All ballots will be counted publicly Thursday morning, January 14, 8:30 am, in EDU 380 (Psych and Social Foundations departmental conference room), and all faculty and professional employees in the bargaining unit, whether UFF members or not, are welcome to help and observe.
LAYOFFS AT FLORIDA STATE
With unrestricted net assets of nearly $ 313 million, Florida State University would seem to be able to weather even the $ 57 million cut its board faced last summer. The expected economic recovery is expected to be slow, but with Florida business community becoming increasingly nervous about missing the globalization boat, this would seem to be the time appeal to the faculty – and their representatives, the Faculty Senate and the UFF – to help position FSU to ride the recovery into the next decade.
Instead, FSU is laying off 62 faculty. In fact, FSU is laying off 35 tenure line faculty, including 21 tenured faculty, ten of them from the sciences. Departments are disappearing: Geological Sciences, Meteorology, and Oceanography are being merged (after losing many faculty) and chunks of Anthropology are being discarded. This decision does not appear to be based on need (Florida has major geological, meteorological and oceanographic issues) or quality (according to Science magazine, Oceanography just got a "glowing" external review). The rationale presented by the administration boiled down to student credit hours, with FSU Arts & Sciences Dean Joseph Travis telling Science magazine that "Sciences never pay for themselves ... There’s always a subsidy arrangement," but that in hard times, "the subsidy gets harder to find."
Meanwhile, searches for new faculty hires are underway, and has announced plans to hire about a hundred new faculty. "It is hard to escape the conclusion that the budget crisis has been used as a pretext for academic restructuring," concluded the UFF, which filed a grievance; the FSU Administration prevailed in Step One and Step Two, and the UFF is now moving the matter to arbitration.
The FSU Chapter of the UFF is also moving on publicity fronts.
With all this going on, President T. K. Wetherell did appeal to the FSU Chapter of the UFF, saying that the UFF grievance on layoffs was misdirected, and instead UFF should help him lobby Tallahassee for more money. Wetherell did not say what he would do if he got more money, and that question points to one of the oddest aspects of the entire situation.
- The Chapter conducted a survey of members in December of 2008 to ask faculty what should be done, and 62 % preferred furloughs and pay reductions. Only 21 % went with layoffs. The annual 2009 UFF poll of FSU faculty showed that 13 % were "satisfied with the way things are going at FSU" (as opposed to 40 % in 1999), and 33 % rated the performance of the President of FSU as poor or unacceptable (as opposed to 22% in 1999).
- Such cuts raise the issue of how the FSU Administration is spending the money it has now, and the FSU Chapter posted a study of personnel expenditures from the academic year 2002 – 2003 to the academic year 2007 – 2008. They found that the number of Administrative and Professional (A & P) employees had increased 43.4 % while the number of 9-month faculty had increased 8.1 %. A & P employees did not do as well on raises, though: the average annual increase in spending per person was 2.1 % for A & P and 2.9 % for 9-month faculty. For comparison, the corresponding increase was 1.3 % annually for staff, and 5.0 % annually for deans.
- The Chapter invited Matthew W. Finkin, the Albert J. Harno & Edward J. Cleary Professor of Law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – and a long-term activist in the American Association of University Professors – to talk about the question, "Should Tenure Be Tenuous?" Professor Finkin talked about the history of using "financial exigency" to justify laying off faculty, and noted that sometimes it is just an excuse, quoting a president of Brown University who said, "Speaking now as an administrative officer, it is much easier for me to say 'no' to a man by pleading the exigencies of the budget than by denying a request on the merits." Finkin noted that the courts are increasingly skeptical of the power of tenure in itself to protect academic freedom or prevent dismissal [which is why we need contracts spelling out said protection and prevention].
As Finkin observed, it is not unusual for administrator to see opportunity in a crisis, and to use the crisis to justify cuts that remake the university. But Wetherell is retiring, to be succeeded by Eric Barron, a nationally-known researcher in oceanography (remember those "glowing" reviews of FSU's department?), which is one of the science programs being gutted. Barron might legitimately see such sweeping cuts as a massive fait accompli, with toxic relations with the faculty as an unwelcome chaser, so it is hard to see what the Administration and the Board are doing.
Of course, the Administration could be attempting such a makeover in the midst of a succession. Or it could simply be desperation and a lack of vision combining to create a catastrophic failure in leadership: it's happened before – down the road, in FAMU. Either way, FSU may well be in danger of foundering in the storm.
BAD NEWS: USF PROPOSES LAYOFF ARTICLE LANGUAGE THAT GUTS TENURE
At the November 20, 2009, collective bargaining session, the Trustees put a proposal on the table that would undermine tenure, and the UFF-USF bargaining team rejected it. At the end of the January 15, 2010, session, the Trustees' team put forward a second proposal on layoffs and deferred a formal presentation until the next session. But the bargaining team has the language, and so do you –
it is available on-line along with the Trustees' November 20 proposal and all of the proposals that the UFF-USF team put on the table January 15.
At this point, the chapter's bargaining team has not heard the reasons why the Trustees want to change the layoff article, and if the point is not to gut tenure, there may be ways to satisfy the Trustees' needs without compromising our academic principles. Here is the core of the bargaining team's concerns: in the current language of the layoff provisions (Article 13), the University must declare an organizational unit as a layoff unit. They cannot cherry-pick individual faculty or small groups – no layoff unit such as "the odd-numbered doors on the third floor of Cooper." That is what the arbitration at UF last year was about: UF President Bernie Machen tried to call a Vietnamese language assistant professor a layoff unit of one, though "Vietnamese language" did not appear on any organizational chart of the University of Florida. The arbitrator agreed completely with the United Faculty of Florida that the language of the contract prohibited that sort of cherry-picking for layoff purposes.
The language proposed by the Trustees would eliminate that restriction. The layoff language proposed by the Trustees would allow the Trustees to identify "a research specialty, program, group, or project" as a layoff unit, below the level of a department or other organizational unit. All active researchers at USF have research specialties, and part of the way we earn tenure and promotion is by demonstrating the special contributions of our research to our respective fields. If this language were in the contract, the more you were on the frontier of your field, the greater would be your risk of being declared a layoff unit of one. This language penalizes singular professional achievements by making uniqueness of one's research a justification for being declared a layoff unit of one employee.
If put in the contract, this language would undermine the values that both the faculty and the administration claim. Part of the role of the United Faculty of Florida is to preserve shared academic values, and the bargaining team will not agree to language that its members think will undermine the future of USF.
In part because of the November 20 proposal and in part to promote better awareness of bargaining, the chapter is now
posting a list of bargaining proposals on-line – you can
ask questions about bargaining anonymously.
UFF AND GAINESVILLE TENTATIVELY AGREE ON A CONTRACT
After four years (seven if one counts preliminary jousting), the UFF and BOT Bargaining teams at the University of Florida have finally tentatively agreed on a Collective Bargaining Agreement.
After Governor Jeb Bush (with Speaker John Thrasher) reorganized the State University System, the new boards of trustees resisted recognizing the United Faculty of Florida as the Collective Bargaining Agent (i.e., the union) for the universities. The fiercest resistance came from the University of Florida's board, which had to be dragged into court. After UFF won that joust, bargaining started in 2005.
