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United Faculty of Florida, Fall 2003

September 4, 2003

Bargaining Survey

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida has met with the representatives of the USF Administration at a pre-bargaining session, and both sides are now thinking about bargaining. Bargaining is 90 % preparation, so both sides are thinking about what they want.

To help the Bargaining Team determine priorities, the Chapter will be conducting a bargaining survey, asking which issues concern faculty the most, and which faculty are concerned about these issues. Since the results are bargaining materials, the bargaining team will not be sharing them. This is your chance to be heard: make sure you fill out and return the survey.

Here are the bargaining teams:

  • Representing the faculty: Chief Negotiator Bob Welker (from the College of Business, a member of the UFF Team that bargained with the Board of Regents in Tallahassee), with Susan Greenbaum (Anthropology), Mark Klisch (Counseling), Kathleen McCook (Library & Information Science), Steven Permuth (Leadership Development), Arthur Shapiro (Leadership Development), and Keith White (St. Petersburg, Academic I & R Support).
  • Representing the Administration: Chief Negotiator Noreen Segrest (General Counsel), with Trudie Frecker (Assoc. Vice Provost of Human Resources), Olga Joanow (Assoc. General Counsel), Philip Smith (Asst. Provost), and Marcus Snow.


September 18, 2003

A Preliminary Ruling from Tallahassee

As readers will recall from many previous episodes, the big bone of contention between UFF and the USF Administration (and indeed, between UFF and all the university administra- tions) is the status of the contract.

In Fall, 2002, the university boards of trustees had refused to negotiate successor contracts for contracts set to expire on January 7, 2003, claiming that they did not have the authority to do so. (Of course, at least the USF Board of Trustees had had the authority to authorize negotiations with companies in their continuing endeavor to privatize major functions of the university, not to mention giving President Genshaft a 37 % raise.) After January 7, the administrations claimed that the contracts were "dead" and that they could ignore them at will. This was an extraordinary claim: under labor law, an employer cannot make a succession of labor contracts disappear just by refusing to bargain successor contracts.

Here's the standard labor law: if a new employer comes into power over an institution (like USF) that is not itself substantially reorganized, then it is a "successor employer" and bound to recognize the current unions, and the current contracts. If a contract is approaching expiration, it must negotiate a "successor contract," i.e., a contract negotiated from the status quo of the current contract, and carrying the grievance process:

  • Outstanding grievances do not evaporate during such a change of contracts.
  • Furthermore, the successor contract carries the judicial history of the previous contracts. When a grievance goes through the last stage, "arbitration," the decision of the arbitrator is a precedent that carries into future contracts.
When the USF Board of Trustees refused to recognize UFF, shut down the grievance process, and announced that the current contract was dead, the USF Board of Trustees willfully broke the law.

There were two basic issues: whether the administrations had to recognize UFF that bargained these contracts, and whether the administrations had to recognize the next contracts as successor contracts to the previous ones. UFF has won the first fight at most campuses, but it is still fighting the second.

Many faculty and staff who signed Collective Bargaining Authorization cards did so to protect the contract. Similarly, UFF is also fighting to force the Board of Trustees to recognize the 2001-2003 contract as the status quo. Since the previous contract had been negotiated with the Board of Regents and renegotiated with the Florida Board of Education, UFF claims that the Board of Trustees is the successor employer of USF. That, under labor law, should do the trick.

The fight is now being fought before the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC), whose current membership consists entirely of Bush appointees, and whose counsel has made some injudicious comments to the press. The vehicle was UFF's Unfair Labor Practice complaint about FSU, whose administration has resorted to harassment, intimidation, and a variety of rather tacky union-busting tactics. If UFF could get PERC to rule that the FSU Board of Trusttes was the successor employer and so had to recognize UFF and the contract, other administrations would have little choice to do likewise.

The first ruling is a preliminary one, made by a "hearing officer." Last week, the hearing officer for the case by UFF on FSU made the following ruling: "In sum, I conclude that the FSU Board of Trustees is not a successor employer to the Board of Education and, even if successorship were established, in the absence of certification the FSU Board of Trustees was under no obligation to recognize UFF and AFSCME as the bargaining representatives or to maintain a status quo established by the Board of Education. Accordingly, the FSU Board of Trustees did not commit an unfair labor practice when it elected to cease payroll dues deductions on behalf of the unions and refused to process a grievance relating to the cessation of dues deductions."


