UFF News & Views February 2016

 

 

Enough is Enough Rally | Rally Remarks | 

State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota and Florida Polytechnic University File Cards for Union Election |  

Florida Polytechnic University Update 

SCF for UFF Newsletter UF’s impasse resolved: BOT finds in favor of BOT! 

Graduate Assistant Fees Legislative Update | UF-GAU Update 

UFF-UNF Faculty Leaders to Present at NEA 2016 Higher Education Conference


NOTICE TO UFF MEMBERS

The UFF website has been updated as of February 15, 2016. The website address remains www.unitedfacultyofflorida.org.


Enough is Enough Rally

by Jennifer Proffitt, UFF President


On January 14, 2016, the Florida Education Association (FEA) held an historic rally titled, “Enough is Enough.” Thousands of teachers, education staff professionals, parents, college and university students, faculty members, sister unions, and community supporters from around the state attended. Speakers included FEA officers President Joanne McCall, Vice President Fedrick Ingram, and Secretary-Treasurer Luke Flynt; Mindy Haas, President of the Florida PTA; Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida NAACP; Wendy Bradshaw, former teacher; Karla Hernandez-Mats, UTD secretary-treasurer; Tiffany McClary, president of the FAMU Student FEA; Lynnita Lucas, secretary of LESPA; and Monica Russo, Florida SEIU president. Participants rallied behind the theme, “Enough is Enough,” in response to more than a decade of legislative tinkering with Florida’s K-20 education that has focused on dismantling our public institutions in favor of for-profit education schemes.  I was fortunate to have been asked to speak at the rally, and I focused on the corporatization and privatization of our public higher education institutions. The text of my speech is below. A video of the rally highlights can be found here.


That same day, UFF First Vice President Elizabeth Davenport, UFF Government Relations Chair Teresa Lucas, and I visited Senate offices to explain our opposition to the guns on campus bill. A special thanks to Elizabeth and Teresa for their work on this important issue!


UFF President Jennifer Proffitt speaking to several thousand people at FEA Enough is Enough rally.

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Jennifer Proffitt, UFF President, Rally Remarks (as prepared):


Good afternoon sisters and brothers.


I am proud to greet you that way because you are my sisters and brothers—all of you—teachers, education staff professionals, parents, clergy, students and community activists, joined by so much more than the bonds of our union but by our love for and dedication to our society’s most cherished institution, public education.  Today we celebrate that bond as we link our voices, fueled by our unwavering determination to turn back the tide of 20 years of disastrous education policies, telling the governor and the Florida Legislature, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! 


The thousands of faculty and graduate teaching assistants across the state represented by the United Faculty of Florida understand and respect the frustrations of our teachers, parents and students in the K-12 system and in many ways share those same frustrations.  As the Florida Legislature has increasingly tied the hands of our K-12 teachers and worked to stifle their creativity and professionalism, we have seen the effects first hand in our own classrooms.  Today we are seeing far too many students who reach our colleges and universities who have had the passion for critical and creative thinking, the excitement and spirit of inquiry, and the flame of free expression extinguished by policies that get in the way of what you have dedicated your lives to: the education and inspiration of future generations. 


Make no mistake: these polices haven’t been driven by an honest debate over pedagogy or a fair disagreement over the best ways to educate our students; they have been driven by profit and the zeal of powerful individuals who see an opportunity to make a buck regardless of what that does to our students, parents and teachers. 


School privatization and all of its ancillary components including incessant high-stakes testing, school grading, charters and voucher schemes are all designed to destroy our most important, most cherished institution so that it can be recreated with an eye on profit, not on building up future generations to take their place in society.  This is the fight of our lives, and today I can commit to you that the members of the United Faculty of Florida will be with you in that struggle.


I’m also here to ask you to join us in our own battles against the school privateers.  The powerful forces of privatization and corporatization have launched a new front in their campaign with their eyes fixed on our public colleges and universities.  Each session, bills are filed that mirror the destructive policies for higher education that have plagued our K-12 system.  Our colleges and universities are graded, using irrational metrics, and funding is being awarded—or potentially taken away—based on those metrics.  Professors are increasingly under pressure to teach what the state and its corporate masters want us to teach.  Critical institutions like tenure are increasingly under threat.  Political appointees are making critical decisions about our institutions, and these so-called experts are encroaching on our ability to do our job.  Graduate assistants earning low wages are being forced to pay for their jobs through unfair fees. Florida is dead last in the nation in funding higher education, and the gap is increasingly being filled by corporate funded think tanks and foundations.  All of you here who have been fighting in the trenches to protect our K-12 system are desperately needed in the fight to protect public higher education, and we all hope that we can count on you for your support and guidance. 


We are all in this together, a sisterhood forged by our commitment to the field and institutions we care so much about, and I stand here today full of hope and determination for the victories that lie ahead.  It is time for us to stand together, united with one voice, and tell the Florida Legislature and Governor Scott: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.  