Last fall, after about four years of bargaining, the UFF declared "impasse", which meant that proposals from both sides would be presented to a Special Master. That did not mean that bargaining had to stop, and on Monday, January 11, the two chief negotiators signed a proposed contract that will now be presented to the UFF-UF Bargaining Unit and to the UF Board of Trustees for ratification. If ratified by both parties, the University of Florida faculty and professionals will finally have a contract.
October 22 Biweekly, we saw walkouts throughout the University of California system protesting budget cuts, tuition hikes, and other actions of the UC Administration.
UC faculty are not represented by any unions, and are thus subject to furloughs at will. However, many California state employees are represented by unions, and an attempt by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to impose furloughs of three days a month was rebuffed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch, who ordered the Governor to stop furloughing workers represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges, and Hearing Officers in State Employment (CASE), and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists.
Reactions were mixed. Schwarzenegger's press office vowed to appeal and said that the issue will ultimately be decided by the California State Supreme Court. California State President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg said that the Governor should bargain "a rational labor agreement." But the President of the California SEIU worried that the Governor might prefer to try layoffs over negotiations.
Actually, the Governor preferred to change the subject, and on January 5, he proposed a pair of state constitutional amendments that would prohibit the state from spending more on prisons than on universities. "... thirty years ago, ten percent of the general fund went to higher education, and three percent went to prisons," Schwarzenegger told the legislature. "Today, almost eleven percent goes to prisons, and only 7.5 percent goes to higher education." Schwarzenegger's chief of staff said that the proposal was at least partly inspired by student protests, and UC President Mark Yudof enthused, "This is a bold and visionary plan that represents a fundamental restoration of the values and priorities that have made California great." But the California Correctional Peace Officers Association have promised a fight.
However heartening these amendments may sound, the immediate problem is a $ 60 billion deficit. As Schwarzenegger is term-limited out this year, it will be his successor who inherits the mess. Some of the problems are past constitutional amendments, including one that requires that the budget be supported by a sixty percent majority in the legislature: since California's districts are so heavily gerrymandered that many legislators prefer to take extreme positions, sixty percent is a very difficult bar to reach. But this central problem may change soon, for in 2008, California voters approved a Voters FIRST Act, under which a Citizens' Redistricting Commission draws the district lines. After the census, the CRC will draw new lines, and it will be interesting what effect the new districts have on the legislature.
In the meantime, three unions are enforcing the contractual rights of state employees.
AFSCME IN IMPASSE: THE SPECIAL MAGISTRATE RECOMMENDS...
A special magistrate recommended a resolution of the current impasse in bargaining (on salary and other issues) between the staff union AFSCME and the USF Board of Trustees (BOT). For salary, the recommendation is for a compromise to distribute approximately the amount that the BOT proposed, using approximately the distribution that AFSCME proposed. This is only a recommendation, and now comes the tricky part: is the recommendation an acceptable compromise?
The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees represents over 1,600 staff employees at USF. AFSCME was one of the primary targets of Governor Bush's reorganization of the State University System in 2003, and AFSCME had to fight to get recognition as the collective bargaining agent for staff at USF in 2005. It took three more years before AFSCME and the BOT ratified a three-year contract in 2008.
Like the contract between UFF and the BOT, certain articles of the contract between AFSCME and the BOT are "reopened" every year. In particular, salary. In 2008, despite President Genshaft's statement that "Monetarily recognizing our employees is one of our core principles and top priorities," the only raise in 2008 was a one-time bonus. "I’m unhappy that we still didn’t get a comprehensive paid plan," said AFSCME-USF President Bill McLelland, who told the Oracle in 2008 that the main focus of the agreement had been salaries.
Salary is a problem for staff at USF, for base rate raises – as opposed to one-time bonuses – are quite rare while the Cost of Living has increased about 29 % in the last ten years. In its presentation to the special magistrate, AFSCME contended that USF pay scales for comparable positions were below that of local employers, that some staff employees were unable to afford health insurance, and that in a recent survey, 95 % of staff responding said that they worked overtime to pay bills that would otherwise go unpaid. There is little doubt that many staff are trapped in a financial sandwich.
In 2009, articles of the contract were reopened, and after bargaining got stuck, AFSCME declared impasse. AFSCME's proposal was for one-time bonuses ranging from $ 1,000 to $ 2,000, while the BOT's proposal was for one-time bonuses ranging from $ 500 to $ 1,000.
Also on the table was the method of distributing bonuses. For years, the BOT has been pushing using performance to determine raises, and for years AFSCME has been resisting. A major part of the reason for AFSCME's skepticism is the way performance is currently measured.
Although the BOT called their proposal "a merit based bonus system", it more closely resembles the discretionary pay systems (plural!) that faculty experience during the Administration's random seizures of generosity. Staff performance is evaluated by supervisors who need no training in evaluating performance, and who are not required to turn in performance evaluations anyway, and if they do feel both conscientious and rushed they can turn in a "short" form that tends to give the employee last year's evaluation. Adding to the dissatisfaction is evidence that staff evaluations are peculiarly low in comparison to evaluations of their superiors: AFSCME got hold of some information on the Physical Plant and Parking Services, and found that only 12 % of that staff were "exemplary", while 55 % of the supervisors were and 79 % of the administrators were.
No custodial workers, groundskeepers, cashiers, mail clerks, or maintenance & repair workers were exemplary, although USF is the proud employer of an exemplary bus driver.
All unions are very careful about performance evaluations. For example, UFF has long preferred the formal and transparent merit pay system, with its safeguards and checks and balances, over the variety show of discretionary fads that parade by with no discernible schedule. AFSCME was wise to be skeptical of a proposal reeking of so powerful a discretionary odor.
When impasse is declared, a special magistrate is called in to hear both sides and then compose a recommendation. This recommendation is not just a proposed compromise: a rejected recommendation leads to unpleasant legalities, and the recommendation is also partly a prediction of what will ultimately happen if the two sides fight it out. Thus a recommendation carries not only moral authority but also hardheaded realism.
The special magistrate agreed with the BOT that USF could not afford $ 3.2 million in bonuses this year, but the special magistrate was a bit nervous about USF's current performance evaluation system, and so proposed using AFSCME's distribution system, but with $ 1.2 million in bonuses.
For the short term, since the recommendation is part prophecy, it may be the best compromise available now. For the long term, this round of bargaining has not only reminded us of the dismal pay our staff receive – it has also exposed a dysfunctional performance evaluation system. The time has come for USF to clean up its act.
QUEER THEORY AND ACADEMIC FREEDOM AT USF
For the last few years, the USF Departments of Sociology (and Women's Studies) have offered a non-catalogue course on Queer Theory, taught by Professor Sara Crawley. LBGT populations – like medieval peasants, contemporary town government, and meteorites – are attracting more scholarly interest than they have in the past. And students have flocked to the course.
Like many professors (including this UFF-USF webmaster), Professor Crawley circulated ads with topical pictures to lead the eye to the promised content of the course. The email in the middle of the recent spat had five questions, beginning with "Are lesbian/ gay/ bisexual/ transgender (LGBT) new identities or have they always existed?" But some readers didn't get past the photo of a young fellow in a white hat, suspenders and white pants captioned, "Drag performance of local gender illusionist, 6pak, a physiologically unaltered female-bodied trans guy." A Dr. Richard Swier posted a copy under his January 5 column on Red County: see his column: notice that Dr. Swier jumped to the conclusion that there would be live performances in class.
