Gainesville residents and public leaders discussed pushing Santa Fe College to pay all employees a living wage in a Thursday meeting.

The Alachua County Labor Coalition filled a room to capacity — about 150 people — in the Alachua County Millhopper Branch Library for its Santa Fe College Living Wage Campaign Kick Off at 6 p.m. The coalition announced they will ask Santa Fe to pay all faculty, particularly adjunct faculty, a living wage and insist that Santa Fe President Jackson Sasser sign a union neutrality pledge, said Jeremiah Tattersall, the labor coalition organizer.

Tattersall defined a living wage as the amount someone would need to pay for all their necessities. He said the living wage in Alachua County should be $15.44 an hour. Florida’s minimum wage is $8.10 an hour.  

“Nobody should have to work full time and still be on government assistance,” Tattersall said. “You should be able to live off of your work.”

The labor coalition launched its Living Wage Campaign in 2015. The goal of the campaign is to have the top 10 largest employers in the county pay all their employees a living wage by 2020.

The coalition is choosing to focus on Santa Fe, the tenth largest employer in the county, Tattersall said.

Tattersall said he believes the money to raise wages already exists.

President Sasser’s annual salary in 2016 was $350,845, according to a document the coalition dispersed at the meeting. This salary doesn’t reflect the nine and a half percent raise for him and other full-time faculty that went into effect July 1, according to the 2017-2018 Santa Fe salary schedule. In 2016, the lowest paid worker at Santa Fe, a custodian, made $19,541, according to the document.

Roxanne Palmer, a 30-year-old Gainesville resident, said she attended the meeting to learn more about the campaign and was encouraged by the attendance and support of County Commissioner Ken Cornell and City Commissioner Harvey Ward.

“It feels like it’s not going to be banging our heads against the wall,” Palmer said.

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe was invited to speak at the event, but couldn’t attend for family reasons. He wrote a letter to the event’s participants encouraging their agenda.

Susan Hegeman, former president of the United Faculty of Florida union, encouraged Santa Fe workers to form a union to fight low wages. Some adjunct faculty declined to give their name to an Alligator reporter and said they were hesitant to speak about wage issues or form a union due to fear of backlash from the Santa Fe administration. The  coalition’s proposed union neutrality pledge would ensure that President Sasser couldn’t use public funds to interfere with union establishment.

Tattersall said he is hopeful about the future of the living wage campaign.

“The amount of support we got online and through phone calls was overwhelming,” he said. “I’m feeling very positive about this campaign.”