UFF will build on past successes, tackle new challenges

By Andrew Gothard, President, United Faculty of Florida

As the new president of United Faculty of Florida (UFF), I am thrilled by the opportunity to serve our 8,600 members across 34 college and university chapters around the state. From grad students to full professors, classrooms to conference rooms, the Florida Panhandle to the Florida Keys, UFF serves a diverse and rapidly growing group of faculty and students who want to make the Florida higher education system the best in the world. I am honored by the support of my friends, colleagues and fellow union members, and I look forward to facing the challenges of the next two years with our union siblings by my side.

Together with UFF’s new first vice president, Caitlin Gille of Pasco-Hernando State College, I hope to build upon the great work started by my predecessors and to see this union become a stronger rank-and-file union, where member-led, grassroots power transforms Florida education from the bottom up. Even during the restricted teaching, living and learning conditions necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic, UFF’s local chapters accomplished the following incredible feats:

Stand with faculty, students against ‘viewpoint’ law

House Bill 233, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 22, purports to protect intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity on Florida higher education campuses but stands to accomplish the exact opposite. The law requires an “intellectual diversity” survey to be administered at colleges and universities. It also allows students to record classmates and instructors without their knowledge or consent. Where our campuses have been havens of free speech and expression, they would become subject to the policing of thought and speech. UFF is committed to fighting this law and its application on every front available to us, and we ask that you join us in that fight over the coming months.

  • As part of UFF’s ongoing “10k Membership Challenge,” our membership increased among university faculty, historically a challenging group to organize. The UFF chapter at the University of North Florida reached majority status for the first time in their history, and the chapter at the University of West Florida is only a handful of members away from 50 percent as well. Meanwhile, our chapters at Florida State University and the University of Florida are seeing a resurgence in organizing and widespread faculty interest after the shared experience of the pandemic and many legislative attacks.
  • We had more than 100 UFF member-lobbyists come to Tallahassee to speak on higher ed issues during the legislative session, we held over a dozen meetings with key local legislators and engaged in more effective legislative calling and letter-writing campaigns than ever before.
    Our local chapters negotiated multiple agreements that protected the health and safety of faculty and students across the state, and successfully fended off widespread layoffs and austerity measures.
  • UFF at the University of Florida negotiated a true parental and medical leave benefit that sets a new standard in family-friendly policies in Florida.
  • UFF, specifically the local faculty and graduate student chapters, successfully organized against Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran becoming president of Florida State University.

In the coming year, we hope to increase UFF’s effectiveness in each of these areas, while expanding into new initiatives with communications campaigns, diversity and inclusivity programs, and increased organizing activities. However, much of our energy will be oriented toward a coordinated response to HB 233, the latest attack on higher education to come out of the 2021 Florida Legislative Session.

At UFF, we believe in the power of collective action, which has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout our union’s history. Together, we will remake Florida higher education — one member at a time.

This article appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of The Advocate, the official publication of the Florida Education Association.

Andrew Gothard teaches English at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). He got his start in union work by door-knocking for membership recruitment for his local chapter, UFF-FAU. Andrew was elected president of UFF this year.

Connect with the United Faculty of Florida online at https://myuff.org or on Facebook, https://bit.ly/UFF-Facebook.

Statement Re. State Board of Education Meeting: “Teachers and education staff are tired of being vilified.”

Today, the Florida Education Association released a statement following the state board of education meeting held in Winter Park.“FEA, our members and their local unions fight every single day to…

Read more about Statement Re. State Board of Education Meeting: “Teachers and education staff are tired of being vilified.”

Statement on Signing of SB 1746: “Florida’s leaders continue to stand in the way of workers fighting for better life.”

Today, Governor Ron DeSantis’ signed into law an anti-worker bill (SB 1746) sponsored by Senator Blaise Ingoglia (R-11) that would place additional mandates on any person seeking to join their…

Read more about Statement on Signing of SB 1746: “Florida’s leaders continue to stand in the way of workers fighting for better life.”

Florida’s Budget Keeps Teachers Near the Bottom for Salary

Tallahassee – Today, the Florida legislature released their proposed budget that once again does not go far enough in supporting students, parents, teachers and education staff professionals in the state.…

Read more about Florida’s Budget Keeps Teachers Near the Bottom for Salary

FEA leadership: We stand united for our students

Let us say first, we are honored to lead this organization and to have you as a member.

Read more about FEA leadership: We stand united for our students

Help for kids who are hurting

Through Steve’s Club, Cori Lake Walls wants to ensure no grieving student goes unnoticed or unheard

Read more about Help for kids who are hurting

$1,200 worth of turkeys and a lot of love

Lakisha Ayers-White and her student volunteers provide supplies for Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings to dozens of union families

Read more about $1,200 worth of turkeys and a lot of love