-written by 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.
An important action alert from ACLC Co-Chair Marilyn Eisenberg:
Dear Labor Coalition Friends,
There is so much brewing on our national stage that needs our attention and, I know, many of us have been very active in letting our voices be heard. I hesitate to add to the clatter.
But right now there is a special emergency that does not have top billing in news shows, but which needs your attention immediately. Aside from repealing the Affordable Care Act and making a mess of that, Republicans have their eye on another prize, the phasing out of Medicare and Social Security. These are two programs that we have paid into for years, and with small adjustments are very sturdy financially. And so many of us do value them so.
Unfortunately, Trump has nominated two leaders who are committed to destroying both these programs. One is Mick Mulvaney for White House Budget Director. The other is Tom Price to lead the Health and Human Services administration.
At some point, we need to oppose the inevitable Congressional initiatives to take away the health care and security of our elderly. But Trump’s confirmations will be taking place very shortly.
Could you all please take just a few minutes and call 1-202-224-3121? This number will put you in touch with both Senator Rubio and Senator Nelson’s offices. Please tell them to deny the confirmation of both these men, MICK MULVANEY and TOM PRICE.
We will keep you informed about further initiatives. Mary Savage wrote an excellent article in the January Iguana, fleshing out many details. But for now, make these phone calls and send this information on to your friends who value Medicare.
While the ACLC does not endorse candidates, we do poll them to learn where they stand on issues that are important to our members. In December we began sending out questions regarding issues we care about to candidates for the Gainesville City Commission. Below are the responses that we’ve received thus far. We strongly encourage Labor Coalition members to familiarize themselves with the various candidates for office and to get involved in their campaigns. The election will take place March 14, 2017.
In November, Alachua County voters will decide on “Alachua County Question #1.” If approved, the measure would continue the current one mill ad valorem tax for four more years. The tax will result in an additional $11-13 million for our schools each year to fund “school nurses, elementary music and art programs, K-12 school library programs, K-12 guidance programs, middle and high school band and chorus programs, academic/ career technical magnet programs and to update classroom technology.”
The Alachua County Labor Coalition has invited Jackie Johnson from the School Board to explain why we should support this initiative. But we also want to hear from critics and people who have concerns about the One Mill, and have invited Nkwanda Jah from the Cultural Arts Coalition to speak as well. This forum will allow attendees to hear multiple perspectives and will also provide an opportunity to ask questions of the speakers.
Join us on Tuesday, Oct. 25th at the Alachua County Health Department (224 SE 24th St.). Pizza and drinks will be available starting at 6pm, and the forum will get underway promptly at 6:30pm. Please be sure to invite your friends.
Jackie Johnson currently serves as Director of Communications and Community Initiatives for Alachua County Public Schools. She has been communicating about public education for nearly 25 years, both as a school system employee and as a television reporter. She is a graduate of the University of Florida College of Journalism and worked as an education reporter, anchor and assignment editor at WCJB-TV 20 before moving on to UF’s Health Science Center. Since 1992, she’s managed communications and public relations for both Alachua County Public Schools and the Orange County Public Schools in Orlando. She has won several awards for her work, including her coordination of successful ballot initiatives on behalf of both districts.
In the community, Jackie is a member of the board of directors for both the United Way of North Central Florida and the Education Foundation of Alachua County Public Schools. She also served five years as public relations chair for the Rotary Club of Gainesville and two terms as the president of the Sunshine State School Public Relations Association.
Jackie’s husband Mark is Director of Development and Public Relations for the Arc of Alachua County, a non-profit organization which serves adults with intellectual disabilities. Her daughter is a GHS graduate and is currently in nursing school, and her five year old grandson just started kindergarten at Norton Elementary School.
Nkwanda Jah has served as Executive Director for 38 years and is one of the Founders of the Cultural Arts Coalition (CAC). She serves on several boards including Resilience Charter School, Lake Forest Elem school SAC, past SAC member at Williams and Duval Elem schools, Past Chair and member of Head Start Council. CAC presently has 10 Science Clubs in East Gainesville for K thru 5th grade. Nkwanda is a Board member of Three Rivers Legal Services. She is also a mother/grandmother and great grandmother.
As many of you know, the Labor Coalition occupied our former office space on University Ave. for more than a decade. When we vacated the property earlier this year, we had an unfortunate encounter with Nautilus Realty and were forced to seek legal aid. Ironically, an ACLC supporter had alerted us months prior that tenant abuse is rampant in Gainesville and we had already been in discussion with staff at Three Rivers Legal Services about a presentation on tenant issues for our September membership meeting. Gainesville is a community where close to half of all residents are renters. The encounter with Nautilus drove home for us how many low-income renters have few legal protections against the unjust and sometimes illegal actions of their landlords and we are interested in learning more about this issue.
Our friends at Three Rivers Legal Services often work with renters and have agreed to tell us more about their work in this area. Please join the Labor Coalition on for a presentation by Three Rivers’ LaKesha Thomas on Tuesday, Sept. 27th, 6:30pm at the Emmanuel Mennonite Church (1236 NW 18th Ave.). The presentation will get under way at 6:30pm, but pizza, drinks, and fellowship will be available starting at 6pm. Please RSVP for the event here on Facebook.
A short bio of LaKesha Thomas:
Ms. Thomas is a native of Gainesville, FL, born and raised right here in Alachua County. She attended Duval Elementary School, Howard Bishop Middle School and Gainesville High School, where she was the c/o 2000 class president.
She is no stranger to the difficulties facing the working class. She grew up with her family members in public and low income housing. Her goal became to become the 1st in her family to graduate from college. She achieved this goal in 2005, graduating from the University of Central Florida (UCF), in Orlando, in the top 12% of her class. She went on to graduate from FAMU College of Law and returned to Gainesville where she graduated from the UF LLM Tax Program in 2012.
Ms. Thomas is currently a staff attorney with Three Rivers Legal Services. Her sheer joy is volunteering with children and empowering her community through legal advocacy. She believes in reaching for the stars, because this way we will never stop growing, learning, and achieving our dreams.
Please join us for this month’s membership meeting. We’ll have updates on our Living Wage and Just Health Care campaigns. Our new intern, Wallace Mazon, will offer a short presentation on Medicaid Expansion in FL, and we’ll also hear a report-back from locals who attended the Democratic National Convention and People’s Summit in Philadelphia.
The meeting will start at 6:30pm but pizza and drinks will be available starting at 6pm. The meeting will be held at the Emmanuel Mennonite Church (1236 NW 18th Ave., Gainesville). Be sure to invite a friend!