Dr. Swier was not the only one who jumped to this conclusion. The Florida Family Association was founded in 1987 with the "goal of improving America's moral environment." The Accomplishments pages of their website is primarily concerned with advancing and enforcing a particular and somewhat narrow view of sexual morality, and their home page features a photo of the same local gender illusionist, with a link to a page stating that "The course promo states that there will be a 'Drag performance of local gender illusionist...'," and provides another link to a form which a visitor can use to send an email to "the President and other officials" of USF, with a short disapproving message in the form ready to send: see the page for emails.
Senior Vice Provost Dwayne Smith told the Faculty Senate on January 27 that USF had already received three thousand emails with this same text: the FFA does indeed have thousands of supporters.
"USF class exploring 'queer theory' riles conservative group" reported the St. Petersburg Times, which set up a poll asking respondents to choose between "No wonder the USA is becoming a second rate country," "USF has my complete support with this...," and "What a waste of time, fighting over this!" (submit your answer at the survey page). The USF Oracle editorialized that the ad was a bit over the top in
the January 20 issue.
Both administrators and faculty were largely supportive of academic freedom. Smith told the USF Oracle that "A very core value of the University is intellectual inquiry and often time intellectual inquiry involves courses, or topics, or subjects that plenty of people are really unhappy with or disagree with." The Oracle published A Statement on Academic Freedom by the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida from UFF saying that we are "part of an enterprise that explores the world and brings discoveries and ideas to our students and our community to be tested against evidence and unshackled debate," and that "It is our 'academic freedom' from shackles that makes this testing possible" (see pp. SSH-7 and SSH-8 of
the January 27 Oracle).
Since the course is not running drag shows, this entire affair may fizzle out. On the other hand, some political organizations require a steady schedule of performances of their own in order to stay in business, and the Florida Family Association's Accomplishments pages indicate a history of such steadiness. Eternal vigilance, said Wendell Philips, is the price of liberty.
AFSCME IMPASSE UPDATE
In Monday morning's student newspaper, the USF Oracle, there was an
article about the university's rejection of the neutral special magistrate's recommendation in the current impasse in bargaining between the university Board of Trustees and the staff union, local 3342 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME.
There are several issues at stake in the impasse. One is the basis for lump-sum bonuses – AFSCME proposed large bonuses to lower-salaried staff, and management proposed bonuses based on an evaluation process that was not bargained with AFSCME. The special magistrate recommended a total bonus pool equal to what management's proposal would cost but structured according to what AFSCME proposed (larger bonuses to those with lower salaries). The second issue concerns a number of terms and conditions of employment about overtime and leaves tied to regulations rather than contractual language. The old statewide AFSCME contract with the defunct Board of Regents identified BOR regulations as contractual terms and conditions of employment, and USF management wanted to eliminate those references.
The special magistrate recommendation favored the AFSCME position where the magistrate was convinced that the USF language was not just "cleaning up" anomalous language but a substantive change in terms and conditions of employment. The third issue comes from the way that USF management randomly picked Physical Plant staff to change shifts a number of months ago. AFSCME members were upset at the capricious shift changes and proposed a seniority system of shift-change preferences. The special magistrate recommended the adoption of AFSCME's proposal plus language that would allow USF managers to decide which staff were qualified for positions in different shifts.
USF management sent an e-mail out to staff on Friday after rejecting the special magistrate recommendations, and in response, this week AFSMCE distributed an e-mail from its president, Bill McClelland, available on
AFSCME 3342's new blog. In its e-mail to staff, USF management claimed that adopting the special magistrate's recommendation on references to the BOR regulations would wipe out any additional benefits from USF regulations currently being applied to staff that were not in BOR staff regulations. President McClelland’s response is that there is nothing in the recommendation or in the AFSCME contract’s current language that prohibits USF management from continuing the benefits mentioned in management’s e-mail.
There is one other simple fact about terms and conditions of employment placed in regulations as opposed to a bargained contract: nothing prohibits USF management from proposing to include those benefits in the AFSCME-USF contract.
The special magistrate’s recommendations are non-binding, and the understanding of UFF's state-level staff is that a Board of Trustees is required to eliminate all contact with its bargaining team on the substantive issues in the impasse until a public hearing, so that it can legally remain neutral … but the BOT’s bargaining committee is likely to impose what management recommends. Florida law gives the advantage to management in impasse so that in many cases, the governing board that supervises the bargaining team also has the authority to impose a settlement at the end of the impasse procedure.
(When management does not think it needs a waiver from the union on a mandatory subject of bargaining – i.e., a subject that management is required to negotiate by law or regulation – the primary power of the union is to organize against ratification of the imposed settlement. The reason is this: if the impasse resolution is not ratified, the imposed resolution lasts only to the end of the fiscal year. This means that bargaining on non-salary issues has to start from square one at the beginning of the next fiscal year.)
After an imposed settlement, as our statewide staff has explained the process, representatives of both sides then need to meet after imposition to draft contractual language that is then put up for ratification. In the case of an imposed settlement (different from a regularly-bargained tentative agreement), the union is free to organize against ratification of an imposed settlement. If the unit votes in favor of ratification, and the board also ratifies the language, the imposed settlement language becomes part of the binding contract that remains in effect until a contract agreement (or another imposed impasse resolution). If the unit does not ratify the language of the imposition, then the imposed settlement is in effect only until the end of the fiscal year. If employees in AFSCME’s unit at USF reject an imposed settlement, the main effect is primarily in the bonus, which is a one-time payment, and the other provisions would die on July 1.
If employees in AFSCME’s unit at USF ratify an imposed settlement and the BOT also ratifies it, then all the provisions of the imposition would continue past the end of the fiscal year.
A longer discussion of impasse proceedings is available at the
UFF-USF blog; and background is in the
previous Biweekly. As of yet, there is no date for the impasse hearing of the BOT.
TOWARDS A NEW FLORIDA
On Thursday, January 28, Governor Crist announced that "Economic development, an innovation economy and a knowledge-based economy: that's what the university system is all about." He was attending a meeting of the Board of Governors, which oversees the Florida State University System. While he was there to announce the reappointment of Vice Chair Ava Parker and the appointment of five new members – including former USF Board of Trustees Chair Richard Beard – the big news was the New Florida Initiative that he and SUS Chancellor Frank Brogan unveiled.
The news media concentrated on Crist's proposal of $ 100 million more for the universities this year (for a total of $ 3.6 billion), and with the current deficit in Florida's budget looking like three billion dollars, there was a lot of skepticism – especially since Crist was planning on getting the money from Seminole gambling (not a done deal), raiding trust funds and draining reserves (ditto), and optimistic forecasting. Senator Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned that "optimism doesn't pay the bills," while the Republican House Speaker designate, Dean Cannon, said that "You can't look at any budget item in a vacuum; they all impact all the other priorities."
But the real news was that this was to be the initial investment of a long-term commitment. As the announcement of the New Florida Initiative on the Board of Governors' web-page put it, "Florida’s economy is built upon the three-legged stool of agriculture, tourism, and growth. ... [this] existing three-legged stool needs a fourth leg that creates a more stable economic foundation and the capacity to thrive in the coming decades."
The need was outlined in that announcement (posted
< href="http://www.flbog.edu/new_florida/">on-line): Florida now ranks 45th among the states for per person personal income growth, 47th in the rate of growth in per person gross state product and services produced, and a tenth of all residents are on food stamps. Citing several examples of American cities and states developing their economies by investing in higher education, the announcement went on to project a number of perhaps overly specific expected outcomes by 2015 and 2030.
