UFF News & Views September 2015

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In this issue:

Gun Safety SummitFocus on Building UFF Membership & LeadershipUCF’s New Faculty Reception 2015 | 

Membership Gains at UFF-PBSC | UF-GAU News | Eastern Florida State Chapter Ratifies Three-Year Agreement | 

The United Faculty of Florida, University of Florida Happenings | UFF-FSU NEWS


 


UFF Office has Moved

 

The new UFF Office address is located at

115 N. Calhoun Street, Suite 6

Tallahassee, FL 32301

If in Tallahassee, drop by to visit us!

 




Farewell?  Continue the Struggle to the End!

by Tom Auxter, Past President UFF

 

We have come a long way in the 14 years I have been statewide president. I am grateful for the trust members placed in me as we set out on a decidedly perilous journey in 2001.        

 

Most of all, I am grateful to the strong union activists who created a movement out of a threat to our existence, instead of relying on lawyers to reverse the action or simply giving up when the odds were not in our favor. All of us poured our energy into this struggle. It took every one of us doing everything we could to pull it off.    

 

We regained certification on all campuses (in less than a year) after Gov. Jeb Bush declared we would be decertified and got the legislation passed to abolish our statewide contract.    

 

We organized strong chapters on all campuses to negotiate the best contracts we have ever had -- all achieved by leaders and activists at the campus level.

   

We more than doubled the membership from less than 3,000 to more than 7,000.

 

FEA, AFT and NEA funded organizing grants to give us the financial backing we needed. Affiliates consistently supported us so we could run a nonstop campaign for 10 years to get these results

 

Our legislative campaigns were an annual event as we defeated again and again hostile legislation that would have had the effect of reducing our membership and ability to function.

 

We made the case repeatedly that higher education is underfunded and produced the documentation to keep this in front of the eyes of the Board of Governors and legislators.

 

Along the way we joined forces with Bob Graham to pass Amendment 11 establishing a Board of Governors to replace the Jeb Bush plan to have only hand-picked local campus boards that would follow his orders.

 

We grew the leadership with women and minorities by consistently selecting members from underrepresented groups for the national trainings by NEA and AFT that get members ready for leadership positions.

 

In the furture, we will do all of these things and more to grow the union and create the world of academic freedom, excellence and justice that is within our reach. For at least the next several years, we will have plenty of adversaries who want to establish a hostile environment for higher education by "reforming" us.

 

We will make it to the other side if we remember that our task in this environment is to organize or die. They can only kill what we value if we stand by and watch them do it. But if we mobilize our constituencies, those who care about what we care about, we will vastly outnumber them. In doing so, we will defend higher education, and we will prevail and give shape to the future we want to live in.

 

Our latest challenge comes in the form of so-called "performance funding." It is a deceptive term because it punishes all performance and excellence except the performance of certain pre-selected winner types the Governor and his allies on the Board of Governors favor. The consequences of this plan to "reform" us are to gradually defund higher education and to resegregate our institutions. Since I have been speaking out at national meetings about this emerging problem in Florida and most other states, I was asked to submit an article to Thought and Action, concluding with how this funding model has affected Florida. It was published in July and will be available as we analyze our situation this fall and adopt strategies to fight this plan. The title is:  "Performance Funding in Higher Education: The Hidden Costs and Consequences."

 

This is a farewell address only in the sense that I hope all of us fare well in our efforts. But it is not farewell in the sense that I am leaving the scene and merely giving advice. I am not going anywhere.

 

I promised Jennifer Proffitt, our new president, that I will stay and remain fully active in the political struggles ahead.

 

Is this farewell?  I say "Continue the struggle to the end!"

