UFF News & Views September 2017




Welcome Back | Dr. Elizabeth Davenport and Catherine Leisek to lead UFF | UFF-UF Oppose White Supremacist Speaker | 


Florida Polytechnic University | State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota | UFF-FAMU


Palm Beach State College | United Faculty of Florida-Tallahassee Community College | GAU AcademyUF GAU

Welcome Back!


UFF hopes that each of you had a fulfilling summer and you begin the 2017-18 academic term fresh and relaxed. UFF begins this academic year with over 7000 members for the first time ever. In fact, UFF membership exceeded 7,400 at the end of the 2016-17 term. That was an almost 8% increase over the previous year. Thanks to all our members for this success!

The officers and staff of UFF encourage each member to ask another colleague to join UFF so we can continue growing not only in membership but also in advocacy for the best interests of higher education in Florida.

Finally, UFF First Vice President Catherine Leisek, Past UFF President Jennifer Proffitt, and Past President of UFF-UNF John White were published in the Winter 2017 NEA “Thought and Action”. Leisek’s artwork also adorns the cover.

The link to John and Jennifer’s article is this:



The link to the article with Catherine’s contribution is this:



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Dr. Elizabeth Davenport and Catherine Leisek to lead UFF


Dr. Elizabeth Davenport from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University assumed the office of United Faculty of Florida president August 15. Davenport was elected as the group’s president in the spring of 2017. Catherine Leisek from Broward College assumed her duties of first vice president also on August 15.  Davenport and Leisek were elected to two-year terms.

Dr. Elizabeth Davenport
Catherine Leisek
Vice President


Dr. Davenport said: “I am truly humbled by the opportunity I have been given to represent Florida’s faculty and for the support I received from all corners of the state.  Florida’s higher education system is one of the most important public institutions we have, and I am determined to work with thousands of other faculty members to make sure we have the resources, the policies and the tools we need to provide the best possible education for our students and to conduct the highest quality research that Floridians can be proud of.  I look forward to increasing our efforts at all levels of policymaking, from electing the best candidates for public office to working with the governor, Legislature, Board of Governors, the State Board of Education and all of the trustees across the state.”


Ms. Leisek said, “I am excited with the prospect of serving UFF and its members as first vice president. In these challenging times, it is of extreme importance to view the issues facing higher education in Florida’s universities and colleges in context to what is unfolding on both state and national levels while safeguarding and advocating for the best interest of students and faculty.”


Dr. Davenport is a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling at Florida A&M University (FAMU) and the author of more than 50 articles, chapters, and proceedings papers, and the successful chair of more than 20 dissertations. Her research interests are K–12 teaching and learning, African-centered education, the integration of technology in K–12 classrooms, educa­tional and constitutional law and educational policy.


Catherine Leisek is a full-time professor in the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Broward College and has served in that capacity since 1996. She is also an internationally exhibited, and published artist whose work deals primarily with political and social justice issues

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UFF-UF Oppose White Supremacist Speaker

By Paul Ortiz, Vice President

On Saturday, August 12th, University of Florida President Kent Fuchs sent out a message informing our campus of a possible visit of white supremacist Richard Spencer to UF on September 12th. UFF-UF immediately went to work drafting a letter requesting that the university cancel or not schedule Spencer’s visit.

We based our letter on our Collective Bargaining Agreement, which requires the administration of our university as well as the Board of Trustees to:

  1. Protect faculty from attacks on our academic freedom
  2. Protect faculty from those who wish to discriminate against us, and
  3. Ensure at all times a safe working environment.

Graduate Assistants United-UF worked with us to draft the letter, and we drew upon the wisdom of our members, many of whom have legal expertise in matters pertaining to labor law. The letter was created in a spirit of coalition as UF students as well as residents who live near campus contacted us with concerns for their personal safety in the wake of the horrific violence inflicted by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier in the month. Numerous community-based organizations contacted us as well as the president’s office at UF with their concerns.

We sent the joint UFF-UF and GAU-UF letter to President Fuchs on Monday afternoon, August 14th. The following day, Dr. Fuchs sent a campus-wide message announcing that UF had decided to deny the “National Policy Institute’s request to rent event space at the University of Florida.”

The success we achieved is owed to our ability to work in closely with unionists from GAU-UF as well as our members’ desire to work in solidarity with community organizations. Above all, we based our opposition to the potential Spencer visit on the contract language of our Collective Bargaining Agreement and the legal responsibility of our employer to provide a safe workplace at all times. Thank heavens for the union and solidarity forever!

