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UF staff and adjunct employees form new workers union

Staff and adjunct faculty at the University of Florida formed a new workers union.

United Campus Workers of Florida is a union dedicated to improving working conditions of educators and staff members of schools in the southern United States. The organization has chapters in Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

The inaugural meeting on Nov. 15 was held at the Plaza of the Americas on UF's campus. Members of the organization spoke to the public about their cause.

Casey Willits, a residence coordinator at UF, said the union formed to have a seat at the table with UF in its decision making process.

"We want to have a collective voice for UF staff. We want fairness and equity across all issues on campus, all issues in the workplace, and we want cost of living raises, and living wages in general, and benefits that match the kind of 'Top 5' work that we do at a 'Top 5' university," Willits said.

The COVID-19 pandemic also played a role in the formation of the union.

"I think the pandemic gave UF staff a real glimpse on what kind of voice they did have, what kind of seat at the table. Most employees had very little say, particularly a collective say, and what happened during the pandemic." Willits said.

Kestrel Ward, an associate at Smathers Library at UF and member of UCW, said she's worried about workers who aren't salaried.

"So what of the people who are not salaried? What are they getting? It's probably not enough to get by on. People shouldn't have to be working multiple jobs if they're working at a Top 5 university." Ward said.

City of Gainesville Commissioner Harvey Ward, Alachua County Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler and Alachua County School Board Vice Chair Tina Certain spoke on behalf of the union at the inaugural meeting.

Matthew is a Digital Producer and Reporter for WUFT. His work focuses on sports and education, but he ventures out into other areas as well. In the spring of 2021 and summer of 2022, Matthew worked for ESPN Gainesville where he provided hourly sports updates and wrote for the website. In 2022, Matthew began contributing to The Point Podcast and providing local hourly news updates on All Things Considered. He may be reached by emailing bellmatthew@ufl.edu.