 

Gun Safety Summit

By Jennifer Proffitt, UFF President

 

On August 13, the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus sponsored a Gun Safety Summit, held at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando. I was one of the keynote speakers, along with the Honorable Patricia Schroeder; Dr. Marjorie Sanfillippo, Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor of Psychology at Eckerd College, who spoke about mental health and the college student; Dr. Eric Smaw, Professor of Philosophy at Rollins College; Angela Gallo, Legislative Chair of the PTA of Florida; Penny Villegas, founder of the Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College; James Coffin, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida; and members of the sponsoring organizations. There was also a panel of law enforcement members—including Dr. Brett Meade, Deputy Police Chief at the University of Central Florida, Hank Shirah, Director of Public Safety/Chief of Police at Pensacola State College, and Paul Rooney, Assistant Vice President of Safety, Security & Risk Management at Valencia College—and Dr. John Holdnak, President of Gulf Coast State College; the panel was led by Michael Brawer, CEO and Executive Director of the Association of Florida Colleges. Several students—from UF, UCF and FSU—also spoke, expressing their concerns about guns on campus from the student perspective.

 

I have listed these speakers to demonstrate what I think is absolutely critical for the struggle against guns on campus: A broad-based coalition of the campus community—faculty, students, staff, administrators, law enforcement—and parents and concerned voters who recognize the problems associated with guns on campus. Those concerns include:

 

  • Guns on campus are a public safety issue, which includes the increased potential of accidental shootings, collateral damage and chaos in an active shooter situation.
  • Mental health issues and drug and alcohol problems that campus-age adults face cannot be ignored.
  • Workplace safety and a safe and secure learning environment are essential; guns on campus threaten academic freedom, chill speech and can lead to students threatening faculty (or faculty threatening students, as someone suggested) regarding grades and other issues.
  • Guns on campus will affect our ability to recruit and retain faculty and students to work for and attend Florida’s universities and colleges.

 

It is essential, however, that we do not make this a battle between progressive groups and national gun control advocacy organizations versus the NRA. This is not a Second Amendment issue; it is a public safety issue. Our talking points above reflect this.

 

If you are concerned about guns on your campuses, I encourage you to talk with your legislators in your home districts. We need to speak to both Republicans and Democrats, telling them our stories and our concerns. And it would be worthwhile to speak to your legislators along with other members of your campus communities, including campus law enforcement.

 

It is only together that we can defeat guns on campus again.

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Focus on Building UFF Membership & Leadership

By Candi Churchill, UFF Field Staff and Maureen McCormick, UFF-FSCJ Membership Chair


UFF President Jennifer Proffitt has renewed UFF’s priority to reach majority status statewide (over three years), as well as build membership so our members have a powerful voice on our campuses and with power players all over our state. Jennifer plans to work with UFF teams to engage more deeply in the local and state political process, so we can be a powerful vehicle for pushing forward a positive agenda for public higher education and collective bargaining in Florida, and not just react defensively every legislative cycle. It all starts with an engaged membership.

 

Jennifer hosted two short conference calls with chapter membership chairs and presidents about membership efforts to kick off the academic year. University and college faculty as well as graduate employee leaders had representatives on the phone meetings and shared inspiring, practical and diverse ideas.

 

Some activities leaders reported engaging in with success include:

New Hires

  • Being a supportive, welcoming first contact for all new employees.
  • Focusing on success on the job, navigating the institution.
  • Giving short presentations and testimonials in department meetings.
  • Staffing a table at new faculty/GA orientation.
  • Canvassing and welcoming new hires one-on-one (at events and door-to-door).
  • Providing cultural and social events for new faculty (receptions, bus tour, family events, provide childcare).
  • Hosting a new faculty luncheon  that is attended by university president, provost and faculty senate chair.
  • Developing new faculty packets (welcome letter, invitation to join, resource guide to community).
  • Allowing opportunities for a union member to take a non-member to lunch.
  • Emailing new faculty a week before the year starts to say, “Welcome to Campus”.
  • Creating mentoring programs to pair experienced faculty with new hires to offer support and orientation to the campus and UFF.

