A living wage, the right to a union at Santa Fe College

an anonymous Santa Fe employee

Over the past few years the Alachua County Labor Coalition has helped put millions of dollars directly into the pockets of working people through our efforts to combat wage theft and our living wage campaign targeting Alachua County’s largest employers. While we’ve had significant success with those institutions whose decision-making bodies are publicly elected — the City of Gainesville, Alachua County, and the School Board — other large employers who are not directly accountable to our community have been more difficult to reach. Among those employers is Santa Fe College (SFC), which is both nationally-recognized and a bedrock institution of this community.

While no one questions SFC’s mission or the great work that it does for this community, it is clearly not living up to its employer responsibilities as a publicly-subsidized institution. SFC’s president and four vice-presidents’ combined salaries (not including benefits) well exceeds $1 million/year, yet the college maintains a large number of poverty-wage jobs as well as an army of part-time adjuncts and staff, with official college policy to keep those employees below 28.5 hours/week so that the college does not have to contribute to their health care expenses. The college was also found guilty of overtime violations in the past few years and forced to pay thousands of dollars in back pay to its workers. As with other large local employers, the Labor Coalition is calling on SFC to commit to raising all of its workers to a living wage, including a provision for health care. Other large local employers, including Alachua County, Infinite Energy, the City of Gainesville, Nationwide Insurance, and the Alachua County School Board, have all committed themselves to a multi-year plan to achieve a living wage for their workers; SFC should do the same.

Unlike its sister institution the University of Florida, SFC workers have no union representation whatsoever and in fact, the institution has responded aggressively to undermine union organizing on campus. Recognizing that workplace democracy is the only true route to workers’ rights, and in light of SFC’s past actions, the Labor Coalition is also calling on SFC to commit to a union neutrality pledge, promising not to interfere whatsoever in workers’ right to join a union. That means no anti-union propaganda, no hiring big money, union-busting law firms, and no retaliation against workers who support a union.

These are not radical demands. Any institution, but particularly one that is publicly-subsidized and so intensely focused on its branding, would be wise to acquiesce. Whether SFC and its Governor-appointed Board of Trustees chooses to do so will likely depend upon what they hear from the Gainesville community. If you’d like to get involved in the Labor Coalition’s living wage campaign and help to raise the tide for all workers in this community, please contact us at info@laborcoalition.org or 352-375-2832. 

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