This is a strange ruling. Successor employers inherit their employee's unions and contracts. This strange decision comes after months of procrastination by PERC. UFF is appealing of course, but we would be naive to think that PERC's rulings will be based solely on the law. We are in for a rough ride. And as in all political battles, determination and support from our constituents will mean a great deal.

Meanwhile ...

Bargaining Survey

UFF still represents faculty (even the USF Administration admits that much) and so UFF is getting ready to bargain a new contract. The first item appears to be the grievance process, since the reorganization of the university system seems to require a reorganization of the grievance process. Other issues are in the queue.

As announced in the previous Biweekly, we will be distributing a survey to the bargaining unit, to find out what your priorities are. (We are still working on technicalities.) As Bargaining is akin to poker, the Bargaining Team will keep the results of the survey to themselves.


October 2, 2003

UFF Senate Meeting: Overview

The UFF Senate, which oversees UFF, meets twice a year (usually), usually in late Spring and early Fall. The Senators are faculty and professional employees elected by UFF members each Spring. Over the September 20, 21 weekend, the Senate met in Orlando, and had a lot to talk about.

The UFF is a local of the Florida Education Association (FEA), a joint affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA). Representatives from both unions were there to tell us about the growing political pressures on academia nationwide. Among the announcements:

  • The problems that UFF faced, the defunding of universities and the undermining of faculty governance, have become national problems. One problem is that, as the AFT representative put it, higher education people vote, they vote for supporters of higher education, but they do not contribute or actively support their candidates. And we lack organization.
  • The NEA has long had a journal for higher education, called "Thought and Action" (which all UFF members get). The AFT will be starting its own higher education journal, called "Academic Labor."
  • The General Agreement on Trade Services (GATS) is attracting attention. According to current trade agreements, certain services (like education) are exempt from most international trade agreements. Some political interests would like to end this exemption in order to, say, provide scholastic testing in foreign countries (imagine American testing companies insisting on the right to bid for providing the college exams in Great Britain). NEA is concerned because, well, Britain might reciprocate by setting up a branch of the London School of Economics in Clearwater and then demand that they get the same per-student "subsidy" from the Legislature that Florida public universities get.
  • There is a proposal that the Higher Education Reauthorization Act (now winding through Congress) state that if any "school of education" be found to be "low-performing," then its students would become ineligible for Pell grants.
It should be noted that a growing number of corporations offer testing services, so many of these tests will not be offered by the College Board (Educational Testing Service) in Princeton, but instead by snazzy new companies converting from telemarketing to testing.

In his address to the Senate, UFF President Tom Auxter connected the movement to impose standardized testing at the college level to a movement, led by Lynne Cheney's American Council of Trustees and Alumni (who political junkies will recall provided the initial training for Florida's new trustees) to require colleges and universities to teach a certain "core" curriculum, where adherence to this core curriculum would be enforced by requiring students to pass exit exams composed by politically well-connected private testing companies. Auxter then described a recent attempt by the Board of Trustees at the State University of New York (can you believe they'd do this to SUNY?) to impose such a core curriculum, complete with standardized testing. The United University Professions (UUP) --- SUNY's faculty union --- and the SUNY faculty senates opposed the changes, and SUNY Stony Brook simply balked. The result has been a major catfight involving the governor's office.

Auxter described his visit to UUP and notes that it is no longer true that university faculty face different problems than K-12 teachers. The political situation has reached the point that SUNY is being treated like an recalcitrant elementary school. Following the AFT's observation that higher education people are insufficiently organized, Auxter proposed that UFF follow UUP's example and work more closely with the (rest of the) Florida Education Association against what is becoming a common enemy.

Meanwhile, with assistance from the FEA, UFF is continuing to gain new members. All experience shows that membership translates to bargaining strength, as well as ability to resist loony intrusions. A few university chapters (including USF) are in pre-bargaining (what's the agenda? where and when do we meet? etc.). The chapters will be doing the bargaining, but in consultation with the Tallahassee office, and with the assistance of some bargaining experts.

