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Bargaining Series-, Summer, 2003

During the Summer, 2003, the USF UFF Biweekly ran a five-part series on bargaining issues, which are reproduced below.


About Bargaining: Nuts and Bolts

The Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) has approved the Voluntary Recognition of UFF by USF, which means that the USF Board of Trustees and the USF Administration now recognize UFF as the "desig- nated bargaining agent" for the faculty of USF (within the bargaining unit). As the old contract had an expiration date of Jan. 7, anext step is to bargain the next contract.
spacer UFF's position is that this will be a "successor agreement", built on the terms and conditions of the previous contract (which, as the *status quo*, remain in force). The USF Administration's position is that the old contract is no longer in force, and that the next contract will be a new contract, built from ground zero.
spacer The USF Administration has said that it is willing to sort of use the old contract as a basis of nego- tiations. UFF does not like the "sort of," and intends to force PERC to rule on whether the "terms and conditions" of the old contract are in force (and thus are indeed the status quo to begin bargain- ing from).
spacer It is now no longer a matter of whether we will bargain, but when, from what, and how. We will have preliminary meetings with the Administration to work out the nuts and bolts, and find out what they want to take back from us.
spacer This Summer, the Biweekly will supplement the usual slow-news period with articles about bargaining: how it works and what will be (or not be) bargained.
spacer In this issue we post a discussion of nuts and bolts.


spacer The Board of Governors authorized the Boards of Trustees to bargain with their UFF Chapters. Notice the implication (explicitly stated by the Board's lawyer): ultimate authority lies with the Governors. But for the time being, the Trustees have the authority, and UFF has recognized that authority and authorized its Chapters to bargain with their Boards of Trustees.
spacer The USF Chapter's Chief Negotiator is Bob Welker, of School of Accounting, and long-time member of the UFF statewide bargaining team; he will lead the Chapter's Bargaining Team. It is not clear who will bargain for the Board: it could be someone from the Provost's Office, someone from the General Counsel's Office, or even (if they want to spend that kind of money) someone from a fancy law firm.
spacer The Chapter's Bargaining Team is a group of willing and talented member volunteers. To be effective, they will need to know what faculty priorities are. We are organizing a Bargaining Committee which will speak with faculty about problems and issues, and tell the Bargaining Team what faculty feel are the priorities.



OR (phone) 263-2328.

Another major source of information is the Chapter Grievance Committee, which sees firsthand the most serious problems faculty encounter.
spacer Overseeing it all is the Chapter President.
spacer Bargaining is a lot more than preparing wish-lists.
  • MYTH # 1. Bargaining is a matter of presenting well-reasoned arguments for wish-lists, with logic carrying the day.
  • MYTH # 2. Bargaining is a zero-sum game, with sheer force of will or legal power carrying the day.
Bargaining a more massive version of what most experi- enced faculty have encountered in major committees: a complex hypbrid of chess, poker, and craps.
spacer Bargaining is 90 % preparation. The preparation is needed because one almost never gets exactly what one wants. One gets what one can, giving up what one can live without. This has to do with a basic fact in economics: whatever the market may say, different people assign different values to different things. Some people are going to buy the next Harry Potter book the moment it comes out, some are going to wait until it comes out in paperback, some are going to reserve it from the library, some *may* buy it used, and some couldn't care less. This is the trick of bargaining: to get what you really want, and give up what you don't value as much, but the other team really wants.
spacer So a lot of preparation goes into understanding the other team's point of view, and preparing options and strategies.
spacer Complicating matters is the fact that while both sides have "interests," these interests are rarely addressed directly, but indirectly via proposals to serve these interests. For example, if a community has an interest in clean air, it can regulate emissions, or charge exhorbitant sums for polluting, or ... . Often, in bargaining, the trick is to fiddle with proposals until they serve the interests of one side without undermining the interests of the other.
spacer Bargaining is inherently adversarial with the added element of poker. Thus the Bargaining Team shouldn't show showing their cards or their strategy: the Bargain- ing Committee publicly tells the Bargaining Team what the faculty want (without specifics that would tie the Team's hands), and then the Bargaining Team quietly tries to get what it can.
spacer If bargaining fails ("impasse"), the Board can impose a contract of its own design for one year. This is an admission of failure, and a board that does this repeatedly finds that it is a public spectacle. But this is a possibility the union must prepare for.
spacer Studies of long-term relationships (like a university vs a union) suggest that when the relationship starts, both sides try to size each other up. Over time, if each side follows a tit-for-tat strategy of cooperating when the other side cooperates (and not cooperating when the other side does not), then the relationship stabi- lizes into something both sides can live with. It may take a while for our relationship to stabilize: for nearly a year, the USF Administration --- whatever its protestations --- has been in a non-cooperative mode. So the next few years may be ... interesting.
spacer Nevertheless, if we look at the relationship between UFF and the old Board of Regents, we see that while it started off a bit rough, it did stabilize as both sides got used to each other and to the contract.
spacer The old contract is on-line (a large pdf file) at . It is the result of 25 years of proposals, counter- proposals, explorations, collegial bargaining, impasses and compromises.