 

Visibility

  • A once-a-week “Did You Know?” email campaign about important information from the collective bargaining agreement (CBA)
  • Coffee mugs with UFF logo; coffee shop on campus fills it for free and sends bill to union
  • Hand deliver the CBA to faculty
  • Host two parties per year (held on campus; childcare provided)
  • Provide child care reimbursement for faculty to attend union meetings or do UFF tasks
  • Send cards to anyone who is promoted or receives tenure; send gift for new baby or death in family
  • Workshops – issues that help faculty succeed (tenure and promotion, publishing, specific contract issues, etc.)
  • Seminars – wills, tenure and promotion, etc.

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The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Rain: UCF’s New Faculty Reception 2015

By Scott Launier, UFF-UCF President

 

With UCF hiring 200 new faculty this year, we knew we wanted to make an early impression. Our presence during the university’s two-day new faculty orientation is limited to whatever we provide for the orientation welcome bag, a table at one stop shop toward the end of Day 1, and a UFF-UCF reception for new faculty following the one stop shop. But wanting to be the first point of contact with new faculty, and be the first to convey our identity, we made sure to send all new faculty a welcome e-mail one week before orientation, with a two-page welcome letter signed by all UFF-UCF leaders explaining who we are, what we do and why it is important to consider becoming a dues-paying member.

 

In the orientation welcome bag, in addition to a copy of the CBA, we included another copy of the welcome letter, a colorful invite for the reception, and a brochure “resource guide” that we created with the input of more than 70 current faculty members at a previous dinner social. This resource guide includes suggestions for common things people new to the area might want to know, including recommendations for mechanics, cheap but great eateries, daycare and fun daytrips. We made it clear that the resource guide was created from information collected during a UFF-UCF social by current faculty, with new faculty in mind.

 

We think we were successful. We had six people complete membership forms at one stop shop, and several more asking for copies. But it was more than new UFF-UCF members that made this feel successful. New faculty were seeking us out. They knew who we were when they arrived at our table. There was a general tone that our union is something they respect and want to know more about.

 

And then we had a setback. The rain. Twenty minutes before it was time to walk a bit across campus for the reception, it poured. It was torrential. It wouldn’t stop. We’ll never know how many may have come to our reception had the weather been good. And still, about 40 new faculty members found their way over to be greeted by another 40 current faculty members. The food was wonderful and the camaraderie was lively for two hours. And ten more people completed membership forms. We have more work to do, but this feels like a good start to the year.

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Membership Gains at UFF-PBSC

By Nick LaRocca, UFF-PBSC President

 

UFF-Palm Beach State College is excited to announce its success in recruiting new membership at this year’s new faculty luncheon.  The union hosted the luncheon in order to apprise new faculty of the union and give new faculty the opportunity to become union members.  Out of 25 faculty hired this year, 21 have joined the union, an 84 percent new member rate.   During the luncheon, new faculty were able to hear benefits of membership, including grievance assistance and liability coverage.  We also touted our most recent success in contract negotiations, resulting in a compensation increase of 8 percent.  UFF-PBSC is extremely proud of its new members for joining up with existing union membership to strengthen the union’s position.  We look forward to a wonderful year of working together to make progress on behalf of our membership. 

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UF-GAU News

By Mary Roca


The week before the 2015 fall semester, GAU welcomed the new cohort of graduate assistants. After several weeks of preparation, team work, communication with UF administration and the enthusiastic collaboration of 30 volunteers, GAU reached out to incoming GAs at 35 departmental orientations and three tabling sessions, including the UF-PhD Moms and Student-Parent’s Welcome on August 15, the GA student orientation on August 17 and the teaching assistant orientation on August 18.

 

At these presentations, volunteers explained GAU’s role as the legally recognized labor union representing graduate teaching and research assistants. These volunteers emphasized the union’s important work, such as campaigning against fees, representing members in grievance procedures, and negotiating contracts that safeguard fair wages and benefits, good working conditions, and employee rights for graduate assistants.