Link to the UFF-UF/GAU-UF letter here: http://www.uff-uf.org/uff-uf-and-gau-uf-urge-cancelation-of-white-supremacist-speaker-at-uf/

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Florida Polytechnic University

By Richard Matyi, President


The newly-minted Florida Polytechnic chapter of the UFF has been establishing its presence at our growing institution. Last spring our Executive Committee was voted in by the membership of bargaining unit, and our major committees (Bargaining, Grievance, and Membership) are all up and running. The negotiations for our first collective bargaining agreement are now underway, with regular meetings scheduled through the current Fall semester. Many thanks to Candi Churchill for guiding us through this process! Meanwhile, we are actively reaching out to our newly-arrived faculty through both one-on-one discussions and an upcoming UFF social hour. We are all very busy as we grow the Florida Poly chapter – but that is nothing novel to those of us here at the newest member of the SUS system.


Members of the Executive Council and the major committees of the Florida Poly chapter of the UFF”. First row (L to R): Patrick Luck, Myles Kim, Amanda Bruce; Second row: Rich Matyi, Chris Coughlin; Third row: Wylie Lenz

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State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota

By Courtney Ruffner, President


On Wednesday, August 16, 2017, members of the State College of Florida UFF chapter assembled to launch their first executive meeting before the semester got underway. The board of the UFF-SCF chapter met first to line up semester activities and strategize regarding membership drives and Grievance committee training. A short meeting followed where the board welcomed negotiators and committee chairs to join discussing new academic year ideas. Finally, the evening culminated in a two-hour social for union chapter members. It’s always a productive and great time at Motorworks Brewery in Bradenton where the meetings and social were held.


(left to right around the table):Hyun Kim (Senator and Negotiator), Jeff LaBorda (Grievance Comm.), Jenny Bieselin (Negotiator), Kristen Zaborski (Treasurer), Bill Culver (Negotiator), Franc Auld (Grievance Comm.), Jeff Grieneisen (Senator), Courtney Ruffner Grieneisen (President), Mara Casado (Grievance Comm.)

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By Michelle Mitcham


FAMU has hit the ground running, guns blazing, in steady pursuit of increasing membership, engagement activities and increasing the union’s branding and visibility. We have done so through strategic planning, increasing our presence and being intentional with efforts for recruitment. This summer the UFF-FAMU membership team and president, designed and ordered new polo shirts for the executive board; one orange and one black, all wearing the same color on the same day. Additionally, UFF-FAMU ordered a new matching table cover, which was used for all pre-planning week events, which was noticed by FAMU Interim President Larry Robinson, who included remarks about both in his opening statements addressing the entire university.  

Summer membership efforts began with developing new membership advertisements with logo and graphics, for each communication need, such as “sorry we missed you” or “thank you for considering the union and reviewing the literature” and several more. Co-VP’s of membership, Drs. Vanessa Pitts Bannister and Michelle Mitcham canvassed across campus, setting up table with refreshments in centralized areas to attract the summer faculty and staff, increasing presence.


During pre-planning week, the UFF-FAMU sponsored a luncheon for the FAMU Developmental Research School (DRS), which was a huge success, generating double digit memberships. Dr. Davenport addressed the faculty and staff and expressed her appreciation for their support and discussed what the union does for them. The union also had a table set up the entire pre-planning week with several officers, senators and members volunteering to sit at table and field questions from members and non-members.


The UFF-FAMU hosted a successful evening dinner and mingle at the local vegetarian restaurant, Nefertari’s. Guests enjoyed organic delicacies, wine, beer and prizes for all. The event attracted approximately 50 guests, who mingled for an evening of fun and laughter, resulting in excitement about the union and several new memberships. Community engagement was successful in supporting this event with UFF-FAMU President and Membership VP’s reaching out to local restaurants to sponsor prizes. BJ’s, Early’s Kitchen, Sakura Sushi generously offered over 500 coupons and gift certificates.


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Palm Beach State College

By Nick Larocca, President

The Palm Beach State College chapter is pleased to announce it has ratified a new contract.  The contract includes many highlights, including 4% – 8% pay raises for all faculty, depending upon years of service, as well as pay increases by stipend of $250 for each summer course taught and a travel stipend for faculty who teach in our western communities.  Additional highlights include a revitalized rank system for instructional faculty, making the MFA and similar non-doctorate terminal degrees’ criteria for promotion from Associate Professor to Professor 1, with a concurrent pay increase, and making all doctorate degrees, including the JD and MD, criteria for promotion to our top rank of Professor III, with a concurrent pay increase.  We have passed, as well, a new rank system distinctly designed for PSAV faculty, creating four levels, PSAV Instructor 1 – 4, with concurrent pay increases, featuring a combination of industry and academic achievements as criteria.  We have also passed a new intellectual property clause authored by one of our senators and negotiating team members, Mark Jones.  We believe it is a very fine addition to our contract.  We are deeply grateful to our entire bargaining team and especially our chief negotiator, Tracy Ciucci, for the exceptional work this contract represents. In recruitment news, we were successful at recruiting 33 of 48 new faculty on the day of orientation, August 17, and an additional 4 faculty on the day of convocation, August 21.