And one of our most familiar faces is leaving. For many years, Llona Geiger was the executive assistant for UFF, and ran the Tallahassee office (which meant legal problems, legislative contacts, coordination and communiction, etc). She is retiring in order to go hiking in Colorado, although she promises to kibbitz when the need arises.

There were two special topics we should note.

UFF Senate Meeting: USF Chapter on Insurance

You may have heard that both Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the state PPO provider, and AvMed, the HMO alternative, are raising their premiums and co-payments. The flurry of increases includes (for Blue Cross/Blue Shield) a 67 % increase in the annual deductible for families and a 33 % increase in co-payments for generic pharmaceuticals and (for Avmed) a 33 % increase in physician office visit co-payment and a 67 % increase in hospital admission fee.

This has been in the works for some time, as well as this year's 2 % salary increase (with a $ 1400 cap) to cover the insurance increase.

The union is watching this very carefully, and at the Senate, the USF Chapter moved to support in principle a number of items:

  • To provide protection against rising costs.
  • To discourage favoritism (especially for providing special deals for administrators).
  • To encourage the development of many options, besides the two now available.
  • To develop local (chapter by chapter) expertise in health benefits.
  • To assure access to the PPO program as long as possible.
Our Chapter's motion was passed by the Senate.


We also heard updates on the growing amount of litigation the attempt to bust the union has generated. There are eight petitions before the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC), the 3-member commission that overlooks labor issues for public employees like us. Currently, all three commissioners are Bush appointees.

First of all, there are four Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) petitions, contending that university administrations seriously violated the rights of the chapters.

The primary ULP is against the FSU Board of Trustees. The FSU administration is the most rabidly anti-union, and the complaint cites problems like the refusal to let UFF members pay dues via dues deductions.

This is the one that the other ULPs are following. As reported in the previous Biweekly, as part of the preliminary process, a hearing officer (who screens cases before they go to the commission) reported that UFF's account of the case was factually correct, that the usual interpretation of the law supports UFF's position, but then she claimed one loophole for not requiring that the FSU administration abide by the terms and conditions of the contract, and another (which she claims says makes those Collective Bargaining Authorization cards we signed irrelevant) saying that the FSU administration is not bound to maintain terms and conditions of employment while both sides prepare for a "certification election" on whether UFF will (continue to) represent UFF faculty.

UFF's lawyers regard the preliminary decision as very strange (the hearing officer claimed that the precedents provided loopholes for public employers, and at the UFF Senate, there was a discussion of the political pressures on PERC.

The other three ULPs are against the FAMU, UF, and USF administrations. These may be strongly influenced by how the FSU petition is ultimately resolved.

Secondly, several administrations are playing games, trying to change the definition of the "bargaining unit," i.e., the employees represented by UFF. This has led to three petitions: the hearing officers for the FAU and FIU came to contradictory rulings (on whether departmental chairs are in the bargaining unit) while UF is trying to make major changes in which departments are represented.


From the beginning, the administrations of FSU and UF have been most adamantly opposed to UFF. UF's Administration has managed to maintain a plausible simulation of civility: UF President Young has been broadcasting weekly missives to all faculty reminding them that unions are tacky, lower-class organizations and that real research universities --- unlike Stony Brook --- put their trust in administrators and boards of corporate CEOs.

FSU's board has been ... less calm. They even banned UFF meetings from campus. FSU's board forced a certification election on whether UFF is the faculty union, scheduled for Oct. 8. The FEA sent some organizers to FSU, and the FSU administration is trying to dictate what buildings they can visit.

This will be the second certification election. At the University of West Florida, in which 66 % of all faculty signed Collective Bargaining Authorization cards, UFF won with 91 % of the vote. At FSU, 65 % of the faculty signed cards, and UFF hopes that on Oct. 9, the FSU Board will have the sense to announce (perhaps through gritted teeth) that they are prepared to deal with UFF with a plausible simulation of civility.

The Bargaining Survey

Bargaining has started, and UFF represents faculty. The first item was the grievance process --- which has to be modified because of the reorganization. UFF and the Administration have exchanged proposals, and will soon be discussing them.

Other issues are in the queue.