 

In addition to the orientation activities, GAU held the first meeting with UF administration to set the agenda for the upcoming bargaining season. GAU will continue to negotiate for stipend increases and fee relief, particularly for the lower income GAs.

 

Finally, after learning that the university increased dependent premiums and all graduate assistants’ deductibles without following the bargaining process, GAU filed a chapter grievance, a complaint filed through the university’s arbitration process, this summer. GAU’s grievance was denied by UF. However, because of this grievance, the university will not change the deductibles for the duration of the 2014-2017 contract. GAU remains concerned about the increase to dependent premiums.

 

Stay tuned for the updates on the bargaining process.

 

With love,

GAU

GAU attends UF PhD Moms Students-Parents Annual Welcome Event, Saturday August 15, 2015:
Edna Faribo-Oghenekaro, GAU Volunteer and Lia Merivaki, GAU Co-president, with their daughters Vomero and Koralia


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Eastern Florida State Chapter Ratifies Three-Year Agreement

By Lynn Spencer, Lead Negotiator, Chapter Secretary and Professor of Humanities

 

UFF-Brevard negotiated a new three-year contract with 7.5 percent across the board salary increases for all members of the Eastern Florida State (EFSC) bargaining unit, despite the fact that EFSC saw its state appropriations reduced as a result of the new  “performance” metrics for state funding. Included in the new package are provisions for banking load-points, student loan reimbursement and dedicated professional enhancement funds to be allocated through the faculty Tenure and Professional Development Council. The August 13 ratification vote was 211-7. Negotiations began in February and many faculty members attended the meetings. Transcripts of the sessions were made available to the members as well.  Our executive leadership did a superb job with communications, launching a faculty spotlight YouTube channel, an updated website, and regular updates on socials, and membership outreach.  We have many new hires, but also an increase in membership. In presenting the CBA to the Board of Trustees, the college president acknowledged his appreciation for the hard work of the faculty. The BOT ratified the agreement at their August 17 meeting.


 

The United Faculty of Florida, University of Florida Happenings

By Paul Ortiz, Vice President, UFF-UF and Raul Sanchez

 

UFF-UF’s bargaining team has worked hard this summer to arrive at a reasonable salary agreement with the University of Florida. However, on August 6th, the team announced that it had declared salary negotiations with the UF administration to be at impasse.

 

In recent years, UFF-UF has conducted several faculty climate surveys. These surveys demonstrate, among other things, that our lagging salaries are a major source of morale problems on campus. During bargaining, our team presented data detailing the extent of our salary problems. In addition, the team showed that pay for upper administrators has risen significantly in the last several years while pay for faculty has not even kept up with inflation. The team also explained that many of our colleagues experience salary compression and, in some cases, inversion. Finally, the team argued that UF has the resources to address these problems.

 

In addition to operating expenses, which remain flat from last year, UF’s 2015 budget includes the following:

 

  • $24.3 million ($19.3 million in performance funds and $5 million in pre-eminence funding)
  • $11 million in performance funding carried over from last year.

 

In addition, UF carries on its books over $148 million in unrestricted funds. So, while the funds are there, the commitment to faculty is not.

 

The team is now preparing for impasse hearings, at which it will present its data to a Special Magistrate. In the meantime, the chapter is using this occasion to launch a new membership campaign, which will make UFF-UF stronger.

 

Some people wonder why a college professor would join a union. The answers are simple. First, in our neo-liberal age, the best form of job security is a union contract. Second, we care about our students: many of us are appalled at the “university as a business” model that treats students as customers and revenue sources, and that considers employees to be exploitable and disposable. During the Great Recession, our chapter’s members mobilized to speak out against staff layoffs and plans to dismantle educational programs at UF. More recently, we have joined our brothers and sisters in GAU to argue against student fees for graduate students.

