The faculty of Tallahassee Community College have voted to unionize. The vote comes after months of contention between the faculty and the school’s administrators.
A majority of TCC faculty took part in the vote, more than 85 percent in fact. And they also voted overwhelmingly to join the United Faculty of Florida. The final tally: 139 votes in favor, 22 opposed.
“We’re very excited and we’re glad that it was a vocal majority that wanted a union because we were told very often by the resident that we were a vocal minority," said Jen Robinson, professor of art history and current president of non-bargaining UFF faculty chapter.
“I think the vote has squashed that idea.”
TCC President Jim Murdaugh has opposed the push by faculty to unionize. In an earlier interview with the Tallahassee Democrat, he said He has said it is not in the best interest of the faculty and the school.
“The faculty is acting out of fear and I understand their fear, but I don’t think that’s a good reason to make a permanent decision out of a temporary feeling," he told the newspaper.
In a statement released shortly after the vote, Murdaugh says TCC will respect the decision and the school's focus has not changed. College spokesman Al Moran says what will be different going forward is the way the school bargains with the faculty on issues such as pay and employment terms. Those talks will convene this fall.
“You know, every so often something gets a little out-of-character for the institution," he said. "But the bottom line is, we’re all one big family. All that’s happening is there is a change in the process by which wages and hours are determined. We still move forward collectively as a team.”
This is the second time TCC faculty had considered unionization. An effort back in 2009 did not pan out. TCC’s Robinson says faculty had started feeling left out of what is supposed to be a shared governance model with the school’s administration.
“We would ask questions of the provost, and would be told certain changes were not coming and then those changes would come to pass. So we felt certain kinds of processes weren’t being vetted through the faculty senate or steering committee-even the faculty senate chair was left out of the mix. So we started to question whether we were at the table any loner as far as decision-making was concerned.”
Earlier this year, TCC professors were angered by a proposal from the administration increasing the number of courses they should teach.
The faculty will now be represented by the United Faculty of Florida. UFF has chapters at 11 over universities including Florida A&M and Florida State, as well as 14 other community colleges.