The Nineteenth century Judge Gideon Tucker once wrote that, "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session." This is increasingly true of the Florida Legislature, which is increasingly invading others' affairs while mismanaging its own. And now, legislators have decided to consolidate USF in a rush, and to decertify most of the public employee unions in Florida, including UFF. In these issue, we look at these bills.
The Chapter will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on USF Sarasota / Manatee (for information on visiting USF Sarasota / Manatee, click here) in room B206. There will be sandwiches, snacks, sweets, and drinks: lunch is on us. On the agenda: HB 25 / SB 1036 and HB 7055 (which would decertify unions), HB 423 (consolidating the USF System), the certification election for USF adjuncts is on, and more.
The remaining meetings this semester will be:
UFF invites everyone to a Spring Social on Thursday, February 22 at Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill at 1320 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, northwest of USF St. Petersburg. We will be in the upstairs room. Come talk to union bigwigs about the hot issues, the Legislature's proposal to reorganize USF - and the Legislature's proposal to do away with UFF.
The USF Chapter of the UFF will award five $ 500 Travel Scholarships for next spring and summer (a sixth will be awarded to a UFF member who votes in the chapter election). This will be for travel for participation in a professional activity. All applications are due by April 18, and only UFF members are eligible. In addition, no recipient of the Summer or Fall 2017 cycles of travel grants is eligible to apply. The five recipients shall be selected by lot at the April 20 chapter meeting. For more information, see the Travel Scholarship Flyer.
This initiative is part of our membership campaign. If you would like to become active in the UFF USF Membership Drive, contact the Membership Chair, Adrienne Berarducci (click here).
Download, fill in, and mail the membership form. Benefits of membership include the right to run and vote in UFF chapter and statewide elections; representation in grievances (UFF cannot represent a non-member in a grievance or litigation); special deals in insurance, travel, legal advice, and other packages provided by our affiliates; free insurance coverage for job-related liability; and the knowledge you are supporting education in Florida. Come and join the movement.
If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you have thirty days from the time you knew or should have known of the violation to file a grievance. If you are, and at the time of the violation were, a dues-paying member of the United Faculty of Florida, you have the right to union representation. To contact the UFF USF Grievance Committee, go to the online contact form. For more information, see our web-page on grievances; see also the main article (left).
Visit the United Faculty of Florida at USF Facebook page. This page is a place where UFF members can exchange thoughts and ideas. The page is "public", but only dues-paying UFF members are eligible to post items on the page. If you are a UFF member, ask to join on the page, or contact the Communications Committee. The Committee will invite every UFF member that asks to join. So check us out. UFF members are welcome to join, and non-members are welcome to look.
Oxford English Dictionary defines union-busting as "attempts to dissolve, undermine, or prevent the formation of, a trade union," and that is what some legislators are trying to do ... to UFF.
Representative Scott Plakon of Seminole filed House Bill 25 that would decertify any union - except for police, firefighter, and similar unions - that does not have a majority of the employees it represents (in bargaining) as dues-paying members. A decertified union would then petition the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) for an election; this petition would require the signatures of at least a third of the employees that union sought to represent (and to be on the safe side, a union typically must collect signatures from a majority of the employees). And once the signatures are collected and presented to PERC, they order an election to determine if employees really want the union to represent them.
And after a year, if the union again does not have a majority of the employees as dues-paying members, the whole process repeats. Every year. Longtime USF employees may remember the 2003 petition, which was a major effort and which ended with the USF Board of Trustees voluntarily recognizing UFF and forgoing a potentially lopsided election. A petition (also known as a card campaign) and an election are a major (and expensive) operation: in 2003, UFF's statewide battle cost about a million dollars and thousands of hours of volunteer labor, and since most institutions voluntarily recognized UFF, it was relatively cheap compared to what it could have been.