Bargaining Issues: About Salaries

Salaries always occupy a lot of time in contract negotiations. In the last quarter century, in the bargaining between UFF and the Board of Regents, salary was the only subject that *had* to be discussed annually.
spacer The salary structure for Florida public university faculty divided raises into three components:

  • ACROSS THE BOARD. This is not legally "cost of living" for several reasons (such as: it did not keep up with inflation). It simply meant that some raise money was given out at the same percentage rate, or the same flat dollar amoung, to all members of the bargaining unit. Usually, even if the basic raise was a percentage, there was also a minimum raise for each faculty member with at least a "satisfactory" evaluation.
    spacer Unions tend to prefer across the board raises because it minimizes the games management plays. Management (and many employees) dislike it because it doesn't differentiate between more productive and less productive employees.
There were two ways to provide more money to more productive employees. The problems are: what does "productive" mean? And who decides who is more productive?
  • MERIT. The individual departments are to develop their own formulas for measuring merit, and then they are also to measure the meritoriousness of their own faculty. This works better in some departments than others.
    spacer A major study conducted for UFF in the late 1990s indicated that faculty prefer merit raises over other kinds, which has influenced UFF's bargaining strategy.
But the Board of Regents had more confidence in administrators, which is why they preferred:
  • DISCRETION. Evaluation data is to be forwarded to the colleges, where the deans are to use their own criteria (number of papers published, number of Student Credit Hours generated, pet ownership) to assign raises. While discretionary raises were originally for extraordinary situations --- eg, making counteroffers --- there have been a lot of discretionary raises during the last few years.
    spacer In fact, an obsessive pursuit of discretionary (over merit) raises let to a glitch last year, when the university cleverly worked itself into a situation where no discretionary raises were legal (the old Board of Education had to break several laws to get into such a mess).
The Legislature had its own ideas.
  • TIPs, PEPs, and EXCELLENCE. Every few years, the Legislature would decide to ... do something ... about low faculty salaries. This would lead to a snazzy program that had faculty jump through hoops to get raises. Each of these programs was based on some passing fad, involved lots of paper work, and lasted only a few years.
    spacer UFF was skeptical of these programs, and insisted that each program be implemented properly (which the USF Administration kept bungling). The recent Presidential Excellence Award scheme suggests that the USF Administration, like the Legislature, continues to want a salary structure based on the psychology of tire sales.
This was the system we had until Jan. 7. In addition there was a quirk: the Legislature would appropriate money for state employee salaries, and out of that appropriation, the administrations would divert money for promotional raises. Thus faculty got lower annual raises than other state employees. There are two ways of looking at this glitch.
