by Jason Fults
For the past two years, adjunct faculty at Santa Fe College have been working hard to improve their status, wages, and working conditions. Despite teaching a majority of the class load in many departments, these faculty are treated like second-class citizens by the college, including being paid less than half the rate of their full-time colleagues, with no benefits and no job security from one semester to the next.
Alongside numerous efforts within the College Senate, a “recommending” body where adjuncts have little voice to begin with, they began collecting union authorization cards. The Santa Fe Organizing Committee has been, from the beginning, comprised of full and part-time faculty and staff who support adjuncts’ right to union representation and fair wages and benefits.
At the outset of this campaign, the college unfortunately responded by hiring an anti-union law firm that immediately went to work to stymie the adjuncts’ efforts. When confronted about this action at a College Senate meeting, President Sasser responded that it was his personal preference that the adjuncts not have union representation. The Organizing Committee was justifiably outraged at the president’s anti-union stance and the use of public funds to beat back a union drive.
At the college’s May Board of Trustees meeting, the Organizing Committee turned out 50+ supporters, including adjuncts, staff, students and community supporters. County Commissioners Ken Cornell and Marihelen Wheeler were on hand to show their support as well.
Dozens of community members and elected officials wrote letters to President Sasser letting him know their dissatisfaction with the college’s actions.
The atmosphere at the Board meeting was electric. Speaker after speaker highlighted the plight of the college’s adjuncts, including their struggles with poverty, but also the love they have for their work and the difference they make everyday in students’ lives. However, rather than hear from all speakers, the Board chose to limit public comment and continued with their meeting.
The adjuncts and their supporters left the room and continued to rally on the lawn outside the meeting. When it concluded, President Sasser made an appearance, along with the college’s lawyer, and again attempted to justify the college’s position. He was met with powerful resistance, including chants of “let them vote!” and “strike!”.
It is unclear whether the college has had a change of heart and decided to respect their adjuncts’ legal right to an election, or whether they are simply accepting the inevitable after losing in their efforts to prevent the election. But it now appears likely that an election will occur in the next few months.
Adjuncts will undoubtedly have to contend with anti-union rhetoric from the administration and will need community support to win their campaign.
We must prevent the ongoing uberization of our economy by standing with any and all working people who are fighting for a living wage and to be treated with respect.
The ACLC will continue to support Santa Fe’s adjuncts, just as they have other wage-workers throughout this community.
If you would like to get involved, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.