After a lengthy battle with school administrators, University of South Florida adjunct faculty -- part-time employees who are paid on a per class basis -- have voted to form a union.
Adjuncts make up around half of the faculty at USF St. Petersburg, 40 percent at USF Sarasota-Manatee and 23 percent at the Tampa campus, according to figures from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Around the rest of Florida's colleges and universities, about half of the teachers are adjuncts.
Of about nine hundred eligible adjuncts at USF, almost half of them voted, with the final tally coming in at 326-91 in favor of unionizing.
University officials said that negotiating through a third party will add costs and make the process more difficult.
“We are disappointed by these results, as well as the low voter response. Unfortunately, the outcome of the election is based on the union receiving a majority of ballots cast, and not the support of a majority of eligible voters,” USF spokesman Adam Freeman said in an email. “It is troubling that only a limited number of voices were heard, and that the desires of a few will affect the future for so many.”
Freeman went on to add: “Although the election has been contentious at times, it is critically important that we all work together now to provide our students with the best education possible. While we may disagree, we value the many contributions our adjuncts make to the university, and we are committed to bargaining in good faith. “
Adjuncts are looking for higher wages, as well as better job security. Most adjuncts don't have tenure and work on a semester-by-semester basis.
Last November, they shared results from a survey by the Service Employees International Union, which wants to represent them. Of the nearly 800 such faculty from around the state who responded, more than 43% percent reported experiencing at least three indicators of poverty, such as facing eviction or being unable to pay utility bills.
"People are putting off seeing the doctor, they don't have health insurance, they are putting off car repairs or paying the bills," USF adjunct professor of English Mike Ruso said then.
Adjuncts have been allowed to form a union at only a handful of few schools in the state, including Hillsborough Community College.