The Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947, a.k.a. the Taft-Hartley Act, made it illegal (in the private sector) for a union and management to have a contract that requires employees to be members of the union. The Act did permit union and management to bargain contracts requiring employees to pay fees for some of the union's collective bargaining expenses, but it also permitted states to pass "right-to-work" laws barring such fees. (Notice that management has to agree to sign such a contract, so this is not something a union can impose unilaterally.) Public employee unions became more prominent later, and some of them also bargained contracts that required non-members to pay fees for bargaining expenses. In Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court unanimously held that public employee unions could bargain contracts with public agencies requiring non-members to pay fees. But now...
UFF members and families are invited to a Rowdies Group Night with the Rowdies on July 28, starting with a Tailgate at 6 pm and then a game at 7:30 pm. It will be at Al Lang Stadium, and kids will be able to participate in the pre-game rally tunnel. For more information, see the flyer. RSVP is necessary (contact Steve Lang), and this is for UFF members and their families - but feel free to join today!
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at noon on USF Tampa in the Marshall Student Center. We will meet in the Sabal Room, on the third floor, to the right and around the corner from Top of the Palms. The meeting will focus on plans for the fall. We will have lunch at Top of the Palms, and all USF employees are invited.
This is the fifth meeting of the chapter this summer. The last meeting will be on Friday, July 27, at noon, also in the Sabal Room. Come and check us out.
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.
The University of South Florida has joined the University of Florida and Florida State University as "preeminent." The designation, created by Florida Statute 1001.7065 "... to elevate the academic and research preeminence of Florida's highest-performing state research universities..." was applied to USF at the 26 - 28 June meeting of the Florida State University System Board of Governors. (Of the twelve criteria, three address undergraduate education, two address graduate education and mentoring, five address research performance, one addresses general reputation, and four address resources already available - three criteria, on research funding and expenditures, address two of these areas.) The USF News Channel announced that, "Preeminence represents the culmination of USF's many years of careful strategic planning, focused allocation of resources and determination of thousands of students, faculty and staff." And, we might add, a lot of hard work by the faculty and staff who make up the university.
So congratulations to all of us, and let's keep up the good work. For more on what is entailed, see the analysis on WUSF.
On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision that reversed four decades of precedent - established by a previous unanimous Supreme Court decision (Abood v. Detroit) - and struck a body blow on public employee unions, or more precisely, on their finances. Until this month, public employee unions in some states (not including Florida) could bargain for and, if management agreed, get a contract that required the non-members it represented to pay fees to cover collective bargaining and related expenses. (States had been permitted to ban such fees; the laws banning such fees are called right-to-work laws.) Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito confirmed that the Court's point of view has ... evolved ... since Abood: "[Abood] is inconsistent with other [recent] First Amendment cases and has been undermined by [other] more recent decisions" (italics added).
In other words, Alito contended that recent decisions were already inconsistent with a longstanding precedent, and therefore the longstanding precedent was "undermined" (and had led to various problems), and therfore it should go. Alito may claim to be an originalist and disagree with the view of the U.S. Constitution is a "living document" that adjusts to the times, but this is living document reasoning.
There are a number of conspiracy theories floating around - In These Times observed that Janus followed a long campaign to strike at unions - but the simpler explanation is that unions (like many citizen organizations from churches to professional organizations to political parties) have seen declining participation and membership over the last half century. Unions depend on participation and membership, and as of last year, 10.6 % of all US employees were union members, down from a third of all employees in the 1950s (see a state-by-state account). We may have become an attractive target for predators that would have thought twice about attacking unions back when Doris Day played a Grievance Officer in an all-American fabric union (when was the last time a major studio produced a film like this?).
Unions (like churches, professional organizations, political parties, and former President G. H. W. Bush's Thousand Points of Light) have reacted to membership problems by abandoning their grass roots and shoe leather, and relying on publicists and lobbyists, mass media and glitz. Interestingly enough, this is an international problem, afflicting nations from Great Britain to Australia.
So what now?
One writer observed that the Janus decision comes in a time of growing union unrest (especially among teachers), and suggested that one outcome will be growing union activity. Janus may serve as a wake-up call. One possible model is Nevada, a "right-to-work" that has long barred the fees banned by the Janus decision, with 12.7 % of all employees being union members. That's above the national average and over twice Florida's 5.6 %. Nevada, argues University of Nevada Law Professor Ruben Garcia, relies on shoe leather, political engagement, and services for members. Meanwhile, Arizona State University Professor Sherman Dorn, former UFF USF Chapter President, argues that Teachers' activism will survive the Janus Supreme Court ruling.
Activism not only means helping out, it also means getting involved in the decision-making. Mark Janus, the plaintiff of record in the Janus case, wrote that he sued AFSCME because he disagreed with what the union was doing. It is a commentary that he did not instead try to get involved in the decision-making process. This is not hard to do. Unions need volunteers not only for helping with bargaining and grievances and publicity and recruiting and providing services but also choosing political candidates to support, and making policy decisions. By law, unions are democracies, and members can run for election.
Tomorrow, the Chapter will meet (in the USF Tampa Marshall Student Center's Sabal Room) to make plans for the fall. Meanwhile, we encourage everyone to get involved, and not just in the union, but in the many organizations - the faculty governance system, the professional organizations, even student clubs (we should be setting a good example for students while advising them). Democracy is more than just marking a ballot every once and a while. It means getting involved.
Recall that the previous Biweekly focused on the erosion of rights and privileges of tenured faculty, and it seems that while tenure is often taken to mean job security, recent cases suggest that that job security is limited. On the other hand, recall from the previous issue that in Perry v. Sindermann, the U.S. Supreme Court held that non-tenured faculty could slowly acquire some tenure-ish protections just by being on the job for many years.
Except for Perry v. Sindermann, the debate over what tenure means must seem of academic interest to the two fifths of the UFF USF Bargaining Unit that do not have tenure and are not on tenure track. And the proportion of tenured / tenure track faculty seems to be dwindling. Inside Higher Ed Blogger John Warner argued that Tenure Is Already Dead: "While I believe tenure will survive as a kind of status marker for elite institutions, I expect that it will become increasingly rare, particularly at public colleges and universities. It is already nearly extinct in community colleges."
On the other hand, the statistical picture is more complex. Middle Tennessee State University Professor Andrew Brower contended that from 1976 to 2015, the proportion of tenured / tenure track faculty to students has been fairly stable. But this depends on what stability means, for the National Center for Education Statistics reported that the percentage of full-time faculty with tenure in 1993 - 94 was 56.2%, in 1999 - 2000 it was 53.7%, and in 2009 - 2010 it was 48.7%.
Whether or not this is a stable situation, for the university, the fundamental problem is that it needs faculty who are willing and able to make long-term commitments to the institution, and yet the institution has only limited means to make long-term commitments to the faculty it depends on. Are we all in this together, or aren't we?
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, July 13, at noon, on USF Tampa, in MSC 3700 (the Sabal Room).
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.
NOTE: We regret that the Chapter's off-campus website is down. We apologize for the inconvenience. For the time being, we will be using http://www.ourusf.org, vut our e-mail address is still firstname.lastname@example.org.
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