UFF News & Views December 2015


In this issue:

Why Continuing Contracts Matter | Florida Polytechnic University on the Verge of Becoming Next UFF Chapter | 

“Let’s Talk Union” – Excited Ramblings about Building Unions |  UF Impasse Hearing Report |

Broward College Chapter VOTES No Confidence for President and Provost UFF-UCF Concludes Full-Book Negotiations 

UFF-FIU Reaches Tentative Agreement | UF-GAU Update UNF 2015-16 Bargaining Update | Fight for 15 in Tallahassee | 

Florida Sunshine Coalition Summit

 

 

Why Continuing Contracts Matter; State College of Florida Trustees Should Rescind Vote to Eliminate Tenure
By Jennifer Proffitt

 

Published in the Bradenton Herald, November 11, 2015, http://www.bradenton.com/opinion/national-opinions/article44092311.html

 

Recently, the Board of Trustees at State College of Florida voted to end continuing contracts for new faculty.  The practice of continuing contracts is a critical component of the success of the Florida College System.  On October 27, I had the opportunity to speak to the Board to encourage Trustees to reconsider this decision.  These contracts ensure that the best and brightest are afforded stability and security on the job following a long and arduous process of careful evaluation and the meeting of critical professional benchmarks.  The loss of continuing contracts will undoubtedly make it harder for the State College of Florida to recruit top notch faculty and will damage the institution's reputation in the academic community.  These are huge problems on the horizon, but perhaps the most significant impact to your community and your students is the loss of stability and its impact on students’ ability to create meaningful educational relationships with their professors.

 

I have been in the academy for 16 years, and I also served as a classroom teacher at the high school level.  In all of that time, as a teacher, a professor and a graduate student, I have found that a key component to student success is the professional relationships, the professor-student bonds that develop in an academic setting.  My own experiences and independent research clearly illustrate that students succeed when these bonds are able to form, and in order to do that, the professor needs the stability of a continuing contract.  Our colleges are not factories and our faculty are not tools designed to crank out students as carbon copy widgets.  Faculty are human beings who have dedicated themselves toward the pursuit of knowledge and the commitment to share that knowledge with future generations of leaders.  They are dedicated, but they are people, and we can’t ask them to go the extra distance and put their hearts and souls into building these meaningful relationships with their students without the stability of continuing contracts.  They and their students need to know that they will be there the next year and beyond.  Without that, the most dedicated and the most passionate will find those institutions where they have the stability they need and deserve, and State College of Florida students will lose out on those opportunities for success.

 

Continuing contracts are a cornerstone of quality institutions of higher education, not as a gift to entitled faculty or as some form of professional welfare.  They exist and are supported because they ensure the best possible education for students.  If the students of the State College of Florida are to enjoy the benefits of an education that benefits from strong student/professor bonds, that is free of unnecessary interference in the exchange of thoughts and challenging ideas, and that is conducted by the best and brightest faculty, the State College of Florida Board of Trustees needs to reconsider its decision to eliminate continuing contracts.  The institution, the faculty, and most importantly the students will surely benefit.

 

--Jennifer Proffitt, Ph.D., is the President of the United Faculty of Florida and an

Associate Professor of Communication at Florida State University 

 

Florida Polytechnic University on the Verge of Becoming Next UFF Chapter
By Dr. Jessica Zbeida, Asst. Professor of English and Dr. Patrick Luck, Asst. Professor of History

 

If you work in higher education in Florida, chances are you’ve heard of Florida Polytechnic University. For those of you who have not, Florida Poly is a bold attempt to build a new state university focused on STEM education from scratch. Because it is a new institution with a short history, Florida Polytechnic has few of the institutional structures Florida’s other state universities have, including tenure. As professional educators, most Florida Poly faculty believe universities operate best when faculty have a collective voice in how students are educated and how faculty go about their core mission of producing knowledge.  We want our students, and the communities they represent, to succeed. We also want the university as an institution to succeed, and we believe this is more likely with strong shared governance.

