Last fall, parts of the University of Florida (UF) have closed for nearly a full work week—once due to Hurricane Irma and again due to the campus visit by white supremacist Richard Spencer. While many of UF's employees were compensated, the University has refused to pay its employees classified as OPS, or “Other Personnel Services”, for the involuntary time off. All told, many of UF’s lowest-paid employees were, in a little over a month, denied hundreds of dollars of pay through no fault of their own, while the University pocketed these lost wages, amounting to several hundred thousand dollars.
This decision highlights UF's unfair treatment of its OPS employees, whom it dubiously refers to as “temporary,” despite the fact that many of them have worked faithfully for UF for many years. OPS workers receive no benefits—not even contributions to their Social Security accounts. Many of them live paycheck-to-paycheck and below the poverty line. Consequently, even small cuts to their pay mean real hardships in their day-to-day lives. As one worker commented, “Having that much time missing from your paycheck means either late bills or no money for food.”
SUPPORT A LIVING WAGE AND UNIONIZATION AT SANTA FE
From 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 exceed $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 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 email@example.com or 352-375-2832
Graduate Assistants United at the University of Florida Your Union! Your Voice!