While most of the news coverage concentrated on the coming legislative session – or on Crist v. Rubio – some of the media is looking at New Florida and these seem to be supportive. But there is some skepticism on whether it will materialize. As the largely favorable
Palm Beach Post editorial concluded, "The New Florida Initiative sounds great. So have similar campaigns that died for lack of money."
So there must be another campaign for that money. Brogan wrote several columns (in, e.g.,
the Miami Herald and
the Tampa Tribune), one beginning, "The best action Floridians can take now to revive our state's economy is to invest in talent production through higher education." The Advisory Council of Faculty Senates resolved to support "the New Florida Initiative to create a new economy based on knowledge and innovation." Even individual universities are jumping in: University of North Florida President John Delaney broadcast a Campus Update asking recipients to contact legislators to voice support for New Florida.
UFF AND THE NEW FLORIDA
A funny thing happened last fall. The President of the (statewide) UFF was invited to speak at a summit meeting of the Council of 100 at FAU-Jupiter. The Council of 100 is one of Florida's leading business groups – formed nearly a half century ago to advise the state government – and while they have long pressed for supporting education, there was a new urgency in the sessions as participants used talking points UFF has been pushing for years.
That was the story UFF President Tom Auxter told when he opened the UFF (statewide) Senate meeting last weekend. Major business groups in Florida are no longer as obsessive about low taxes and are talking about energy inefficiency, water shortages, and similar systemic problems. Solving these problems will require academic support, not only in developing the underlying theory and designing solutions, but also in training the workers who will have to carry out the complicated business of retrofitting the current inefficient infrastructure.
And the in phrase is now "knowledge-based economy", a phrase that appears in the joint Council of 100 – Florida Chamber of Commerce perspective,
Closing the Knowledge Gap, posted before Brogan's announcement in USF, calling (among many other things) for a New Florida Initiative to double SUS funding.
Now comes the awkward part: who is going to pay for this knowledge-based economy? Especially when Florida is facing a $ 3 billion deficit and almost all state agencies (except education) were cut 10 % in the last legislative cycle and are now justifiably predicting disaster if there is another round of cuts. UFF will be formulating a message for the legislature that education, and particularly higher education, can provide the tools for building an economy for the Twenty-first century. And we will be asking fellow stakeholders – university administrations, faculty senates, university communities (including individual faculty and professionals like you) – to work together to tell the legislature that higher education can provide the tools Florida needs, but that in turn higher education needs sustained and reliable support in order to do its job.
THE FINANCIAL CRUNCH
UFF (statewide) President Tom Auxter has said that Florida does not have a budget crisis or a financial crisis so much as a failure to get its house in order. This failure was very much on display when Florida Education Association Public Policy Advocate Pat Dix reported that the Legislature faces a three billion dollar deficit. Last year, said Ms. Dix, the Legislature reviewed every tax exemption, and left them all in place. The budget was balanced (if that is the word) with stimulus dollars.
This year, there appear to be fewer stimulus dollars, the demands on the public purse are greater, and legislators are still fearful of even discussing taxes. This will be a rough session.
The 2009 – 2010 budget was $ 66.5 billion, including $ 21.3 billion for education, $ 26 billion for human services, $ 9.3 billion for natural resources & environmental & growth management & transportation, $ 5.3 billion for the judiciary and corrections, and $ 4.7 billion for running the government. Governor Crist is proposing a
$ 69.2 billion budget for 2010 - 2011, which would provide $ 21.5 billion for education from the state government; with other funds (e.g., from local government), Crist anticipates $ 32 billion for education altogether. The current estimate (guess?) is that revenue will fall about three billion dollars short, and since Florida must balance its budget, a number of observers claim that Crist's budget is too optimistic.
Even assuming a miracle, the long-range problem is a tight squeeze. The much-loopholed sales tax produces less revenue during recessions, while Crist and the Legislature have been reforming property taxes out of existence; local goverments that depend on property taxes are undermined and becoming increasingly dependent on the state. Meanwhile, projections last summer suggest that the recession will stabilize this year, and start turning around next year for towards a prolonged "recovery" lasting into 2012, but without many new jobs. And without new jobs, the demands on human services will continue, along with demands on education as young adults delay matriculation while their elders return to school.
This is the situation that the Legislature faces as UFF goes to Tallahassee.
FACING THE LEGISLATURE
At the USF-Tampa Faculty Senate meeting on February 24, UFF-USF Chapter President Sherman Dorn told the Senate that he would be "relieved" if university funding remained flat. Of course, just wishing it won't help, and UFF will be spending a lot of time in Tallahassee this spring, talking to legislators.
At the UFF Senate meeting over the February 13, 14 weekend, there were many appeals to become more involved. Florida Education Association Higher Ed Director (and former USF-UFF Chapter President) Roy Weatherford called for volunteers to participate in the FEA's candidate endorsement process, and FEA Public Policy Advocate Pat Dix outlined a program by which members of political action committees of individual chapters can build relationships with their local legislators. As UFF Executive Director Ed Mitchell told the UFF Senate, "There is not a whole lot we can do if we don't have a voice in Tallahassee." Political junkies at USF who are interested in building relationships are invited to contact our Political Action Committee chair,
Building relationships with legislators includes inviting them for dinner, and two legislators visited the UFF Senate banquet. Assemblyman Bill Heller, D-Pinellas, is a professor of special education at USF-St. Petersburg, and Assemblyman Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota & Manatee, is an associate professor of political science at New College.
Heller told senators that while the legislature is beginning to recognize that education has brought a lot of high tech to the states, the legislature was also toying with the idea of toying with tenure for K-12 teachers, and warned that if the legislature got away with it, university tenure would be next. Fitzgerald said that he was working on reforms to make the legislature more transparent (such as requiring that budget committee meetings be open to the public) and he warned that unless the operation of the legislature is reformed, higher education will eventually be hit. Both Heller and Fitzgerald stressed the importance of upcoming fall elections, when all legislative seats will be on the ballot, along with the governor's race, all cabinet seats, and the Fair Districts Initiative to take legislative districting out of the hands of the legislature.
The legislative session started on March 2, and cannot last more than sixty days. The UFF Senate spent some time on a particular message to hammer repeatedly, which was distilled into
six points. This is part of the FEA's Make Our Schools a Priority campaign
(launched last October by the FEA; see
the article on making education a priority and
how to make education a priority). In theory, we will know how it turns out on May 1, and during that time, UFF may ask members of the USF community to become involved and help communicate USF's needs and concerns to the legislature.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH
While UFF works in Tallahassee to bring home the bacon, UFF is bargaining and enforcing contracts at the chapter level.
Bargaining is underway at many places besides USF, but the big news was the 300-page contract that UFF got for the University of Florida. Items include full-pay parental leave, domestic partner benefits, protections against firing tenure-track faculty, protection against administration claims of ownership against copyrighted work, extension of academic freedom to service, community, and extra-mural activity (important since the U.S. Supreme Court Garcetti v. Ceballos decision is being used to undermine academic freedom outside of the classroom), moves a substantial part of governance down to the colleges and the departments, and makes appointment promises by administrators binding. The contract was a result of four years of bargaining, and UFF-UF Chief Negotiator Chris Snodgrass explained described his technique of implacable – and unflappable – patience.
