Workers organizing SF College's first union
Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 7:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 7:43 p.m.
Santa Fe College workers are organizing a union following a Department of Labor audit that found supervisors failed to report overtime hours for workers in the financial aid office.
The audit, completed last year, found 13 overtime violations in the past two years in which the supervisor didn't record all the hours employees worked.
Ginger Gibson, vice president for administrative affairs and chief financial officer for SF College, is listed in the report as the supervisor.
The report also listed a record-keeping violation because of the inaccuracy of the payroll records that resulted in the underpayment.
SF College was required to pay $11,565.44 in back overtime.
Out of concern for the results of the audit and a desire to have more of a say in the college, workers have decided to organize, said Joey Brenner of the Service Employees International Union Florida Public Services Union, who is helping the workers form their union.
A letter of intent to organize, signed by nine current and former SF College workers, was sent Wednesday evening to college President Jackson Sasser.
Under the heading "We Are Santa Fe United," the letter reads:
"We the undersigned employees of Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida, hereby announce our intent to organize, as is our right endowed and protected under Florida law, a labor union, in order to best represent the interests of college workers, students and the general public.
"As believers in the democratic process, we believe that the mission of the college can best be fulfilled when employee input is valued and a voice for employees can be heard on the same level as management, and that when employees' interests can be advanced collectively with one another, the college as a whole benefits.
"As we organize our union, we wish to embark on a harmonious relationship with the college and wish to work together through reasoned discourse and collective bargaining to solve any problems or issues that might arise in our departments and work areas.
"We ask that the college remain neutral in this process and refrain from interfering with, coercing or restraining employees from participating in this process, and work with our union to develop a collaborative relationship."
Brenner said the letter is not meant as an attack, but rather the first step toward a collaborative relationship between workers and the college's administration.
"We're in an organizing stage," he said.
Currently, there are no unions at SF College.
The college has shared governance groups such as the Career Services Council that can share suggestions with the administration, but those groups ultimately have no power to make decisions or collectively bargain.
In the state college system, Brenner said he was only aware of organized non-instructional staff at Brevard and Hillsborough community colleges.
"It's becoming increasingly common lately" for non-instructional staff at community colleges to organize, he said.
Most members of Florida's state university system have separate unions for both tenured faculty and full-time, non-instructional staff.
At press time, SF College communications director David Houder said Sasser hadn't received the letter because college administrators were at a retreat Wednesday.
In anticipation of Santa Fe United's announcement, Sasser emailed this statement:
"Santa Fe College wants only what is in the best interest of all students, faculty, staff and the communities of Alachua and Bradford counties.
"A shared governance structure is currently in place at Santa Fe College, which provides for a fair and democratic decision-making process where all policies and procedures are concerned," the statement continued. "Santa Fe College respects the rights of all of its students, faculty and staff, including but not limited to the right to organize."
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