  • The union lobbied legislators to fix the glitch, but that would require several million dollars in additional recurring funding (raise money would have to come from SOMEWHERE), and the Legislature never came up with the dough.
  • The union's relatively low membership limited the amount of clout it had both in bargaining and in politics. With its low membership, it was unable to make fixing the glitch a higher priority with the Board of Regents.
One obvious observation: the Board of Regents itself did not regard the glitch as a serious problem.
spacer Soon we will be bargaining with the USF Board of Trustees, and our membership has greatly grown, and we intend to continue to grow. So where do we go from here? There are two major issues.
  1. The Salary Structure. Do we want the structure the way it is? Do we want to change it a little? Do we want to change it a lot?
    spacer Major changes may be possible. For example, UFF once (or twice) proposed a Rational Salary Program, based on the step system used at places like the University of California. Instead of having just three ranks (assistant, associate, and full professor), there were 15 "steps," with a promotional raise attached to each. If you were not promoted one year, you just got the across the board raise; if you were promoted, you got the promotional raise in addition to the across the board. The Regents claimed that the Legislature would never approve such a plan, but that, in principle, is no longer an argument as we are no longer state employees.
    spacer One warning: changing something as established as the salary structure is tricky. In bargaining, proposing major changes often produces unpredictable results.
  2. The Size of the Raises. Over the years, the glitch has resulted in dramatically lower salaries for Florida professors than comparable professors in other states: according to the USF Administration's own figures (from the Long Range Plan), last year the (weighted) average USF faculty salary was 87 % that of the national average. Despite Florida's climate, Florida is bleeding faculty. Bringing faculty salaries to parity with the nation is one of the priorities of the Strategic Plan approved by the USF Board of Trustees: from 2002 to 2007, the plan called for increasing the weighted average salary by 34 %.
    spacer But again, the money has to come from somewhere. Of course, there may be inefficiencies to cut, but the reality is that Florida universities are seriously underfunded (and even among these, USF is seriously underfunded). Furthermore, the Board of Trustees has already indicated that it prefers to raise the average salary exclusively by raising salaries at the top, which makes it look like most of us make more money than we actually do Hard bargaining may bring us a little more salary money, but to win substantial sums, UFF must help bring money to USF, and make sure that that money goes to salaries. We are talking about getting more state money. And for that, we need to collaborate with the Administration on lobbying.
    spacer For the immediate future, there is (as of this moment) a "done deal" in the Legislature for an average 2 % raise --- and that's before bargaining. Keep fingers crossed.