Other universities were less fortunate. FAU is at impasse, while the UWF administration declared impasse and then undeclared impasse and somehow broke the law on declaring impasse. The FGCU administration is behaving very strangely, and UFF conducted a survey of FGCU faculty and found that forty percent were job-hunting.
Bargaining the contract is only half the job, for once the contract is ratified, the union has to make sure it isn't violated. UFF and university employees enforce contracts by filing grievances when contracts are violated. The initial "steps" of a grievance are at the university or college in question; after that comes formal arbitration, an expensive and risky third step. In addition, a direct violation of the law may be dealt with by an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) complaint filed with the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC), which is also expensive and risky.
UFF Executive Director Ed Mitchell discussed the number of arbitrations, ULPs, and other expensive contract enforcement proceedings the union was undertaking, and warned that boards of trustees were looking for new opportunities to cherry-pick targets for layoffs: UFF had just won the
layoff case at the University of Florida and now is fighting over
FSU's plan to dump over sixty people. Mitchell said that there were nineteen arbitration requests before the UFF Contract Enforcement Committee (which handles grievances statewide), and each arbitration costs from five to fifteen thousand dollars, not counting staff time. Now you know one place union dues go.
Part of it is the economy. Between February and September last year, the committee processed eight requests; between September last year and the UFF meeting, the committee processed twenty-six, meeting every Wednesday this year to clear the backlog (the committee consists of college and university faculty working as volunteers for UFF).
While hard times should bring people together, often they do not, and in Florida hard times are inspiring many administrations boards of trustees toward panic or predation, occasionally both. In dealing with panic or predation, there is something to be said for implacable patience.
As of early March, the Senate's budget numbers were better than those from the House, which allocated $ 718 million less for higher education than the Senate; the initial House allocation for the State University System was $268 million less than the Senate's. This week's committees gave more details, and for the SUS, the Senate's initial recommendation would boost Education & General (E&G) funding by 2.9% after tuition hikes:
SWAYING THE BUDGET-MAKERS
Politicians who want to stay in office pay attention to their constituents, but one thing that impresses them is when constituents go out of their way to contact them. The most impressive kind contact is the visit, for that means that the constituent feels strongly about the issue. But any kind of contact involving personal effort is taken seriously.
Even letters count. While form letters sent en masse via the XYZ site may be helpful; individual letters, both email and printed out, and phone calls count much more. Personal effort is a signal to a politician that you care about the issue. However, letters and phone calls are not visits, and they are largely compiled and digested by staff, who keep their bosses up to date.
If one decides to write a letter or make a call, what should one say? The first rule is: be short and civil. Like a letter to the editor, a letter (or call) should not be over two hundred words, it should focus on one thing, and it should be polite (addressing the politician by their official title). It helps if it stands out in some way, saying something falling within your personal knowledge. For example, if you want to convey the message that Neat Stuff Is Being Done At USF (So Please Don't Cut Our Budget), you can write about some neat stuff you (or your colleagues, or both) are up to. Keep in mind that "neat stuff" for legislators means undergraduate education, R & D for industry, or something with town-booster-type pizzazz, like finding a Viking boat in the keys. It should be written for laypeople and carefully proofread.
One important detail: do NOT use state equipment to lobby legislators. They don't like it and it's not legal. Use your home computer or personal phone.
During the current session – which will produce a budget by April 30 – the FEA or the UFF may appeal to the university community to contact legislators. In addition, the UFF Political Action Committee will be developing a program to reach out to legislators over the year, when legislators have more free time (and when the leadership is making plans for the next spring session).
We will maintain a Legislative Alert Page, on bills that impact the university community, especially faculty and university professionals. For example, the FEA staff have just sent us a heads up about a bill that would require anyone taking drop after 2011 to pay 1 % of gross salary into the Florida Retirement System, and reducing FRS pensions while increasing the required years of service. Details about the bill – and what the FEA recommends that you do about it – are posted on that page.
This is an election year, when all legislators are delighted to talk to constituents. If you would like to work with the UFF-USF Political Action Committee, contact the chair, Bob Welker, at RobertFWelker@aol.com. Remember, the only way to get the legislature to act sensibly is by concerted nagging.
THE BOT DECIDES IN FAVOR OF ... THE BOT'S ADMINISTRATION
On Monday, March 29, the Labor Committee of the Board of Trustees ruled in favor of the USF Administration on its impasse with the staff union.
To be precise, bargaining between the staff union – Local 3342 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) – and the USF Administration had been in "impasse", which meant that the two sides were stuck in bargaining the next contract and at least one side (in this case, AFSCME) requested a neutral outsider to recommend a resolution. (Background is provided in our previous article.)
The neutral outsider, or Special Master, heard both sides on December 17, and proposed a resolution (the Special Master's recommendations are posted on-line). If both sides found the Special Master's recommendations acceptable, they could have Tentatively Agreed on a contract based on those recommendations that would then have been presented to the staff and to the Board of Trustees for ratification.
After conducting a poll of the staff, AFSCME decided to accept the Special Master's recommendations. The USF Administration decided not to. At this point, there are three important observations:
According to Florida State Statute 447.403, if one of the two sides does not accept the recommendations of the Special Master, and they are still unable to agree on a contract, both sides are to present their arguments to a "Legislative Body", which decides what the resolution of the impasse is to be. This resolution becomes the contract to be presented to the staff and to the Board of Trustees for ratification. If ratified by both the staff and the Board, it becomes the contract for the next few years. If not ratified, it becomes the contract through the current fiscal year, ending June 30.
- While all the legal papers refer to the USF Administration as "the university" or as "USF", the Administration is not the university incarnate. The Administration – which bargains with AFSCME – is appointed by and is answerable to the Board of Trustees, and its statutory authority flows through the Board.
- Local 3342 of AFSCME represents the staff, and its leadership is elected by those staff who choose to pay dues.
- Thus for all practical purposes, bargaining was between designated representatives of the staff and designated representatives of the Board. These representatives of the staff and the Board presented their arguments to the Special Master, who in turn presented a compromise. The staff's representatives accepted the compromise while the Board's representatives did not.
Florida State Statute 447.203 says that the Legislative Body is the Board of Governors "or the board's designee." For some time now, the various boards have presumed that the Board of Governors can designate a board of trustees to act as the Legislative Body on an impasse between a union and that same board's representatives. Hey, this is Florida, and until there is a challenge to a conflict of interest such as this, we can expect public boards to take advantage of the current law when there is an impasse...
So the USF Board's Labor Committee heard arguments presented by its own representatives and by the opposing bargaining team and without further ado ruled in favor of its own representatives (see the minutes).
The next issue is ratification. In order to come into force for the next few years, the contract will have to be ratified by the staff, and by the Board of Trustees. If the contract is not ratified by both sides, it will come into force, but only until June 30. By then, bargaining under already toxic conditions should have commenced. And all other members of the university community will be watching, for AFSCME has documented that many staff are paid poverty wages).
A TOUR OF THE SAUSAGE FACTORY
by Greg McColm, UFF-USF Communications Chair
On Monday, March 8, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford held a press conference. At the podium with seven other teachers (Ford has taught at Catholic and public schools), he told two rows of journalists (and a battery of cameras) that Florida already had the legal machinery to remove ineffective teachers, and that a new bill threatened teachers in critical areas like math, science and special education.
