St. Petersburg College professors vote for unionization

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St. Peterburg College faculty members voted 193-56 to establish a union, forming the 34th Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida.

With 295 members eligible to participate, 84 percent voted by mail and 78 percent voted in favor of forming a union. The vote was certified Thursday by the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission.

Jessica Magnani, an English teacher who has led the organizing efforts, said she has been involved in the community, the college and its students during the 14 years she has worked at the school. But she has also seen professors’ working conditions erode with the loss of sabbaticals, professional development opportunities, irregular pay increments and other factors that she says have a direct impact on their ability to perform. serve students.

“Organizing is a way to reclaim some of that faculty voice,” Magnani said. “There was a feeling it was time to have a legally recognized voice.”

This was the second attempt to form a faculty union. In 2016, the majority of professors did not vote in favor of the effort.

Heather Roberson, who has been in college for almost 20 years, said she voted against the last time. “Union is a dirty word in some areas,” she said.

But after researching the benefits, she said she, like many others, had changed her mind in recent years, especially as the threat of pay cuts loomed in budget discussions.

“We want CPS to remain the most stable place for student learning conditions,” said Roberson.

Faculty Senate member Manoli Gerakios said the union gives professors a legally recognized voice and a seat at the table.

“The union is the faculty,” he said. “I think we will be able to help the administration improve our school.

Earlier this year, SPC’s already unionized assistants signed their first contract with college administrators after eight months of negotiations. But school administrators canceled the contract, citing concerns about a union, also catching administrators by surprise.

Related: RELATED: St. Petersburg College Trustees Reject Contract Over Deputies

Matthew Liao-Troth, vice president of academic affairs, said there is an “institutional preference” for working directly with faculty, praised members for a well-run campaign and said he looked forward to working with them.

“It could lead to a transformative process and be very good for the college as a whole,” Liao-Troth said. “It helps provide a formal structure for talking about change, and higher education is changing. “

Magnani said she remains optimistic about her work with the college. Organizing, she said, also gives faculty the opportunity to connect with the state’s other 33 unions and advocate for issues impacting higher education.

“We are relieved and excited,” Magnani said. “We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get down to business.

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