings, bathrooms and all kinds of other places. We have full-time faculty and other folks who have a tremendous amount of work to do all the time and none of them in the past five years have received one raise.”
But the union wasn’t asking for additional pay, its negotiators said. The contract would have paid $150 to adjuncts if they had a course canceled within two weeks of its scheduled start. That provision is standard in many adjunct union contracts and can help professors who have to schedule multiple classes at different universities to make ends meet, they said.
“We’re not fools,” said Rick Smith, a Service Employees International Union organizer who was chief negotiator for the union, according to the Times. “We have Ph.D.s. We went in with an analysis of the situation with the pandemic and enrollment is down, not at SPC, but everywhere, and that we’re in the middle of a depression. We made it very clear we’re not asking for a raise. A raise was never on the table.”
Adjuncts voted to form a union affiliated with SEIU in October 2019. St. Petersburg, a public college, enrolled nearly 30,000 students that year.