 

Over the course of Florida Poly’s first year, we became convinced that forming a UFF chapter was the best way to ensure that collective voice. In August, we formed an organizing committee and started having conversations with our peers about the future of Florida Poly. It wasn’t easy. We often felt overwhelmed by the work we needed to do and had little experience to draw on. However, the staff at UFF was always available to help when we needed it, and we found their guidance invaluable. As the semester progressed, we found our colleagues were eager to discuss the future of Florida Poly.  While not all faculty agreed on how to proceed, we all thought more deeply and carefully about the best way to achieve the role we hoped for. With time, our group grew. Faculty from all areas believed we could work together to make our institution great. Last week, we reached our goal for the organizing drive, and now we plan to move forward and to have UFF recognized as our collective bargaining agent. Though plenty remains to be done, we feel confident that we can do it together. Our experience proves that when faculty work together, we can make a difference.

 

“Let’s Talk Union” – Excited Ramblings about Building Unions
By Martin Bremer, GAU Bargaining Council Vice President

 

 I started graduate school at FSU shortly after our GAU chapter was recognized.  I don’t have the historical knowledge of forming, getting cards signed and the formal recognition, but I have sat across the table from administration during bargaining for the last few years.

 

As you can imagine, for graduate students, a few years is a long time.  For most, it takes a few years to hit your stride; for grad students, we only have a few years before we graduate. This means we are constantly looking for new leadership. It means we cede some bargaining power because there isn’t always the institutional knowledge base which is available when your unit has members which can be involved for more than 2-6 years.  It does, however, give us an edge insofar as the administration has to contend with graduate students who are budding academics in multiple disciplines and are fully engaged in research.

 

Having worked with UFF, it is apparent to me how dedicated our membership is to ethical treatment, whether or not it results in personal benefit.  This is especially apparent with GAU leadership across the four campuses because, while we are absolutely looking for immediate benefit to mitigate crippling debt, our focus is always the future graduate students. 

 

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to the University of Missouri – yes, I went to Mizzou in the midst of all the strife they are going through – to meet with their graduate student group, Coalition of Graduate Workers.  I spent the day with Stephanie, the Missouri NEA organizer, as well as Connor and Eric, the graduate students leading the charge to unionize.  These three have done wonderful work to engage the students and the turmoil has fueled the fire as graduate students realize how precarious their working conditions can be.  Connor, Eric and I had meetings about contract language and what graduate students across Florida and the United States commonly face as obstacles to organizing, bargaining.  Throughout the day, graduate students kept delivering ‘cards’ that represent individual students calling for a vote to unionize.  That day alone, we received about 100. That evening, three representatives from Southern Illinois University and I gave talks at a town-hall meeting. I covered FSU-GAU, UFF and fielded questions about the fears of backlash from the university. 

 

Despite hesitations of how the university would react, the graduate students at the University of Missouri all wanted to make a difference even if it meant they wouldn’t benefit directly. Better yet, the graduate students were cognizant of their worth and the benefits of standing together.  It is inspiring to see this dedication and to know that the UFF-GAU chapters, SIU, University of Missouri and graduate students across the US can stand together in solidarity.

http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/education/union-organizers-share-experiences-with-mu-students/article_6e945379-0e56-5302-a8da-5ac598ac0745.html

 

UF Impasse Hearing Report
November 22, 2015
By Susan Hegeman

 

The November 18 hearing before Special Magistrate Tom Young was well attended by faculty, students, community members, and members of the press. Representing our chapter were Candi Churchill, UFF Field Services Officer, and Prof. Sumi Helal, Chief Negotiator. The university hired an outside legal team consisting of Mike Mattimore from the Tallahassee law firm of Allen Norton & Blue and two of his associates to present their case.

 

UFF presented first. Our bargaining team’s presentation is available here: UFF-UF impasse presentation (pdf). It explains the issues at impasse, lays out our case for improved faculty compensation and refutes the administration’s claim that UF cannot afford it.

