A lot has happened in the last two weeks. The primary policy-making body of the United Faculty of Florida met in Tampa, the UFF has a new president, chapter elections at USF are underway, and the Legislature is trying to shut the union down. We will cover the UFF meeting in the next issue; meanwhile...
The first report on the Senate meeting will be in the next issue of the Biweekly.
There will be no chapter meeting tomorrow. Have a Happy Spring Break! The remaining meetings this semester will be:
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.
On Monday, March 5, the Senate passed House Bill 7055, a legislative train that had a decertification caboose: any K-12 teachers' union that does not have a majority of the teachers it represents as dues-paying members is decertified; if the teachers want a union, they must have the union conduct a certification campaign. Annually. These campaigns are costly (the 2003 - 2004 campaign for UFF cost about a million dollars), and it is possible that the intent is to break the Florida Education Association, our state affiliate.
The media had paid much more attention to gun legislation, but they caught up once the HB 7055 passed in the House. The Palm Beach Post reported a blow by blow account while the Tampa Bay Times reported the aftermath, quoting FEA President Joanne McCall saying, "I'm not sure when we became Public Enemy No. 1, but it's clear this is a full out attack on public school teachers."
Since much of HB 7055 consisted of goodies for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who the Tampa Bay Times Insider Poll found was the strongest political figure in Tallahassee, and has a personal interest in charter schools - a longstanding point of contention with the FEA - some observers saw Corcoran as the protagonist and primary beneficiary of HB 7055 (and other bills as well).
On the other hand, there is a national anti-union effort underway, most notably the Jannus v. AFSCME case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Many states are taking anti-union actions of their own, and one theory is that in Florida, the FEA was targeted because it was the largest and most influential union. If it is compromised, smaller unions - like UFF - will be more vulnerable.
This legislative effort does not seem to rise from any groundswell of popular opinion. In fact, this year, the Legislature has been largely doing its own thing, somewhat indifferent to what constituents and stakeholders think. And in an election year. It is not entirely clear what happens next: Governor Scott is expected to sign HB 7055, but thet may be an impolitic thing for a senatorial candidate increasingly in Corcoran's shadow to do. If he does sign it, the gauntlet will be tossed at the feet of the FEA in summer, so that the recertification campaigns start with the election season. Meanwhile, the bill is constitutionally suspect, and the courts have been known to take a dim view of politicians who abuse their authority to attack interest groups they don't like. On the other hand, the courts tend to be wary of such dangerous waters, and at any rate, this could take years (Jannus v. AFSCME is three years old). It will make for an ... interesting ... fall.
But if HB 7055 is signed into law, in the long run, a K-12 teachers' union local would have to have majority membership or cease to exist. Some counties have majority membership, but others do not. For those that do not, the recertification campaign starts now.
As for the United Faculty of Florida, we are still watching the bill that would decertify us: Senate Bill 1036, still sitting quietly in committee. But HB 7055 is about us, too. First of all, FEA is our state affiliate - we rely on FEA's lawyers for bargaining and grievances - and any thought of appeasing the Florida Legislative leadership by sitting this one out should be met with Winston Churchill's warning: "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile - hoping it will eat him last." If the Legislative leadership gets away with this one, we will be next. It may not be long before the USF Chapter at UFF either has majority membership or does not exist.
We need to start planning for fall. Everyone interested in preserving UFF and the FEA are invited to come to the Election Count meeting on Wednesday, March 21, on USF Tampa, in the MSC Sabal Room (right and around the corner from Top of the Palms, on the third floor). Meanwhile, if you haven't already, join the UFF today; this is not the time to let someone else do it.
Every year, the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida elects its officers and representatives. Only dues-paying UFF members may participate, either by running or voting. This year, the candidates for the offices are:
Ballot packets are going out in the mail, and ballots must be received by March 20; any UFF member who has not received a packet by Tuesday, March 13 should contact the Chapter Secretary. In order to encourage voting, the Chapter will award one travel scholarship to a UFF member who votes.
The ballots will be counted at a special meeting on USF Tampa at the MSC Sabal Room (to the right and around the corner from Top of the Palms) from 11 am to 2 pm. All UFF members are invited, and we will have lunch. We will also consider the challenges facing us, and discuss where to go from here. So please come.
There is no chapter meeting tomorrow Friday, March 9. The next chapter meeting will be on Friday, March 23, at noon, on USF Tampa, in EDU 150. We will have lunch at the meeting. All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.
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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