While the rally was important in conveying the level of frustration being experienced by all stakeholders in public education, it can only do just that.  If we are to really make changes in the K-12 system and stop some of the disastrous things they want to do to higher education, we must become more engaged in policymaking and politics, and I look forward to working with all of you to make that happen for UFF. 

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State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota and Florida Polytechnic University File Cards for Union Election

by Marshall Ogletree, UFF Interim Executive Director 


On February 3, 2016, more than 60 percent of the faculties of Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland and State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota submitted cards to the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission requesting a union election be held. The two newly proposed UFF chapters will join with the United Faculty of Florida (UFF) and all of the other 11 state university faculties and 14 state college and graduate assistant chapters who are represented by UFF.


Both faculties seek their constitutional right to having a collective voice at their respective institutions by forming labor unions, under Chapter 447, Florida Statutes. The faculties will establish chapters of UFF, elect officers and upon being elected in a democratic vote by all eligible faculty will support and represent faculty in negotiations with their  administrations in future decisions impacting working conditions, university policies, and compensation.


On Sunday, February 7, the Bradenton Herald editorialized in support of a SCF faculty union. Read the editorial here.


The articles that follow are from each of these new chapters.

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Florida Polytechnic University Update

by Dr. Jessica Zbeida Assistant Professor of English and Dr. Patrick Luck, Assistant Professor of History


This week has been an exciting time for faculty at Florida Polytechnic University. We filed authorization cards with the Public Employees Relations Commission, and we look forward to an election authorizing us to collectively bargain with Florida Poly’s administration under the auspices of UFF. We chose to form a chapter of UFF because we feel it will ensure a strong, collective voice for faculty and help us improve the education we deliver to students, the research we produce and the services we provide to the community. 


In the coming months, we plan to develop our chapter by electing officers and appointing faculty to committees. We’ll also host a number of social events, including a Poly Picnic in the Park. As our institution grows, we will have a great deal to do. We need to hire many qualified faculty, to expand research infrastructure at our institution, and to attract the best and brightest students from across the state and the nation. With a strong, collective voice for faculty, we feel confident we can accomplish these goals. We hope our peers at other universities and colleges across Florida will share our excitement and hope for the future. Working together, we know faculty can do great things.


Tom Brooks, attorney with Meyer, Brooks,
Demma and Blohm law firm delivers cards to
PERC for union elections at State College of
Florida and Florida Polytechnic University.

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SCF for UFF Newsletter

by Courtney Ruffner, Ph.D.
Professor, Language and Literature
President, AAUP SCF Chapter


This past Wednesday, our signed union cards were turned into PERC. News releases were sent out to local papers, news channels and radio stations notifying our community of our intentions and desire to be represented by the UFF. Our faculty breathed a sigh of relief at knowing the process for unionization has gone forward another step. We now eagerly await the election that will determine our future statuses as faculty at the State College of Florida.


One thing that is not being highlighted in the media as much as some of us would like is that the basis of our drive for unionization is to protect the current quality of our institution at SCF. It is imperative that we unite in order to maintain our stellar reputation as a college that welcomes its community to enroll in challenging classes where critical thought and constructive discourse can become a staple in our students’ lives. We are a smaller college, but we employ faculty who are not only well educated but who publish, conference and commit to advisement of student clubs and interest groups throughout our three campuses. We enjoy our fields of study and want to impart knowledge from our fields to our students without having to be censored because we have no academic freedom of protection.


In brief, we will continue to speak in support of our institution, our students, our faculty and our community while we await our election. We are hopeful that our sister colleges also support our decision to unionize and give serious thought to doing so themselves. What our Board of Trustees has done is an epidemic, a blight on academia that is sure to spread throughout the state of Florida.


SCF Organizing Team members celebrate cards being delivered to PERC.

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UF’s impasse resolved: BOT finds in favor of BOT!
by Susan Hegeman



The impasse between the University of Florida Chapter and the Board of Trustees over our annual raises has been settled… by the Board of Trustees, who, unsurprisingly, sided with themselves against the union.



Though this outcome has given some of our members reason to be angry and frustrated, we are also happy with what we put into place by going to impasse, and proud of the impressive work of our bargaining team and the active support of our members.



In late December, Special Magistrate Tom Young recommended a settlement to the impasse over raises that strongly favored the union position: more than TWICE the UF offer. But more importantly, Young concurred with us on three key points, all of which we feel we can build upon in future negotiations.  He agreed that UF faculty salaries should be compared to those at UF’s national aspirational peer institutions (e.g., "flagships" like UC Berkeley, U Texas, and U Illinois) and that with this comparison set, UF faculty were significantly underpaid.  He also rejected the administration’s claims that such increases would jeopardize UF's finances. UF has $148 million in unrestricted net assets: the largest reserve of funds, both in dollars and in percent of operating budget, of any university within the Florida state university system. He went further, insisting that taxpayer-funded institutions such as UF have a fiduciary responsibility to use reasonable amounts of their reserve funds to pursue their mission.