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United Faculty of Florida-Tallahassee Community College

By Sue Bickford, Membership chair and chapter secretary


In early April of last year (2016) Tallahassee Community College (TCC) successfully voted for United Faculty of Florida (UFF) representation. 87% of the faculty participated in the vote, and of these, 86% voted in favor of unionization.  The unionization effort came after the administration laid out a proposal that would drastically alter faculty pay and working conditions for the worse. This proposal came late in the spring term. It was handed down to and delivered by Deans using separate PowerPoint presentations with misleading data, questionable conclusions, and spliced portions of Florida statutes. Despite repeated requests, faculty were denied electronic copies of the presentations for nearly two weeks, while in the meantime the PowerPoints had been provided to members of the news media. Yet resourceful fast-thinking faculty had managed to take pictures of the presentation screens with their cell phones so they could challenge the data.


A union card campaign began almost immediately. Within two weeks, yellow stacks of cards had arrived, and our first 21 signees came at a union social.  The tops of the cards indicated a desire to hold a union vote.   The bottom half of the cards indicated a pledge to join membership upon a successful vote. I could not keep up with the request for these cards.  Just as quickly as I procured a new stack they seemed to magically disappear, as faculty could not wait to sign them.  Our urgency stemmed from a desperate desire to maintain status quo before the administration could begin carrying out plans that would radically change our earnings, plummeting many faculty and their families into difficult situations.    


The vote came swiftly, and our emphatic conclusion of a 139-22 reverberated through the halls of our campus. Faculty rejoiced that their working conditions had been preserved.  TCC has remained at status quo the last year and a half, as negotiations are ongoing. The ability to stem the tide of adverse changes has not been lost on both older and newer faculty. Early in the fall term UFF-TCC President Jen Robinson sent an email to all faculty and attached a side-by-side comparison of what UFF-TCC proposed last year and what the administration is offering.  UFF-TCC is asking for reasonable and plausible working conditions, and hopes to ultimately negotiate terms that benefit its faculty and students.


At the time of the successful union vote, our membership was just over 50% and now we are approaching 75%!  We grew 3% in the last couple of weeks after the side-by-side comparison was made public.  Some of the new growth has come from new faculty who understand that their future is brighter with union representation.  Some has come from reluctant older faculty who now understand that they cannot rely on purely advisory forms of shared governance to take care of faculty interests.   

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GAU Academy


(Left to Right) Ashley Payne (FAMU GAU), Krystal Williams (FAMU GAU President), and Jennifer Adams (FSU GAU Vice President)

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By Mary Roca, Co-President


We have had a very exciting few months at the University of Florida chapter of Graduate Assistants United. At the conclusion of the past spring semester, we were able to resolve issues regarding student and dependent health care coverage, and came to a mutual agreement with UF administration to secure the preexisting GatorGradCare system as a robust, low-cost health insurance which is guaranteed for the next 3 years.  Over the summer, we've been bargaining our full contract and are finally down to the last article, specifically that concerning stipends and raises. We look forward to completing negotiations soon. This fall, we have had major success with membership, accumulating 160 new members and counting through our efforts at new student orientation. These new members come from many different departments across the university, thus broadening our reach and presenting a united front as graduate students at the University of Florida. We have also officially established a Childcare Committee, designed to address the needs of our graduate assistants with families to support. A current initiative of this new committee includes expanding access to childcare subsidies for Graduate Assistant parents. We look forward to continuing to see this committee establish itself even more and evolve, providing a voice for the many Graduate Assistants with families at the University of Florida. We also intend to continue our advocacy for Graduate Assistants and the many issues they face in other facets of the graduate student experience.


Mary Roca, Alyssa Hunziker, and Nick Dzoba tabling for GAU at the Graduate Student Resource Fair  UF-GAU’s rally to protect Gator Grad Care

Rebecca Pethes, chair of the childcare committee and co-chair of the mental health committee, and her daughter Isobel

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