Then journalists asked questions like, if administrators actually can get rid of problem teachers, then why don’t they? Ford said that if there was a problem, then administrators were not doing their jobs. After more Q & A, reporters rushed off to the next event as FEA staff turned to planning their next move, which they considered over lunch.
Monday lunch is sandwiches and soda pop – but unlike the UFF-USF Chapter, the FEA staff get cookies. Good ones. Your union dues at work.
The FEA's main building is a three story slice on South Adams Street, across from the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. The Florida Retail Association is down the street, while the Florida Association of Counties is around the corner. Scattered about are law offices of lobbyists, all serving the 22-story New Capitol building that dominates the Tallahassee skyline.
During the two-month legislative session, the staff puts in long hours pushing the FEA agenda and putting out fires. Among them is FEA's advocate for higher education, Pat Dix, a businesslike lady who has just arrived at FEA after lobbying for Hillsborough Community College.
During the legislative session, lobbying means visiting legislators. Actually, it usually means visiting legislative staff, for the schedule gets extremely hectic and legislators get stingy with their time. But legislators will see constituents, if only for a few minutes, so a lobbyist will happily guide a constituent through the capitol's labyrinth to see legislators. The priority depends on what's on the table, and the phrase echoing through the building is "the three billion dollar hole" (which the Legislature could mostly fill by eliminating sales tax exemptions, but that's another story). USF-UFF Chapter President Sherman Dorn has vowed to dance in the Faculty Senate if USF gets as much money as it did last year, and the FEA is lobbying to make this happen.
Since legislators (and their staffs) are used to special interest pleading (can we have money for this program and that building?), and since this is not a good year for special pleading, our lobbyist-with-constituent strategy was to tell legislators all the neat things USF is doing in both teaching (we have new initiatives to teach students better!) and research (we are developing the technology for Florida's future!), with the appeal to let us continue to do neat stuff.
There is opposition, and one major opposition tactic is...the distracting bomb threat. Much of FEA's energies were aimed at Senate Bill 6, proposed by Senator John Thrasher, R-Pieces of Five Coastal Counties, who called it a "hammer"; it's various incarnations are posted
on-line. Amidst the tests and measures and redefinitions and requirements is a tweak based on a curious anomaly of Florida education: Florida schoolteachers do not have tenure. That makes it easier to change laws on teacher appointments, and SB 6 would create a system of annual contracts in which schools could decline renewal without cause.
Exactly how granting administrators such sweeping discretion would improve teaching is unclear, but since it would undermine contracts across the state, FEA is fighting SB 6. Hence the Monday press conference, and hence the subsequent strategy session on SB 6 over sandwiches, soda pop, and cookies. It may be our turn next, for Representative Keith Fitzgerald warned the UFF Senate last February that if the legislature was successful in "reforming" teachers' job security, academic tenure would be next.
The goal of the Legislative leadership may be even more ambitious. Somehow a wish list on "High Performance Government" wafted out of House Speaker Larry Cretul's office, and I managed to get a copy. The very last item, under the heading "State Agencies Made Efficient", is: "Eliminate collective bargaining for non-public safety, non-public health employees." That means us.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE BARGAINING UNIT
I don't have an administrator's flair for flowery rhetoric at the end of the spring – the legislative session at this point is usually SNAFU, and this year is no exception – but there are some items to update everyone on. I'll give the one-line version first and then the longer explanation for each:
The expanded versions:
- Less nail-biting on state budget than last year (faint praise, yes, but praise).
- State declares that USF violates labor-relations law by not following settlement agreement.
- USF Trustees decline union offer of one-year extension to summer pay cap.
1. State budget situation "getting better" for this year, anyway (with luck, not the Monty Python version).
As the spouse of a math major, I'm not sure whether to jump or cry at the gambling pact the state made with the Seminoles, but one consequence is millions of dollars flowing into the state for each of the next five years. This addresses one of the large gulfs between the House and Senate budgets. The other big question mark in the Senate budget is whether and how the U.S. Congress finishes its work on supplemental aid to states for Medicaid in 2010-11. If the Congressional conference committee and then each chamber approves the aid, that will fill another huge gap of about a billion dollars. Yesterday (Tuesday), Florida Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander (R-Polk) suggested that this year's session might extend into an extra week because of the uncertainties about federal Medicaid funding.
For now, the higher education budget proposed by the Senate is considerably better than the House's in how it treats the entire state's higher ed funding. The statewide UFF does not generally take a position on individual budget items such as capital requests and focuses instead on general support for higher education, which for most in-unit members in a university is the "Education and General" funding for the state university system. The Senate's budget proposal would effectively give the system a slight boost in general revenues, if one includes the federal stimulus and the (still pending) state Medicaid boost.
One item to watch: Both chambers support an 8% increase in base tuition with the expectation that all universities will raise differential tuition another 7%. If there is a part of the higher ed budget that the governor might line-item veto, it might be the base tuition increase, and after the close of the session, I will almost certainly be encouraging everyone in the unit to contact the governor and ask him to sign the budget bill without vetoing anything in the higher ed budget.
2. State Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) rules that USF committed an unfair labor practice in not following grievance settlement.
In early March, the state labor-relations panel (PERC) issued a ruling declaring that USF had violated the state labor relations law in not following all of the provisions of a grievance settlement. The text of the ruling is
posted on line, and the notice, signed by the USF Counsel on behalf of the Board of Trustees of USF, informing employees that it broke the law is
posted on line. This is one of the cases where it is in management's long-term interest that it lost the case, and the PERC ruling explains why: most labor disagreements need to be resolved outside formal processes, and the only way that parties can make agreements is if they trust that an agreement will be honored. As the PERC ruling says, unions are not going to be willing to enter grievance settlements if they think that management will feel free to eat away at a settlement by noncompliance.
There is a second lesson from the ruling: this mess resulted from the lack of true governance mechanisms in the "USF system." The case from which this unfair labor practice arose involved a faculty member with a primary assignment at a smaller campus/institution, and the settlement item in question required a working relationship between administrators on the Tampa campus and on the smaller campus/institution. At least in this case, one part of that relationship failed, and I have heard individuals on either campus blame administrators on the other (or on their own) for the problem. This finger-pointing is a symptom of organizational dysfunction, but I expect it will continue at least until governance at USF stops resembling the Articles of Confederation.
Third: you probably didn't hear about the proceedings on the unfair labor practice complaint until you read it here. The union-management relationship at USF is sufficiently mature that we will work together on issues where we can reach agreement while disagreeing civilly about others. UFF has to work on a number of things in the background, and often they are drawn-out and expensive. The stolen-leave grievance required a year before the arbitration victory for the union last summer, and this unfair labor practice complaint took months in process. Union member dues go to the defense of employee rights, and these proceedings are supported by my dues and the dues of everyone else who is a UFF member. The union will not defend a non-member; one must join the union in order to become a member. If you are not currently a member, I urge you to join by heading to
the membership page.