Bargaining Issues: Academic Freedom

This article is one in a series the Biweekly Newsletter is issuing on important concepts involved in collective bargaining. The chapter membership is developing a bargaining survey which will go to the bargaining unit in the early fall, gauging what are the unit's priorities on different issues.


Academic freedom is widely supported within academia but often resented outside.
spacer Within academia, few administrators fail to support academic freedom as an abstract principle, although in practice there are always a number of very good reasons why in some one, unprecedented situation, this normally laudable principle has to be set aside. It is sometimes amazing how many unprecedented situations there are and, according to one member of the AAUP Executive Council, "extraordinary circumstances" is the most common excuse administrators give for violating procedural due process.
spacer "Academic freedom" has ancient precedents, going back to prehistoric protections enjoyed by prophets, sages, minstrels, and fools (some company academics enjoy, eh?). These protections were not absolute (go ask Socrates, Cassandra, and Jeremiah). But modern academic freedom as an individual right was formalized only two centuries ago with the organization of the University of Berlin and its Freedom to Teach and Freedom to Learn (Lehrfreiheit and Lernfreiheit). Medieval universities certainly protected their rights, but concepts of academic freedom for medieval universities generally concerned corporate rights and insulation from civil and ecclesiastical authorities. Most authorities on academic freedom, like Walter Metzger and Richard Hofstadter, point to the late 19th and early 20th century and the development of universities in the U.S. as the time when American academics formulated the notion of an individual faculty member's right to teach and conduct research in one's field without interference and participate in civic affairs without retaliation. They borrowed from the ideals of the University of Berlin because the early American Ph.D. recipients had generally earned their degrees in Germany.
spacer There are several reasons for academic freedom, some more convincing to modern American ears than others:
  1. It was understood in ancient times that it would be wise if Kings and the people listened to what sages and minstrels had to say. (And the gods that spoke through prophets and fools might not take kindly to censorship.)
  2. Many academics, especially since the Renaissance, tend to see external or administrative authority as a self-serving special interest, which should not be permitted to interfere with a disinterested search for the truth --- a seach that serves the public (or even higher) interests. (Artists and writers have similar sentiments.)
  3. Immanuel Kant argued that the enlightened society was one in which everyone in it could argue, as long as she or he agreed to obey civil authority. In his essay, "What Is Enlightenment?" he pointed to Frederick of Prussia as his model of an enlightened ruler. AAUP co-founder Arthur Lovejoy had studied Kant and borrowed this "argue but obey" bargain for several statements on academic freedom early in the 20th century, according to historian of higher education Philo Hutcheson.
  4. American constitutional principles protecting the individual's freedom of speech and procedural due process justify academic freedom. The Supreme Court closely aligned academic freedom and the First Amendment in Sweezy v. New Hampshire, and Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the the importance of academic freedom was "almost self-evident:" "To impose any strait jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation" (354 U.S. 234, 250). The courts have not consistently ruled that academic freedom applies as much to individuals as to institutions. But the broader point is that the constitutional principles of free speech and procedural due process are political as well as legal principles, and those principles apply as much to academics as to our neighbors.
  5. American political principles favoring protection for corporate and government whistleblowers justify academic freedom. In 2002, Time magazine named three whistleblowers as their "People of the Year," because they had risked their jobs and reputations to point out problems they saw in corporate and government action (or, in the case of FBI agent Coleen Rowley, inaction). The political support for whistleblowing should be one of the foundations for academic freedom. College and university faculty are whistleblowers in the deepest sense, telling their students, colleagues, and the general public uncomfortable truths about the conventional wisdom, the various flavors of political correctness, and the prevailing habits of the society.

spacer American colleges and universities, many of which were founded by dissidents and free-thinkers, still had many problems with subversive faculty, and in the early twentieth century economists were disciplined or fired for criticizing US business policy, while biologists were disciplined or fired for teaching evolution.
spacer Inspired by the German formulation of Academic Freedom (which the University of Berlin did not always manage to live up to), some faculty started pressing their administrations for formal policies protecting academic freedom. Most notably, after a notorious battle at Stanford, Arthur Lovejoy and John Dewey founded an "American Association of University Professors" (AAUP), which became the pre-eminent defender of academic freedom. The AAUP's 1940 statement (on-line at
) is the most widely recognized characterization of academic freedom. The statement says:
  1. "Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results..." This suggests the famous limited right: free to speak in one's own field.
  2. "Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject."
  3. "College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations," primarily civility and the obligation to avoid claiming that one is speaking for the institution.
In other words, society is to grant academics the freedom of the ancient sages --- and academics are to behave like those ancient sages.
spacer Of course, all this is just a statement maintained by one particular non-profit organization. As noted above, the courts are inconsistent in their application of academic-freedom principles (does it refer to individuals or the institution?). And, as we have witnessed in Florida, the political environment is not always favorable to academic freedom.
spacer This means that if USF faculty want their academic freedom rights respected, then those rights have to be protected by a contract (courts are very respectful of contracts).
Academic Freedom AT USF