 


Of course, UF rejected these arguments, but they are beginning to feel the heat for their decision in the press (link:http://www.gainesville.com/article/20160130/OPINION01/160129624/1076/opinion01?Title=Editorial-Cheers-and-jeers), and certainly with many angry UF faculty. We are confident that the fact that an outside observer sided so strongly with the union will have benefits in future raise negotiations and in our current negotiations over our 2016-19 contract.


Candi Churchill presenting UFF-UF positions on
bargaining impasse to UF Board of Trustees.

 

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Graduate Assistant Fees Legislative Update

By: Martin Bremer, UFF GAU Vice President

Bargaining is always tough, especially when the administration is unwilling to listen to concerns.  GAU chapters across the state have been making headway in most areas, except for fees.  Student fees place an undue burden on our members because it takes a large portion of our meager pay.  Our choices are to go into debt to pay the fees (student loans, credit card debt), or get more jobs to pay the fees (often not an option for international students) which can hinder our academic progress.
 
We have had rallies at the Capitol (FSU and FAMU) and demonstrations at UF and USF at the administration buildings.

The good news is the legislators are starting to take note.

Currently there are two bills which address fee relief for graduate students.  House Bill 1311 just passed the Higher Education and Workforce Subcommittee (unanimously!) and is moving on to the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. We had GAU testimonials from FSU students and written statements from USF.  The subcommittee members were moved by testimonies and thanked the speakers for helping them realize the precarious financial situation graduate students face.

Senate Bill 1230 just passed the Higher Education Committee (unanimously!) and is on to the appropriations committee.  The Senators on the committee were taken aback as we had around 100 GA’s show up in support of the bill even with very short notice of the bill being put on the agenda.  Simply reading the names of all those in support took longer than the collective time to hear and vote on three other bills.

We will continue to attend committee meetings and encourage everyone to contact their legislators to help advance fees legislation!



GAU members meeting with bill sponsor Senator Sachs and
Senate Higher Education Chairperson Senator Stargel

 

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UF-GAU Update


This semester, there is one important issue for Graduate Assistants United (GAU): February membership campaign.


The “Month of Love,” as it is called, is GAU’s way of reaching out and listening to the concerns of its bargaining unit. One month free membership, free T-shirt and tote bag, member social on Feb. 25—all of these are provided by GAU for members who join in February.


During our membership campaign, we will host town halls to answer questions from graduate assistants, which will help us get to know graduate assistants’ needs, especially regarding bargaining and health insurance, and recruit bargaining team members and activists. Throughout the month, we will also table in different locations across campus, perform office visits to spread awareness about GAU and the membership campaign, and participate in other organizations’ meetings.


With this membership campaign, we hope to build on our successful bargaining session last semester. Thanks to the hard work of GAU’s bargaining team, UF is implementing from January 1 a flat raise of $430 for every graduate assistant, as well as $50 in fee relief. GAU negotiated with UF over stipend increases and fee relief for more than three months. GAU offered three proposals that would significantly narrow the gap between low-income and high-income GAs, promoting fairness and helping to lift many GAs out of poverty by making fees proportional to stipends.  Although UF rejected the proposals, GAU kept pushing for an equitable solution and finally won a contract with both fairness and equality.

 

With Love,

GAU

 

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UFF-UNF Faculty Leaders to Present at NEA 2016 Higher Education Conference

April 1-3, 2016 San Diego, California


UFF-UNF President John White, Susan Perez and John Hatle have been selected to present their workshop at the upcoming NEA Higher Education Conference. Their topic is as follows:


Seeking Equity for “invisible” (non-tenure track) Faculty


Too often, non-tenure track faculty go ignored in terms of meritorious recognition and equitable pay raises. We (tenured chapter union leaders) describe the struggles we faced and the lessons we learned while creating and negotiating a promotion system with raises for our instructor and lecturer colleagues. Our struggles came not just in negotiating with university administration (which did not view this group as  true faculty); we also faced resistance from a small but vocal group of senior tenured faculty who decried the proposition that of any of the monies dedicated to raises for faculty go to this invisible class.


Participants in our session will learn about:

  • Polling faculty to solicit input for a new contract (deciding where to spend cultural capital).
  • Using case studies to highlight inequities in salary and opportunity for different faculty.
  • Organizing for change.
  • Negotiating with administration and disparate faculty on challenging issues (salaries and raises).
  • Use of resources/capital (balancing where and how to spend our chapter’s limited capital).

Congratulations to them on their selection. UFF chapters have partial funding to support participants to the conference.

 

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