By Karen Morian, Ph.D., UFF President
Almost overnight, our world turned upside down. We are getting lots of information every day on the life-and-death and economic aspects of the pandemic. We know that our working conditions have changed tremendously, yet we continue to be there for our students and for each another. Staff and local leaders have done a tremendous amount of work around impact bargaining, memoranda of understanding (MOUs), and getting us prepared to face what may come next.
We face a lot of uncertainty in the coming months: state and federal education funding, teaching online in the fall (or not), learning new technologies, and employment and possible austerity measures. We are working to keep you as updated as we possibly can in the shifting landscape, so stay tuned.
Be well. Be patient. Take care of one another.
As we head into a new and challenging semester, here’s a look at United Faculty of Florida’s advocacy and our milestones this year, along with ongoing work.
On Jan. 13, UFF members joined with the Florida Education Association (FEA) and 15,000 fellow education advocates in marching on the state capitol to Take on Tallahassee. UFF speakers were President Karen Morian and FSU-GAU President Adele Ghadimi, who electrified the crowd.
During the legislative session, we had two sizeable wins: Our union joined with FEA, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Florida AFL-CIO to beat back the anti-union House Bill 1, and, with the help of our allies, we mobilized to defeat the removal of university presidential hires from the sunshine. We also built considerable support for a fees reduction bill for our graduate assistants, but were unable to get it to the floor. Next year looks good for this bill.
In mid-March, UFF-Florida Polytechnic University received the recommended order in the unfair labor practice (ULP) filed as a result of the disciplining of the chapter Secretary-Treasurer Melissa Morris, last August. The hearing officer sided with UFF and concluded that the discipline was retaliation against Melissa for her testimony in our previous ULP. The officer recommended that the university cease these types of activities, directly inform the faculty that it will do so, and pay UFF’s legal fees.
We had three additional ULP wins this spring: at Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida Atlantic University and the University of Florida.
UFF also welcomed a new chapter this spring when faculty at The College of the Florida Keys voted to unionize.
In March, of course, UFF had to shift gears as campuses closed due to the pandemic. We began having weekly meetings online to share information, and many chapters were able to negotiate and pass memoranda of understanding to supplement their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). These addressed new working conditions and intellectual property rights.
In May, seeing that both the governor’s and State University System Board of Governors’ reopening task forces neglected to include a lot of actual stakeholders, UFF and FEA decided to put together an inclusive higher education committee, with students and parents, community leaders, mental and public health professionals, faculty, former trustees and a legislative representative. The group’s reopening recommendations can be found here.
In early June, out of concern for our students, faculty and community members of color, UFF quickly issued a statement on the George Floyd killing and on reform of police practices.
Emily McCann, Ph.D., joined UFF as a service unit director this spring. She began her work with our organization while attending graduate school at the University of Florida. She caught the organizing bug during UF-GAU’s very successful 2011 drive to organize ahead of feared decertification legislation. Before joining UFF this year, Emily worked as FEA’s Northern Region bargaining and advocacy specialist.
A long-term advocate for workers, women, immigrant and student rights, Cristal Cruz joined UFF this spring as a service unit director working on organizing, bargaining and advocacy. She previously served FEA PreK-12 members as a service unit director and regional specialist in the Southern Region.
The UFF family lost Roy Weatherford this spring. Roy was a leader in the early days of union activity in Florida higher education, and he continued to participate in and provide leadership for state PreK-12 and national union work as well. As a UFF member and state and local leader, Roy was very supportive of having community colleges become part of UFF. He previously served as UFF president and mentored many who came after.
UFF held two online town halls in June, one on reopening and one on funding. We will hold more of these interactive member events, as well as online training sessions.
UFF is currently working with local chapter leaders and staff to ensure the safety of all if/when our colleges and universities reopen.
We have committed to the national campaign #SolidarityNotAusterity to prevent cuts to the funding of public higher education and to protect the employment of the nearly 100,000 workers employed by Florida’s colleges and universities.
Currently, the UFF chapter at Broward College is trying to restore jobs for 14 faculty counselors who were let go during the pandemic. The support and organizing has resulted in 4,000 petitions signed and legislative support for these counselors.