Nearly a year-and-a-half after being recognized, an adjunct professor’s union at Broward College has yet to sign its initial contract with administrators.
The next meeting with the college is scheduled for Monday, and union organizers say they are growing impatient.
Michelle DeMarco and her husband, tired of living in New York, decided to move to Florida for the lifestyle and weather. DeMarco, one of the union’s leaders, decided to fulfill her dreams of being an educator. However, the difficulties of finding a full-time position were harder than expected.
“Most of us [adjunct professors] have the dream of having a full-time position and it’s become … almost impossible to do that unless you really know somebody or if you’re lucky enough to be one of those chosen folks,” said DeMarco.
Broward College adjunct professors unionized on December 2017, as part of the Service Employees International Union, but are still without a contract. On the other hand, Miami-Dade College adjunct professors, who unionized in March 2019, are very close to an agreement with that administration.
Broward union officials last met with college administrators Sept. 27. At that meeting, discussions were held regarding one-year contracts as well as the possibility of creating a pool where 40 percent of classes will be given to adjuncts, with assignments made dependent on evaluations and length of service.
When asked for comment, a spokeswoman for Broward College said only that the school values its adjuncts. In a news release, the school stated it could not speak publicly about the negotiation process.
Renee Zelden was one of the lucky few to transition from an adjunct to a full-time professor teaching English, but there’s a catch: it’s temporary. Zelden, whose been teaching on-and-off at Broward College for the past 10 years, will know by the end of the semester if she will be a permanent full-time professor or if she will have to go back to becoming an adjunct. She is worried her benefits will be taken away.
“I love it, but it’s temporary, or it’s unstable, like the adjuncts. I am right now nothing better than the adjuncts except I get benefits because I don’t know about next semester,” she said.
SEIU union organizer Megan Shade said after enough people informally say they support a union, they can file for an election with the Public Employees Relations Commission.
A majority vote is needed for a union to be recognized. Broward College had about 92 percent vote for the union. Miami-Dade College union organizers, on the other hand, dealt with pushback from administration officials, who tried to persuade educators to vote against it. In the end, they won recognition by a 51 to 49 percent vote.
“It was pretty historical, it’s not common to have such a high percentage,” said Shade about Broward College unionization.
Stacey Wadle, an adjunct professor at Miami-Dade College teaching business and communication, said she understands the struggles. Still, she calls herself “one of the lucky ones” since her husband has a full-time position at the college.
“I’m not afraid like how a lot of people are still,” said Wadle, who was an outspoken proponent of the union.
Broward College union officials are next meeting with administrators on Oct. 21. The meeting, which is public, will be held starting at 11 a.m. at the Broward College Central Campus in Davie, Building 17, Room 425.