As announced in the previous Biweeklies, we are distributing a survey to the bargaining unit, to find out what your priorities are. As Bargaining is akin to poker, the Bargaining Team will keep the results of the survey to themselves.

Your Retirement Dollars at Work

Retirement funds are such big, complicated things that it is difficult to follow them, even when their yours. But that may be dangerous.

Several years ago, Governor Bush reduced payments to the Florida Retirement System (FRS), which helped the Florida budget get a little less out of balance. Since then, FRS lost $ 335,000,000 to Enron, which was run by more of Mr. Bush's friends.

Now Mr. Bush wants $ 104,000,000 to bail out another friend.

The friend is Edison Schools. It is a school management company: if a school district has low test scores, a noisy union, or uppity parents, it can hire Edison to ... to ... well, Edison's track record of doing anything is a bit mixed, but it makes people feel better. For a little while.

Unsurprisingly, it is not a good investment. In 11 years, it has made a profit in only one quarter, and over the last two years its stock price has sunk from $ 36 to $ 2. But it has the right political connections, so the FRS it being asked to, um, invest in it.

The unions representing the employees whose pensions are in this fund are not pleased. On September 30, the FEA and Florida affiliates of other unions began a campaign against the investment.

For more information, here are some links: a Sept. 25 St. Pete Times story , a Sept. 26 St. Pete Times story, a Sept. 26 Miami Herald story, a Sept. 26 Associated Press story, a Sept. 26 Pete Times editorial, a a Sept. 25 TV news report.

We have also posted: a press release, a letter from the NEA to Bush, and a joint letter from labor leaders to Bush.

And if you have any feelings about this issue, you may want to express them to the three people overseeing FRS: Governor Bush, phone 850.488.4441, e-mail ; Charlie Crist, phone 850.414.3990, e-mail ; Tom Gallagher, phone 850.413.3100, e-mail .

October 16, 2003

Yesterday, UWF; Today, FSU; Tomorrow, UF

Last week, the faculty of Florida State University voted overwhelmingly to have the United Faculty of Florida represent them in collective bargaining --- and enforcing the contract. This was the single most bitter battle in the entire confrontation between the United Faculty of Florida and the new Boards of Trustees, and our victory will profoundly affect the entire university system.

So let's take a moment to review how we got here.

It all began with the reorganization of the State University System. The issue for UFF has been whether the state would use the reorganization to reorganize UFF out of existence. This would make it possible for the new Boards of Trustees to write whatever contracts that they felt like writing (if any: some shady operations lack contracts altogether), and it would make it difficult for faculty to enforce the contracts that remained.

Of course, a union cannot be eliminated so easily. Under labor law, a going concern cannot get rid of a union by a reorganization that changes only management and stationary, so the state universities could not lawfully refuse to deal with UFF. But the law is enforced by having the union file a complaint with the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC, which not only is run by Bush appointees, but also may be somewhat chastened by Bush's 2001 attempt to reform it into toothless- ness). So UFF filed many complaints, which are still winding through PERC's legal process. Meanwhile, UFF also proceeded along other, more political fronts.

Perhaps to the surprise of the boards, UFF did not simply evaporate. In fact, the Florida Education Association supported UFF with over $ 1 million and a professional organizer. As UFF's mission is bargaining and enforcing the contract, UFF fought for its role and the contract it defended. Eight of the eleven boards have split the difference, recognizing (or expressing a willingness to recognize) UFF while claiming that the contract is gone: that battle continues on eight fronts. The boards for FSU, UF, and UWF chose to deny UFF altogether.

Last Fall, UFF collected "Collective Bargaining Authorization" cards. In theory, the cards say that the signer wants to be represented in bargaining by UFF; in practice, it means that if at least 30 % of the faculty sign, then the board must either voluntarily recognize UFF, or have a "certification" election, in which faculty vote on whether or not they want to be represented by UFF (majority wins). These elections are messy things, and most boards probably figured that since UFF collected cards from over 60 % of the faculty, there was no point in fighting the issue (USF faculty signed over 1,000 cards out of about 1,600).