 

The administration’s case focused heavily on the university’s inability to provide better faculty compensation.  In his presentation, Mattimore failed to address a number of important issues. They include:

 

  • The administration’s arbitrary insistence that our raises be delayed until January 1, 2016, which, for this academic year, effectively halves its proposed 2.5% raise, reducing it to 1.25%
  • Our central contention that in any serious bid for top-ten public university status, UF salaries must be in line with those of its national peers, particularly those institutions that UF has publicly identified as peers; instead, he compared our compensation to that of our colleagues at other universities in Florida
  • Our argument that we need across-the-board raises to address inflation; in effect, he claimed that some faculty don’t deserve to have their salaries keep up with the cost of living—more precisely, he lamented the fact that across-the board raises would benefit faculty who are “not advancing knowledge in their fields”, a claim that was met, quite rightly, with groans and snickers from faculty in the audience 

 

After brief closing comments from UFF (none from the administration), the hearing concluded. UFF and the administration must now each present a written brief to the special magistrate, who will recommend a resolution. If either UFF or the administration rejects his recommendation, both sides will present their cases again next semester, this time before the Board of Trustees.

 

Because this process will likely continue, we are asking faculty to keep the pressure on. The administration and the Board of Trustees need to hear that we are deeply concerned about the issues of fair compensation for all faculty and a respectful, collegial bargaining process. Here is what you can do now:

 

  • If you are not a UFF member, please join now. The bigger our membership, the more clout we have at the bargaining table. It’s that simple.
  • Be an informed source of information for your colleagues. Talk with them about these issues and help get them involved. You can find information on the bargaining and impasse process here.  Also, feel free to get in touch with the bargaining team directly: bargaining@uff-uf.org.
  • Help keep these issues visible in the press and social media. Write a letter to the editor about why a preeminent university needs to pay its faculty like its national peers
  • Get involved with UFF. There are plenty of ways to engage in issues that concern you. To find out more, write to us at membership@uff-uf.org.


Broward College Chapter VOTES No Confidence for President and Provost
By Kevin Keating, UFF-Broward President

 

The United Faculty of Florida-Broward College has affirmed a vote of no confidence in President J. David Armstrong and Provost Linda Howdyshell.  Nearly two-thirds of Broward College’s Faculty voted, with 99.59% supporting the no confidence vote.   We have affirmed that we will not give up our tenure, salary schedule, sick leave and daily rate of pay for a meaningless contract where we can be dismissed without cause.  Such a vote reflects a growing discontent among higher education faculty throughout the country in general and at Broward College in particular over disregard for academic freedom, broken promises and disregard for co-governance, discounting work condition issues and ignoring compensation issues. The vote was fueled by frequent administrative declarations of impasse during bargaining, administrative betrayal concerning support for tenure and administrative pronouncements that have misled faculty concerning the terms and conditions of our employment.

 

UFF-UCF Concludes Full-Book Negotiations
by Scott Launier, UFF-UCF President
&
John Fauth, UFF-UCF Chief Negotiator


In the end, our contract was all about people, and not “stuff.” 

 

On Nov. 12, non-reappointment remained as the only article that needed tentative agreement for our full-book contract.  But this was not going to be an easy one.  The administration had been pushing to revoke non-reappointment rights for faculty on H1-B visas.  The administration argued that they should be able to fire these people rather than be required to pay them should the federal government increase the prevailing wage.

 

I am particularly proud of this bargaining team, and honored to work with and for them.  They would never back down on this issue.


We have 43 faculty on these visas, and we contacted each of them individually.  Half of them were able to attend this bargaining session.  We filled the room!  And I believe this had a big impact.  The administration re-submitted their proposal, and we countered with ours to maintain status quo.  The administration left for a brief caucus, came back, and without discussion agreed to our counter.  Our negotiations were now concluded, and in the end, our contract was all about people!