Like many unions, the United Faculty of Florida represents many employees who want a union but not to pay for it (about 30 % of the UFF USF employees are dues-paying members). During the last certification battle, in 2003, UFF collected signatures from a majority of faculty and professionals at each university, and at the institutions where PERC held elections, won overwhelmingly. If the law passes, UFF probably would win certification elections: many employees would prefer a bargained contract determining salaries, tenure and promotion processes, job security, and other conditions of employment, rather than relying on the good intentions of a board of trustees appointed by Tallahassee politicians. But card campaigns and elections at every institution every year is beyond UFF's resources, especially when our Florida affiliates are dealing with the same problem.
This is like a gigantic tax, quite possibly intended to destroy.
It's not clear what problem this legislation is supposed to solve. Florida Statute 447.308 already provides for removing a union, and Florida Statute 447.307 provides for replacing one union with another. Some unions are exempt, and when the House passed the bill, there were complaints that the exempt unions were predominantly male while the targeted unions were predominantly female (cynics observed that the bill targeted unions that had recently clashed with House Speaker Richard Corcoran).
Others saw a simpler union-busting agenda. A co-president of the USF Graduate Assistants United said that, "It's very hard to maintain 50 % membership ...," and the Florida AFL-CIO communications director said, "Why would we create another hurdle to suppress union membership and the rights of workers to have a voice in their workplace unless the real goal here is to eliminate the labor movement in Florida as a whole." Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano wrote that HB 25 is "a blatant stab at union-busting."
So what's next? There is a "similar" bill, presented by Senator Greg Steube, moving through the Florida Senate. Meanwhile, a legislative train called Education (House Bill 7055) - largely a bill to give lots of goodies to charter schools at the expense of public schools - has acquired some language (on pages 175 - 176 to replicate most of Plakon's bill, but just for teacher's unions, i.e., for UFF and its affiliates. The president of the Pinellas County Teachers Association said, "They just want to eliminate the teachers' union." Since this train is a priority for many people, that is a problem for us.
The UFF office in Tallahassee is ... educating ... legislators about the probable consequences of this legislation, and it is certainly a rather toxic proposal for an election year. And the Florida Education Association has posted a You-Tube video on HB 7055. But since it could very well pass, the UFF office is strongly encouraging chapters to build membership. If it does pass, the only way that the union could survive in the long term is if a majority of the employees it represents joined.
If you are not a member and would like to have a union represent you in bargaining, now is the time to join. Download, fill in, and mail or email the membership form today.
Meanwhile, the proposal to consolidate USF moves forward into the fog. There were skeptics, from the USF St. Petersburg Retired Staff / Faculty Association (RFSA) (which resolved to oppose unifying USFand issued list of bullets on the issue) to the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce (which called for further study).
President Genshaft said that Senator Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg told her of the possibility last fall. Genshaft said that she was surprised and responded that she would obey the law. Once the plan became public, Genshaft was initially wary but confident of USF's ability to weather the storm, but as the "writing on the wall" appeared, she became more positive. At the 31 January 2018 USF Tampa Faculty Senate meeting, she said that the proposal left the planning to USF itself, which meant that the USF stakeholders and community would decide how to consolidate. And asked about pre-eminence status and funding, Genshaft firmly said that USF will maintain pre-eminence status.
But it gets weirder. USF St. Petersburg Regional Chancellor declined to take a position but did make soothing noises. Meanwhile, Brandes (the legislator who went to Genshaft last fall) and Representative Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor (rumored to have a major role in all this) seem to have gotten nervous about what they were unleashing and sought reassurance from the USF Board of Trustees, which they got from USF Board Chairman Brian Lamb.
Unlike Hollywood fantasies, real-life conspiracies often go off the rails, so if this is a conspiracy, it is not entirely clear where these antics are going. But one thing is for sure: if the Legislature creates a mess, then it will be up to the USF community to clean it up. That brings us back to President Genshaft's remarks to the USF Tampa Faculty Senate. If the Legislature, in its wisdom or whatever, mandates consolidation, then faculty should be prepared to step forward and help design that consolidation.
And recalling that the midterm election is this fall, we shouldn't forget the legislative architects of all this.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, February 9, in B206 on USF Tampa.
Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join, simply fill out and send in the membership form.
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