3. Apparently, a summer pay cap was not the Trustees' highest priority in bargaining.
UFF and the Trustees have made a number of partial agreements in bargaining over the past year: these have implemented a domestic partner health insurance stipend program, created an early retirement incentive program, and set the phase-in for instructor promotion applications. The main collective bargaining agreement is still up in the air, however, and there is only one article on which the sides have tentatively agreed – another expansion in the fully-paid, one-semester sabbatical slots. UFF has put proposals on the table for every article; the USF Trustees withdrew their salary proposal a few months ago, and there is still one article they have not mentioned at all. For this calendar year's sessions, you can read all of the proposals
Last Friday, the UFF bargaining team proposed a package that would address most of the outstanding issues: give 9% promotion raises for all promoted employees plus flat bumps for tenured faculty and librarians (that is current contractual language); grant the university continuing discretion to give small bonuses for specified awards and reasonable base raises for Distinguished University Professor recognition (new); give the university one additional year of summer teaching pay caps while setting a condition that class sizes do not balloon in summers; allow the implementation of the above immediately upon ratification of a Memorandum of Understanding; and hold almost all of the rest of the contract stable (except for salaries and the expiration of the contract itself, both of which would be negotiated after we have a better sense of next year's budget).
The Trustees' team countered with a similar proposal except for some technical differences on summer pay and substantial differences in the promotion language. The Trustees want to hike the promotion bump for tenured faculty to 12% (that sounds good until you read the rest of this sentence!) ... but give promoted instructors only a 6% raise. The difference between a 6% promotion raise and a 9% promotion raise for 40 instructors is about $70,000 in cash (and under $100,000 if you include benefits). This is not about the money; the Trustees do not understand that they need to value the instructors more than their proposal indicates. They may not understand all of the programs that rely on instructors. They may not have crunched the numbers to compare the raises that would be given to the first wave of promoted instructors to the actual raises given tenured and librarian faculty in fall 2009. UFF's proposal on promotions leads to lower raises for instructors because of the lower base salaries for instructors and the absence of a flat bump on top of 9%. And if we negotiate discretionary raise authority as part of the salary article, the Trustees can grant newly-promoted faculty additional raises. So how much inequality do the Trustees want?
Here's what the Trustees probably gave up to hold to their last position on promotions: a summer salary cap. The UFF bargaining team will be happy to come to the table at a time of mutual convenience, but ratifying an agreement takes a week or two at a minimum, and the start of the summer contract is in early May. The bargaining team estimates that the Trustees saved approximately $150,000 last summer from the cap, or more than the difference between the two sides' last proposals on instructor promotions. As I wrote above, the Trustees' promotion proposal is not about the money, and we think it is not in the university's long-term interest.
What happens next? Until there is an agreement, the existing provisions of the 2008-09 contract continue, including the current language on promotions (9% for all promoted employees, plus the flat bumps for tenured and library faculty). Given the incremental agreements through Memoranda of Understanding, the UFF team is confident that the two sides can continue to work productively on the remaining issues that separate the parties.
STAFF OVERWHELMINGLY VOTE AGAINST BOT'S CONTRACT
Last Friday, USF staff voted against ratifying contract language containing terms and conditions dictated by the Labor Committee of the Board of Trustees. 82% of the votes were against ratification of the language that is now the choice of the Board of Trustees but not the staff. As a result, the terms and conditions dictated by the Labor Committee at the end of the impasse process are now imposed for the remainder of this fiscal year (ending June 30), but the staff's rejection of the imposed resolution means that the language dies on July 1, and the terms and conditions of employment will then return to the status quo ante – the conditions before impasse was declared. The end of the impasse process was a victory for the staff union, with an overwhelming majority voting for the union's position. Nonetheless, the whole process entails moral, morale, and political consequences that could bedevil USF for years to come.
This predicament arose last fall, when the staff union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, declared impasse in its negotiations with the Board of Trustees. What that meant was that on certain issues, AFSCME believed bargaining was stalled, and that it would be best if a neutral outsider, a Special Master, heard both sides and proposed a compromise.
A Special Master heard representatives of AFSCME and the Board of Trustees present their positions and supporting arguments. Then the Special Master presented
a compromise. The compromise was non-binding, and while AFSCME accepted it (after conducting a poll of staff),
the Board did not.
If either side rejects the recommendations of the Special Master, then the "Legislative Body" (under current law, the Board of Trustees) imposes a resolution on the disputed items and the resulting language is presented to both sides for ratification. What happened with the AFSCME-management impasse is that the Labor Committee of
the Board of Trustees agreed completely with management's proposal at the hearing.
It is the resulting contractual language containing the Labor Committee's resolutions that has just been rejected. But the Labor Committee's decisions are still in force for staff for the rest of the fiscal year.
One complicating factor was that some of the disputed items have to do with performance evaluations and rewards, and part of AFSCME's argument was that these were not being handled competently. The value of performance evaluations is being questioned by business experts; for example, Samuel Culbert, UCLA Professor of Human Resources & Business Behavior, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "the overriding message is that the boss's assessment is really about whether the boss 'likes' you, whether he or she feels 'comfortable' with you. None of this is good for the company..."
Bring that together with AFSCME's complaints that supervisors had no training conducting evaluations and that there were no requirements that evaluations even be conducted, and one result is an impression that AFSCME was raising serious managerial issues that the Board was not addressing. It would seem that the issues AFSCME raised affect USF's capacity to function, and therefore deserve greater attention and consideration from the Board.
THE WHEELS OF DUE PROCESS TURN SLOWLY
Justice delayed is justice denied, complained William Gladstone, but the law is often slow, and that is why there is an advantage to those who patiently stand their ground and have the material support to stand their ground. The United Faculty of Florida has just won a case before the state body regulating public unions and collective bargaining, concerning noncompliance with a grievance settlement, that underlines the point that the USF Board of Trustees, and the USF Administration they empower, is obliged to abide by all agreements that they sign. And this case also shows that UFF can win when the law is on the UFF's side – and when the union stays the course.
A "grievance" is a complaint that the Collective Bargaining Agreement – the contract bargained by the UFF and the Board of Trustees – has been violated. Typically, a grievance must be filed within thirty days of the violation. The procedure starts at "Step One", when there is an attempt to "informally" resolve the issue. If it is not resolved in Step One, the grievance is heard before a "university representative" in "Step Two". If the resolution of Step Two is unsatisfactory, UFF may choose to move the case to "arbitration", when an Arbitrator hears the case and presents a resolution.
This entire system functions at a less intense level than the courts ... and less than the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC), which deals with violations of the law. Incidentally, as we shall see, unlike bargaining (see above), the Board of Trustees must either accept or appeal rulings of arbitrators and PERC, just as the Board must accept or appeal rulings of courts.
Incidentally, UFF will represent a grievant ONLY if that grievant was a UFF member at the time of the violation.
In 2006, three tenured faculty of one department on the Tampa campus were reassigned involuntarily. One of them filed a grievance, contending that his reassignment by then-Provost Renu Khator was a violation of his contractual rights. The case went to arbitration and a procedural hearing over the case's arbitrability (which UFF won), and UFF and the BOT settled the case before the arbitration hearing on the facts. Part of the settlement was a provision that the department forward all curriculum and program information to the grievant.
But for whatever reason, not all faculty correspondence was forwarded. This was a violation of a settlement, and after the USF Administration was unable to ensure the complete compliance of the department, UFF's executive director decided to hold the university accountable. Either the USF Administration was in compliance with the settlement, or it was not. So in February of 2009, UFF filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint with the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC), which ruled in March that
the USF Administration violated the settlement.