But three boards chose to fight, which means certification elections. The UWF election was first, and 91 % of the votes were in favor of UFF. Last week, it was FSU's turn, where 96 % of the votes were in favor of UFF. Gainesville remains. The UF Administration is playing a more subtle game, trying to change the "bargaining unit," i.e., which faculty are represented and which are not. (For example, here at USF, medical faculty are not in the bargaining unit.) Whether the UF Administration hopes that such fiddling could win them an election, or whether they are just stalling, is not clear: so far there is no date for the UF election.

So where are we now?

  • The union is still here, and new contracts are being bargained or soon to be bargained (bargaining is underway at USF, currently working on the grievance process).
  • The old contract is still in contention, with the universities insisting that it is gone, along with twenty-five years worth of precedents based on the contract. UFF insists that the old contract is not gone, and the complex battle is being fought before PERC, whose behavior is growing increasingly erratic. It is possible we might all wind up in court.
  • Thanks to 2002 Initiative # 11, a new Board of Governors now oversees the system from a more entrenched position than the old Board of Regents. This new Board is beginning to show signs of life --- alas, defending Governor Bush's interests against those of the universities --- but after a few years, the Legislature should be facing a new Board stronger than the old.
In other words, much of the damage done to Florida's universities is being repaired. It has cost a lot in many ways, but stopping an avalanche is quite an accomplishment.

But this is not a time to rest on our laurels. There is a ways to go. We need more faculty to support the union, not only by signing cards, but in joining, for it is ultimately in membership that a union gains strength. In academia as elsewhere, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and vigilance is part of what a union is for.


October 28, 2003


A report to the bargaining unit by UFF President Roy Weatherford

The union has learned that the administration is immediately and without consultation abolishing the phased retirement program that has served faculty well for fifteen years or so.

The phased retirement benefit permits faculty to ease into retirement by guaranteeing re-employment at half-time and half-salary during the first five years one draws retirement pay. (The DROP program, which was instituted later by the Florida Retirement System and which Governor Bush has indicated he might try to cut back, provides the same alternative at full-time and full-salary for five years but retirement pay is escrowed rather than available.)

A professor who is in the “window of opportunity” recently applied for phased retirement, as he has been planning for more than a decade. He was told “The phased program is no longer in existence. It may come back when the Collective Bargaining is complete, but no one is sure about this.”

Phased retirement is one of the many faculty rights and privileges that exist only in the union contract because they were negotiated by the union instead of being created by the legislature. When the administration decided to stop enforcing the contract, such rights went into limbo. They didn’t completely disappear because the union maintains the university’s action was illegal and we are fighting it through the Public Employees Relations Commission and the courts. Meanwhile, the university is refusing to reinstitute the contract until the legal battle is over, presumably because they still hope to have the legal right to abolish our contract – not because they hope to be able to do us any favors.

No one knows what will happen to individuals whose opportunity passes while the administration is dragging its feet. The question is whether or not anyone cares.

President Genshaft has repeatedly said that she does not wish to harm the interests of the faculty or the union. But for more than a year now, the university has been harming those interests: first by refusing to negotiate before the expiration date of the contract, then by refusing to accept continued recognition of the union when management reorganized, then by reluctantly accepting the union after a difficult and expensive card drive, and now by continuing to refuse to recognize the union contract.

You may have noticed that the union has been relatively quiet for a while. That is because we believe the best way to advance faculty interests is through collective bargaining and the best bargaining is done at the table rather than in the press. We therefore instituted a tacit ceasefire when bargaining actually began (and passed up some really good opportunities to criticize dumb administration actions in public.)

I am no longer convinced that strategy is viable.

It may be that the only way to force this administration to talk to its faculty is by more confrontation rather than less.

I must reluctantly admit that the bargaining process is not working either quickly or well. The administration is not even pretending that their objective is to reinstitute our rights and privileges as quickly and completely as possible. Of course, the cynical ones among us never did believe that was their intention – else why would they not just reinstitute the old contract? Now it is clear that they intend to drag the process out as long as they can and to try to extract as much advantage as they can.

In January they unilaterally suspended the contract.

In May, after a difficult and expensive card drive, they agreed to bargain with the union.

In August they actually started to get serious.

In September formal negotiations began.

As November approaches, they have not agreed to reinstate a single faculty benefit or union prerogative.