Academic Freedom at USF is currently provided for in several documents.
spacer First of all, there is Article 5 of the 2001-2003 BOR-UFF Collective Bargaining Agreement (the contract). (The Administration contends that the Agreement is no longer in force; UFF notes that the Administration unlawfully refused to negotiate a successor agreement, and therefore under labor law, the terms and conditions of the Agreement are still in force.) Article 5 is on-line at . It is the result of a quarter century of bargaining between UFF and the Board of Regents, and thus is a compromise. The Administration currently contends the real academic freedom policy is that outlined in Rule 6C4-ER03-68 (on-line in a short .pdf document at ). While the New Rule is more restrictive, both formulations very roughly conform to the AAUP's formulation, except that (2) teachers have certain rights to assign grades and (3) while there is no mention of citizenship, the academic responsibilities of teachers is enumerated in some detail.
spacer This latter point has to do with a Board of Regents priority over the last few years: professional conduct. The Board of Regents was concerned about faculty who behaved in an "uncollegial manner," whatever that meant, and their bargaining teams have pressed for enumeration of faculty responsibilities, both narrow and broad.
spacer USF has a history of academic freedom and similar problems, and there have been several recent episodes, perhaps the most disgusting being an employee fired for having the temerity of running against a sitting legislator (this employee was not in the UFF bargaining unit, but note that even if she were, there are very few formal protections for USF faculty exercising their citizenship rights).
spacer We may feel that our Academic Freedom rights need expanding, but in upcoming bargaining, we can expect that the USF Administration is probably still interest- ed in professional conduct. This may mean both oppor- tunity for a mutually beneficial compromise, and a serious risk of getting a dangerous innovation. The stakes are high: USF professors conduct research into environmental degradation, poverty and social relation- ships, pharmaceutical performance, etc, any of which can lead to discoveries that someone powerful would not like published. The history of our Administration when dealing with external pressures does not inspire confidence. If we are going to effectively serve our disciplines and our communities, we need academic freedom.

Bargaining Issues: Tenure


Tenure and academic freedom are related, but they have different origins, and are different under law.
spacer The modern system of tenure in academia came from the system in labor. The origin is feudal. After the Fall of Rome, conditions were so bad that just having a plot of land your local lord could not take away from you was a matter of life and death. Thus many people became "tenants," who were bound to the land to which they (and their children) had "tenure." When conditions started getting better a thousand years ago, and tenants ran away into the new towns, they formed artisan's guilds (unions, really), and introduced the notion of tenure to astonished craft masters. The notion has been a pillar of labor unions ever since.
spacer About a hundred years ago, the idea started percolating into academia. Tenure, said the original champions of academic freedom, is necessary to protect faculty who say things that powerful people would prefer to be left unsaid. Over the last hundred years, respectable colleges and universities in the USA have instituted tenure policies, and it is generally argued that this is to protect academic freedom.
spacer But:
  1. Tenure is not the only device for protecting academic freedom. In many nations, faculty at public universities are protected by civil service regulations.
  2. Since tenure originated in the feudal system as something like a property right (and in industry, it still is a sort of property right), the law regards tenure as a sort of property right.
This is important because while the courts' views on academic freedom change with the fashions (the current Supreme Court seems to think that individual faculty do not have academic freedom rights), the courts are all respectful of the property rights derived from English Common Law.
spacer This leads us to an important point: the popular view that tenure is some kind of special job security is not unfounded. In fact, one major reason why almost every respectable US institution offers tenure is that almost every respectable US institution offers tenure: if a university decides not to offer tenure, then it either has to (a) offer higher compensation to attract comparable job applicants or (b) make do with weaker applicants. The job security that tenure offers is worth something, and it has become part of the package that the market demands.
spacer This makes tenure very difficult to abolish. Margaret Thatcher was able to abolish tenure in Great Britain only because virtually all of the universities were under her direct control. In America, with fifty state legislatures and over a thousand private institutions, all the adminis- trations think that the abolition of tenure is a great idea that someone else ought to try. The results at places like the Florida Institute of Technology and Florida Gulf Coast University do not inspire confidence.
spacer Nevertheless, American universities have taken two routes that tend to undermine tenure, at least as envisioned a hundred years ago.
  1. Post-tenure review. The idea is that every few years, a tenured faculty member would be reviewed to determine if (s)he still deserved tenure. This undermines both the academic freedom and property rights components of tenure, although the innovation is too recent to tell if there has been any impact other than generating more forms to fill out.
  2. The proliferation of non-tenure-track lines. Some instructional lines are comparable to assistant professorship lines, without the offer of tenure; and then there are the growing number of adjuncts paid (following the logic of Florida law) about $ 12/hour. At USF, about half the student credit hours are generated by adjuncts.
There is a concern that after a few decades, each (large) department will have three or four tenured professors, eight to ten instructors, and five zillion adjuncts. (Distance-taught courses will, of course, be set up by highly skilled piece- workers abroad.)