 

In addition, our negotiating team and the BOT team agreed to make several long-overdue changes in the contract that will improve working conditions for faculty, reward faculty for their efforts, increase our ability to practice our professions, and help transform UCF into a stronger, more vibrant and inclusive community. Major changes in the tentative contract include:

 


Tuition benefits for family members: We agreed to negotiate tuition benefits for spouses and dependent children and to implement the program in Fall, 2016.

 

The bargaining team has done a wonderful job.  Each raised a question, posed a challenge, or stated a position at just the right time.  They all contributed to our success.  Truly an example of a team--strong and smart individuals creating a whole worth more than the sum of its parts.

   


The UFF-UCF bargaining caucus team meets during
an Oct. 22 bargaining session.
UCF faculty fills the room to support our stance to
maintain non-reappointment rights for H1B visa holders. 

In the center is Will Guzman from FAMU.
Thanks for coming out to support us, Will!


UFF-FIU Reaches Tentative Agreement
By Ben Baez, UFF-FIU President

 

After a year and a half of negotiations (and a seven-hour marathon session on December 2!) the UFF-FIU and the FIU administration finally reached tentative agreement on a three-year contract (pending ratification by both the bargaining unit and the board of trustees). This contract will provide faculty in the bargaining unit with important benefits associated with parental leave, tuition reimbursement, grievances, and others. Both sides also reached an agreement that previous rights and responsibilities with regard to online teaching will remain intact (the administration sought to remove our rights to refuse to teach online). Most important, we have also reached agreement on a salary raise to the base for this academic year. Effective January 16, 2016, there will be 1% retention raise. In addition, 1% of the salary pool will be allocated in accordance with democratically-approved merit criteria in the department or unit, and the minimum merit raise will be $750. This minimum amount reflects the interests of both sides to ensure some equity for the lowest-paid faculty members in the bargaining unit.

 

We are currently still working on the exact contract language for all the agreed-upon items. Moreover, in accordance with our legal obligations, we must schedule meetings to inform the bargaining unit about this contract and then schedule times for a ratification vote. We expect this process to take place in January.

 

UF-GAU Update
By Mary Roca, UF-GAU Coordinator

 

GAU volunteers cheer on the arbitration
team as they fight to protect GA healthcare.

Following last month’s arbitration hearing over UF’s unilateral changes to GA healthcare, GAU prepared and submitted a legal brief to the arbitrator. The arbitrator’s decision after reviewing the briefs will be final.

 

During this semester’s general membership meeting, new officers were elected: Alec Dinnin will join Lia Merivaki in the co-presidency and Dragana Svraka is the new organizing chair.

 

Contract bargaining continues. During the long and frustrating bargaining sessions the past three months, GAU has presented several proposals and data showing the vast income inequality among GAs and the fact the stipends don’t correlate with their workload. The UF administration has consistently refused to address inequality and the fact that approximately a third of all graduate assistants- more than 1,000 people- are paid below the poverty line after they pay fees.  

 


As an effort to make an abstract number seem real, GAU delivered a gift basket to UF Provost Joseph Glover’s office representing items graduate assistants have to go without because of the $720 in fees they pay each semester. In response, the UF administration commented in a recent news article that “[GAU’s] position is that they want a lot of weight for people on the lower end,” but that “we think that would be unfair to the people who are working hard, who are at the higher end of the pay scale.” GAU believes such statements are embarrassing for an institution that claims to be on the path to preeminence, and insulting to UF graduate employees.

 

With love,

GAU

 

UNF 2015-16 Bargaining Update
By UFF-UNF Bargaining Team
Mark Ari, English
John Hatle, Biology
Susan M. Perez, Psychology
Zornitza Prodanoff, Computing

 