Furthermore, in negotiating the one Section currently on the table, Grievance Procedures, they are not merely trying to adapt our old grievance process to the new management structure – they are trying to limit our right to grieve certain issues and to restrict binding arbitration only to “major” issues. This is not a good faith effort to restore the contract as quickly and painlessly as possible. A reduction in our ability to enforce our rights is a de facto reduction in the rights themselves.

Our bargaining team has been soldiering on without release time for their efforts (even though the union negotiated release time for bargaining more than twenty years ago.) Despite this handicap, our team is moving faster than the high paid professionals on the other side, for whom bargaining IS their professional assignment and for which they are highly paid. They also get full comp time for the same weekends and evenings our people have to contribute voluntarily. Now we are getting close to the time when it will be difficult to arrange release time for our team for next semester without seriously disrupting the lives of their colleagues and students. It seems the administration wants to maintain its bargaining advantage for another semester no matter what the human cost, which again implies that they do not intend to give back our rights without a fight. Or perhaps they hope that those of us who are doing the work will finally be exhausted and will quit and the union can be broken.

We hope to win retroactive action on all the pending grievances when we are vindicated in the courts – but how can you retroactively get a year of retirement?

We have been waiting patiently for the administration to do what’s right. Should we continue to do so? Should we again become more confrontational? Would you support us if we do? Whose side are you on?

Please send us an e-mail at and let us know what you think we should do in defense of your rights and what you are willing to do to help us.

The contract covers everyone, member and non-member alike, but our ability to negotiate it and enforce it depends upon the support of our members.

In solidarity,

Roy Weatherford
President, USF Chapter, United Faculty of Florida


October 30, 2003

The Wheels Turn Slowly

Here are the major operations that UFF is working on right now.

  • The organizing project to sign up new members continues. Again, UFF's strength at the bargaining table is a reflection of UFF's membership: I was told by a union executive that he could tell the percentage of employees that were union members simply by looking at the contract: A STRONG CONTRACT WAS A SIGN OF HIGH UNION MEMBERSHIP, AND VICE VERSA.
    spacer One difficulty we've been experiencing at USF is a bottleneck at the Payroll office. While the USF Administration agreed to arrange for dues deductions for new members, the USF payroll office --- apparently out of sheer frazzlement --- has not been deducting dues from some new members' paychecks. Because the rules state one is not a union member unless one is paying dues, UFF is pressuring the payroll office to get its act together.
  • The purpose of UFF is to bargain and enforce the contract. Readers will recall that UFF demanded that the USF Board recognize both UFF and the contract, and that the USF Board (like seven other boards) chose to split the difference, recognizing UFF but not the contract. The impact of this is:
    • While UFF contends that bargaining new contracts should be from the old contract as the status quo, the USF Administration the USF Administration doesn't want anything to do with the old contract.
    • All grievances filed under the contract as of Jan. 7 are being ignored by the Administration.
    UFF contends that it is illegal for the Administration to just ignore the old contract. UFF's litigation on the issues consists of petitioning the Public Employees' Relations Commission (PERC, a 3-member commission now consisting entirely of Bush appointees) to order the university boards to obey the law. PERC's preliminary rulings have been strange and inconsistent, and litigation is likely to last for a while.
  • Meanwhile, the USF Chapter of UFF and the USF Administration have begun bargaining what we both agree must be changed: the Grievance Process.
    spacer The grievance process in Article 20 of the contract (which is on-line: a humongous .pdf file at ) states that if a faculty member (ie, anyone in the bargaining unit) discovers that (s)he is a victim of a violation of a term or condition of the contract, that member must file a formal "Step 1" complaint WITHIN 30 DAYS (the USF Administration enforces this time limit rigorously). The complaint must state what term or condition of the contract was violated: IT DOES NOT SUFFICE THAT THE MEMBER BE A VICTIM OF FOLLY OR AN INJUSTICE.
    spacer First, both sides are encouraged to resolve the dispute informally. If this is insufficient, there is a Step 1 hearing, at which the grievant is permitted the assistance of a union grievance officer (ie, a fellow faculty member in the union who has had training in the grievance process and is working AS A VOLUNTEER in the process). The hearing officer is usually a member of the Provost's office.
    spacer If the grievant is not satisfied with the result of the hearing, (s)he has 30 days to file a request for a Step 2 hearing held in Tallahassee before a representative of the Board of Regents. If the grievant still is not satisfied with the result of the Step 2 hearing, (s)he may ask the union to file for "binding arbitration": an independent arbitrator is selected and hears the case, and makes (within the parameters set by the contract) a ruling. Since arbitration rulings set precedents, the union has the discretion to accept or deny the grievant's request for arbitration.
    spacer If the grievant was denied arbitration, or does not like the arbitration ruling, there remains the dubious and expensive option of a lawsuit.
    spacer That is the process defined by the contract, and clearly some things have to be changed. Most obviously:
    spacer There is no more Board of Regents, and the Board of Trustees doesn't want anything to do with contracts. Thus something has to be done about Step 2.
    spacer There are a number of other anomalies created by the reorganization that have to be fixed. In addition, the USF Administration wants to limit UFF's right to arbitration.
    spacer Finally, we should mention the difficulties caused by the USF Administration's refusal to recognize the old contract.
    • A substantial part of what is at stake are the arbitration rulings of the last quarter century on the old contract. In effect, the Adminis- tration is asking for all these precedents to disappear.
    • The Administration is refusing to process contract grievances. UFF Grievance Chair Mark Klisch is recommending that grievants file grievances under both the contract AND the new rules, which do not offer as many rights as the contractual process.
      spacer If PERC decides to enforce the law and order the USF Administration to follow the terms and conditions of the old contract, the Administration will be in instantaneous violation of contractual time limits on responses to grievances. It will be interesting to see how the Administration tries to wriggle out of that quandary.
    Meanwhile, the two bargaining teams are exchanging proposals for a new system. It seems that the Administration does not like the old system, and would prefer a weaker one. And that leads us to ...