Tenure at USF is currently provided for in several documents.
spacer First of all, there is Article 15 of the 2001- 2003 BOR-UFF Collective Bargaining Agreement. (The Administration contends that the Agreement is no longer in force; UFF notes that the Administration unlawfully refused to negotiate a successor agree- ment, and therefore under labor law, the terms and conditions of the Agreement are still in force.) Article 5 is on-line at . It is the result of a quarter century of bargaining between UFF and the Board of Regents, and thus is a compromise. The Administration currently contends the policy is that outlined in Rule 6C4-ER03-65 (on-line in a short .pdf document at .
spacer In practice, tenure means that a tenured faculty member *will* be reappointed each year unless retired, resigned, dismissed for just cause, or laid off.
spacer The normal process is for a faculty member to get on a tenure-earning line, and in the sixth year, apply for tenure. At this point the Agreement and the New Rules diverge. The Agreement requires that there be criteria for granting tenure, and severely restricts fiddling with the documentation submitted with the tenure application; the New Rules are silent on these points. Neither mandate the mas- sive review that many tenure-track faculty endure during the third or fourth year of their probation- ary period: that is the Administration's own invention.
spacer As for the process in the sixth year: the applicant constructs a packet (current fashion, and not the Agreement, requires that the packet be huge), which (s)he submits to the Department. This is the biggest hurdle: typically, one (almost always) must be supported by one's own Department to get tenure. From the Department it goes to the College, usually to a college committee of faculty, which makes a recommendation to the Dean. (Since some departments are serious about the decisions they make, and others tend to want the College to make their decisions for them, this committee needs a nearly psychic ability to divine the Department's true intentions. Past history of grievances is strong evidence against the existence of said psychic powers.) Then the Dean makes a decision, and the packet goes to the Provost's office, which usually supports the previous decisions except when it does not. The Provost's decision is usually rubber-stamped by the President and the Board.
spacer The tenure process tends to be the most prob- lematic part of the whole tenure operation. Many of the most difficult grievances are by faculty who were denied tenure (and some of the violations grieved read like satire). Unfortunately, under the Agreement, if a faculty member is denied tenure, and in the grievance process can prove to an impartial arbitrator that the denial was improper, the best that that faculty member can hope for, under the Agreement, is another shot at the tenure process: in the grievance process under the Agreement, an arbitrator may not require the university to give tenure.
spacer And of course, USF has its own post-tenure review system, the Sustained Performance Evalua- tions described in the Agreement's Article 10. These are supposed to rely on the annual evalua- tions, and their function is largely punitive (don't expect a favorable sustained performance evaluation to result in a big raise). Interest- ingly, the New Rules do not provide for Sus- tained Performance Evaluations.
spacer UFF's position on tenure is straightforward. UFF supports tenure as a pillar of academic freedom, and as a property right of the faculty it represents. UFF has no interest in winning tenure for weak faculty, but as the USF Administration has a history of botching the tenure process, UFF has a strong interest in making sure that (a) there is a coherent tenure process and that (b) the Adminis- tration abides by it. The Administration is not enthusiastic about (a) or (b), and it will be interesting to see what the Administration wants when bargaining resumes.