 

Beyond campus, members of our chapter are active in the labor movement as well as in the broader progressive community. UFF-UF joined many organizations in Gainesville to endorse the Alachua County Living Wage Campaign. Along with the Alachua County Labor Coalition and Gainesville Veterans for Peace, the UFF-UF co-sponsors the annual John A. Penrod Brigadas Award for Peace and Justice. We are members of the North Central Florida Central Labor Council. Our members have marched, rallied and testified in support of pro-working class initiatives before the State Assembly in Tallahassee, the City Commission in Gainesville, and many other venues.


UFF-UF will continue to represent faculty interests at the University of Florida, and we look forward to remaining a part of the larger progressive community that makes Florida such a unique place to live!

Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, from UFF, speaks at a Graduate Assistants United March 13 rally against graduate tuition fees on Thursday at Tigert Hall. Photo by, Cristina Ruiz-Poveda, The Independent Florida Alligator

 

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UFF-FSU NEWS

by Matthew Lata, UFF-FSU Chapter President

 

First, I’m honored to follow Jennifer Proffitt’s impressive tenure as UFF-FSU chapter president, and wish her well as she assumes her new position as statewide UFF president.

 

After the legislative fireworks during the spring, during which, among other issues, UFF-FSU members helped stall both a bill to allow concealed weapons on campus and another that would have exempted upper-level administrative searches from the Sunshine Laws, our focus turned to bargaining.  On August 6 and 7, FSU faculty voted on changes made to the 2013-2016 Collective Bargaining Agreement applicable to 2015-16.  The result was unanimous approval of some very fine revisions, mostly regarding salary issues. 

 

For years, we have been trying to tackle the broad issue of market equity (compression and inversion).  This past spring, for the first time, it became clear that our administration had the will and resources to address this matter in a meaningful way.  The resulting market equity increases for many faculty don’t resolve the issue, but, with $2 million devoted to this $10 million problem, we have taken a substantial first step.  Another challenge was to convince the Administration to fully recognize the efforts of our specialized (non-tenure-track) faculty.  Despite our best efforts, they will not yet be included in the market equity equation, but we did successfully negotiate an extra 1 percent across-the-board “performance" increase for them. Overall, the average increase per faculty member will be in the 5 percent range, including merit, sustained performance and promotion increases.

 

While there were other issues on the table, we have to be very satisfied with this outcome.

 

We had also hoped to address the relative lack of sabbatical availability at FSU compared to our colleagues at other research universities, but would end up tabling that issue this year.  We will certainly be raising it again next year.

 

Specifically, our revised negotiated salary package includes the following:


  • Promotion Increases hold at 12 percent and 15 percent for the top two ranks.
  • Performance Increases (across the board): 0.5 percent of current salary for virtually all faculty members.
  • Departmental Merit: 1.75 percent of the salary base committed to the departmental merit pool.
  • Deans’ Merit: 0.35 percent of the salary base is committed to the dean’s merit pool.
  • Sustained Performance Increase: 3 percent of current salary for both regular and specialized faculty in the top rank who qualify based on sustained performance evaluation or comparable criteria.
  • Specialized Faculty Performance Increase: An additional 1 percent of current salary for specialized faculty only.
  • Market Equity adjustments for General Faculty (assistant professors, associate professors, professors and eminent scholars): We devised  metric that compares individual FSU faculty salaries to Oklahoma State University’s annual national survey of average faculty salaries at public universities, with adjustments for years in rank and to preserve the amount of merit pay faculty members have received over the past ten years.  A total of $2 million will be distributed, with a cap of $10,000 each. These increases will go to approximately 550 UFF-represented faculty members at FSU.

 

UFF-FSU at FSU New Faculty Orientation
Pictured (L to R): Matthew Lata (UFF-FSU president, Michael Buchler (UFF-FSU bargaining team) and Tom Wazlavek (UFF Field Service staff) 


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