In addition, PERC required that the USF Administration post a
Notice to Employees, in which the BOT states that the BOT had been found in violation of the law and that the BOT will comply with the law in the future, and will not "interfere with, restrain, or coerce public employees in the exercise of any rights guaranteed them by Chapter 447, Part II, Florida Statutes."
This ruling came down this March 8, which underlines the first lesson: these things are winnable, but they require patience. The second lesson arises from UFF's chief exhibit: a communication of demonstrable provenance to department faculty that was demonstrably not delivered to the grievant; as the grievant explained at a chapter meeting March 19, tenacity and documentation can win a ruling. The third lesson arises from the fact that not only was UFF-USF Chapter Grievance Chair Mark Klisch involved in the process, so was statewide UFF Executive Director Ed Mitchell and the Florida Education Association legal department: UFF representation is substantial and often critical. Fortunately, the grievant was a UFF member when the settlement was violated, so UFF could represent him.
If you or a colleague believes that your or your colleague's contractual rights have been violated, you must act within thirty days of the violation. Contact the UFF-USF Grievance Chair, Mark Klisch. And remember, UFF can only represent employees who were dues-paying members of UFF at the time of the violation: to join UFF, go to the form at http://faculty.ourusf.org/join-uff/.
The biggest problem facing the legislature this year was a three billion dollar hole in the projected state budget, i.e., a gap of about 4 %. Since the state budget must be balanced – or, more precisely, the apparent accounts at the time must be balanced – this was a major problem. The two options were raising revenue and cutting expenditure. The Florida Education Association proposed a temporary one-cent hike in the sales tax. But the failure of the 2007 – 2008 Taxation and Budget Reform Commission to make serious proposals, and the failure of the 2009 Legislature to lift any sales tax exemptions showed that Tallahassee lacked the political will to raise revenues.
This was the beginning of an unusually fractious election year, and many bills involved the budget.
Some thirty bills were proposed that would fiddle with retirement benefits, such as House Bill 5701 to cut retiree health benefits (dead before reaching the floor), House Bill 1319 to cut state pensions and require employees to contribute towards their pensions (also deceased). These were but two bills that the Florida Education Association fought – and asked members to write to legislators about. These fights are winnable ... and public employee unions persuaded the legislature NOT to change retirement benefits. If you are a member, this is part of what your dues and your activism is for.
- The $ 70.4 billion budget relied critically on stimulus money, and whatever its virtues, it avoided the hard question of dwindling income. Next year, there will be less stimulus money while estimates of next year's deficits are floating in the six billion dollar range, so the next Legislature needs to be more realistic about tax reform.
- Bills appearing to address budgetary concerns. For example Senate Bill 2 put an amendment on the fall ballot to dilute the effect of the 2002 Class Size Amendment – even though some measures of K-12 education have improved substantially since class sizes started going down.
Many bills involved non-budgetary goals – witness House Joint Resolution 7231, for an amendment on the fall ballot to dilute the effect of two other legislative & Congressional districting items already on the ballot. Amendments 5 and 6 will, if passed, greatly restrict the discretion of the Legislative leadership in drawing legislative and Congressional district lines, and the leadership feels that a third amendment is needed to "clarify" the other two.
Meanwhile, UFF (statewide) President Tom Auxter wrote an open letter asking members and friends to ask Governor Crist to sign the budget without vetoing any revenue lines for higher education; UFF set up a
web-page, from which people may send such a message to the Governor from a personal machine. That's one thing public and state employees must remember: never use public or state machines or addresses when lobbying politicians, but instead always use personal machines and home addresses.
THE WAR OVER TENURE (AND ACADEMIC FREEDOM)
When Governor Crist vetoed Senate Bill 6 – which would have required that K-12 contracts last at most a year, with K-12 administrators empowered to non-renew any teacher's annual contract without showing cause – most observers and politicians agreed that the tenure battle wasn't over. The fact that the bill made it to his desk unamended shows that much. And at the last UFF Senate meeting, Florida Representative Keith Fitzgerald warned the UFF that after the schoolteachers, universities were next.
Part of the problem is historical amnesia.
The issue is heating up. Each year, from 2005 to 2009, during the period January 30 to April 30, Lexis Nexis Academic listed between 305 and 330 articles (in "Major U.S. and World Publications") with "teachers" and "tenure" in the text. This year, during January 30 to April 30, Lexis Nexis found 657 articles.
- The whole notion of "tenure" came from labor unions. The union view of tenure – that it was applicable to any job category, and served to protect employees against capricious or malicious dismissal – has dwindled while the public grows more accepting of employers with the powers and authority of Medieval lords. If academia openly acquiesces to a feudal view of employment, academics should not be surprised if the public supports feudalism in academia.
- Academic tenure and academic freedom were originally motivated by a need to protect the right of, say, biology teachers to teach evolution. Things have changed, and tenure has become part of a benefits package offered to entice researchers while many faculty in academia – instructors, adjuncts, etc. – go without. As academic freedom and academic tenure are treated more and more as academic heraldry rather than as institutions serving social needs, support for them has narrowed.
The link between tenure for K-12 and tenure for higher education is highlighted by the following coincidence: each year from 2005 to 2009, for the period from January 30 to April 30, Lexis Nexis Academic found between 477 and 588 articles with "professors" and "tenure". This year, the number was 1044. Of course, there was a lot of noise – many stories with "teachers" or "professors" and "tenure" were about something else – but seems that interest in academic tenure, across the board, is increasing.
This comes at a time when academics – some tenured, some not – are being suspended, disciplined, or dismissed for doing their jobs. Often, academic freedom lies at the center of the dispute, and tenure was supposed to be the great bulwark for academic freedom. For example:
Some of these faculty had tenure, some did not, but all were acting in positions for which academic freedom was originally intended. As a growing percentage of faculty are on non-tenured lines, and as faculty expect more academic freedom than the courts or boards recognize, the original need for protection from internal or external politics reappears, and must be addressed if academia is to maintain its integrity.
- The Garcetti v. Ceballos case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (and I am not making this up) that a public employee can be disciplined for reporting misconduct to her or his superior, is being interpreted by courts to mean that university professors can be disciplined for making unwelcome recommendations in faculty committees.
- Louisiana State University has just removed a biology professor (of thirty years experience) from a lower division course after a majority of her students bombed on her first exam. LSU's dismissal of the Deputy Director of its Hurricane Center (after the Deputy Director had warned (before Katrina) that New Orleans' levees were too low, and (after Katrina) that FEMA's response was inadequate) shows that LSU's Administration is not going to put up with troublesome faculty.
- Last year, the American Association of University Professors censured Nicholls State University (in Louisiana) after NSU dismissed an instructor of twelve years without a plausible explanation. The AAUP concluded that "the only plausible reason for releasing her was her incurring the administration's displeasure by having assigned failing grades to a large number of students in a required course in college algebra that constituted a large proportion of her teaching."
At USF, academic freedom (and tenure) are protected by the Collective Bargaining Agreement – the contract: no faculty member may be disciplined for reporting misconduct to the Office of Audit & Compliance, for the contract provides an additional level of protection. For us, many of the rights we take for granted – and rights that our non-tenured colleagues must have to function – are actually protected best by the contract.
But these rights should not take it for granted. As the debate over tenure heats up, academics need to make their case to the public. And that may mean both demanding tenure-like protections for non-tenured faculty, and encouraging the public at large to remember the old argument that both employee and institutional interests are served when discipline and dismissal are governed by due process, and not by feudal fiat.