Bargaining Issues: Benefits

Different people take different views of benefits. To some of us, benefits are as essential as salary, and to be scrutinized as thoroughly. To others, benefits are an impenetrible thicket of legal jargon, to be left alone on the presumption that when we need the benefit it will, like magic, be there.
spacer Let's begin at the beginning: what is a benefit? A "benefit" in contract law is, according to Black's Law Dictionary, a "legal right to which he would not otherwise be entitled." Our employment contracts, which would (in a previous century) entitle us to a salary, now entitle us to "adequate and affordable" health insurance, free university courses, a number of "employee assistance programs," "a pre-tax benefits program," etc, etc, etc.
spacer There are three points to be made about these benefits.

  1. First, tooting the union's horn, benefits were not given to employees by grateful and generous employers. They were won by decades of determined union activity. And they are expensive: many employers would get out of them if they could. (Indeed, a few of them do, legally or otherwise.) Although many employers offer them because the market demands them, continued union pressure maintains the bar on what benefits should be. This means:
  2. Protecting benefits means protecting the contract. Without the contract, we are relying on the continuing goodwill of the Administration. Once again, courts are very respectful of contracts, and a benefit written into a contract is a lot safer than one granted by an employer who could withdraw it tomorrow. But this leads to:
  3. Benefits are complicated things. There are a lot of details to get right, and some of these details belong in the contract --- while others do not. There are two complications:
    • There are many benefits, from the right of retirees to a departmental mailbox (Article 24, Section 4, Subsection (b), item (8)), to sabbaticals (Article 22, Section 3). Someone knowledgeable about one benefit may not be knowledgeable about another.
    • Unlike other issues, in which there are only two parties, many benefits are actually provided by third parties, like the State of Florida (if you are in the Florida Retirement Service plan) or an investment company (if you are in one of the other plans) or even an insurance company. There are a lot of details to get right, and some of these details belong in the contract --- while others do not.
And then comes the kicker. The contract provisions were all negotiated when we faculty were State Employees, which means that in some places (health insurance comes to mind) we had to rely on the State to handle many details that that the State may no longer handle now that we are Public Employees. For example, for political reasons, the State is keeping us in the State's medical program and retirement system, but that could change once the political climate changes. Some parts of the contract may have to be renegotiated.
spacer Currently, most of the benefits are shoe-horned into Article 24 of the 2001-2003 contract, which the USF Administration is currently unlawfully ignoring:
the entire contract is on-line (warning: big .pdf document). (Other benefits are scattered about, eg, sabbaticals and leave occupies Article 22.) The Administration prefers New Rule 6C4-ER03-81, a smaller .pdf document also on-line. Notice that both documents devote a lot of space to details about sick leave and retirement: that is a clear indication that these two benefits have a long and contentious and complicated history.
spacer On the other hand, there is little about health, other than the swamp of sick leave, again for the reason that the State handled it and, until further notice, is handling it. Human Resources has a page at about the various options. It boiled down to this. The State has a Preferred Provider program, managed by whatever company submits the low bid (for many years, that company has been Blue Cross/Blue Shield). The State has strong feelings about this program, and tends to monitor the managing company somewhat. Faculty who do not want to enroll in the state program (for whatever reason) usually were able to join one of several HMOs: currently the primary alternative is Av-Med.
spacer USF also offers a number of benefits not enumerated in the contract, like vision care insurance, cancer supplemental plans, dental supplemental plans, etc. This brings up a point: how many benefits have to be enu- merated in the contract? There are costs to getting something into the contract: if we want something, they want something, too, and what are we willing to give up? Some benefits they may want to offer, for various reasons: we are more concerned about benefits they may NOT want to offer.
spacer With the reorganization underway (and no one really will know what it looks like for several years), it may be best to proceed cautiously. On the other hand, recalling the old Chinese notion that crisis provides opportunity, this may be the time to start thinking about a major overhaul. One thing is for sure: it is in benefits that all that maddeningly small print becomes so critical, and it is on benefits that expertise on each of the five zillion different subjects is so helpful. So experts on the various benefits can consider this a clarion call: the time to start thinking what we want is now.