Last year UNF negotiated the full contract, which is in force until June 30, 2017. However, each year we enter into “reopener” negotiations during which Article 28 (Salary) is a mandatory subject of bargaining and each side (UFF and the BOT administrative team) has up to three additional articles that it may open for negotiation. From the first day of bargaining this term, it appeared this was going to be slow going. Although the date for the first session was scheduled weeks in advance, the administrative team was not prepared to simply exchange lists of articles each side wanted to reopen. It didn’t get better. We proposed modest salary increases and showed the university had the resources to pay for it. They said no. After concerned faculty members testified to hardships they experienced as a result of a lack of a clear family leave policy, we proposed just such a policy. They said no. We proposed eliminating language that could render provisions in the CBA invalid by reason of enacted legislation. They said no. They provided no reasoning for their position and no counter proposals.  All term, the only proposal put forth by the administrative team was one relating to a promotion process for the new clinical ranks. UFF was amenable and simply asked them to move their proposed language from the tenure-track promotion article to the non-tenure-track article, since the clinical ranks are not tenure-track faculty. They said no. It would be hard for anyone to call this bargaining. In fact, at our last session, the administrative team threatened impasse. Under collective bargaining law, parties are said to be at an impasse when they have reached a point in negotiations at which differences are so substantial that they cannot be resolved without intervention by a third party. There is one more bargaining session scheduled for January 8th.

 

You can also find links to Uff-UNF proposals here: http://unf-uff.org/bargaining/

 

Fight for 15 in Tallahassee
By Jennifer Proffitt

 

On November 10th, members of UFF-FSU Chapter joined union and community activists from the Big Bend Labor Chapter and other organizations in a news conference and small rally in support of the “Fight for 15” national day of action.  The Fight for 15 campaign is a national effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour and remove barriers for workers in lower wage jobs to gain union representation.  Thousands of workers in the fast food industry walked off the job in cities across the country and participated in rallies in support of the campaign, and the Tallahassee action was to show community support from Florida’s Capitol city.  Community leaders, local elected officials, and state Rep. Alan Williams spoke in support.  As Rich Templin, Legislative and Political Director for the Florida AFL-CIO, noted at the news conference, Florida is currently experiencing a wage crisis as evidenced by the United Way ALICE Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) released earlier this year showing that more than 3.2 million households in the state—45% of all households—met the ALICE criteria and were struggling to make ends meet. The Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy also released a report showing that real wages have dropped in Florida over the past several years with wages currently at 87.2% of the national average, the lowest point since 2001. SB 6 and HB 109 have been filed in the Florida Senate and House to raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour but have yet to have received a hearing.  Keep an eye out for messages from UFF about how you can support the effort!  To find out more, visit fightfor15.org and the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy at FCFEP.org

 

   

UFF-FSU's Irene Padavic and Jennifer Proffitt listen
to speakers in support of the Fight for 15 movement.
Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor (pictured)
spoke at the press conference as well. 

UFF-FSU's Jack Fiorito, Robin Goodman, and Jennifer
Proffitt listen to state Rep. Alan Williams at the
Tallahassee Fight for 15 press conference and rally.

 

Florida Sunshine Coalition Summit
By Jennifer Proffitt

 

Earlier this year, the United Faculty of Florida was asked by the First Amendment Foundation to be a charter member of the Florida Sunshine Coalition, a new statewide effort to protect Florida's cherished Sunshine Laws and open records requirements.  Florida's open government protections have been under attack in recent years, and the Coalition will be working to stop what has been described as "the death of the Sunshine Law by a thousand paper cuts."  Last month, the coalition held its first Sunshine Summit, bringing together members of the media, lawyers who work with public records, and community advocates to discuss the upcoming session.  The meeting also featured an address by journalist and author Carl Hiaasen about the importance of open records for investigative reporting and how important the Sunshine Law has been in the state. Because open records are vital for our efforts to keep elected officials and our university and college administrations held accountable and our members informed, I recruited the Florida AFL-CIO and other labor groups to get involved in this important effort as well. Currently, more than three dozen bills have been filed this session to create exemptions to Florida's open records laws and more are expected. The Coalition will continue to work in the upcoming weeks to identify priority bills and formulate a strategy to push back. For more information about the Summit, see http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-first-amendment-conference-20151116-story.html and follow the Coalition on Facebook and Twitter.





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