A Letter From The Chapter President

On Tuesday, October 28, the Biweekly sent out an Extra edition containing an open letter from USF UFF Chapter President Roy Weatherford. While the proximate issue was the USF Administration's unilateral decision to cancel the phased retirement program, the ultimate problem was the refusal of the USF Board to recognize the contract as the satus quo, and the effect that refusal is having on bargaining.

  • The only section being bargained, the grievance process, is going slowly because the USF Board's team wants to greatly restrict faculty rights during the grievance process.
  • The USF Administration has refused to honor UFF assignments of course releases for its bargaining team, in violation of the contract. This means that the team, which consists of faculty, has to work on bargaining during their own free time.
The letter is on-line
on this page above. President Weatherford asks, "We have been waiting patiently for the administration to do what's right. Should we continue to do so? Should we again become more confrontational? Would you support us if we do?" And he concludes by asking for more volunteers to help. All responses should be sent to the uff account at


November 13, 2003

What Do Bargainers Do All Day?

Ideally, bargaining is the process of both sides developing or discovering a contract that both sides can live with. It is not a zero-sum game: there are win-win sitauations to look for --- and lose-lose situations to avoid. But there are two parties with different interests.

Since the precise language of the contract is what (usually) determines the meaning of the contract, both sides have to be careful about what their proposals say, and what language to agree to. After a contract is signed, if there is a disagreement over what it means, an impartial arbitrator (who was not in the bargaining room and therefore can only rely on the text of the contract itself) is supposed to read the contract and determine what it says. That is a good reason for great care.

The USF Board, which (as President Genshaft told the USF Faculty Senate) is overseeing bargaining, has a bargaining team, consisting largely of lawyers who have been assigned bargaining as part of their job assignment. They are employees and want to please their employers.

What do their employers want? Not being psychic, we can only look at what their predecessors under the Board of Regents sought. They tried to maintain the discretionary powers of administrators in dispensing discipline, in making assignments, in determining raises, in distributing resources (travel funding, sabbaticals, etc), and so on. As for raises themselves, they were always happy to distribute (as they saw fit) any raises that the Legislature chose to fund.

At present, we have gotten many signs that the Board of Trustees has indicated similar goals to their team.

Meanwhile, the USF Chapter of UFF, which consists of those faculty who have chosen to put their money where their interests are by becoming dues-paying union members, are represented by a bargaining team consisting of faculty who are working on their free time as volunteers. This is odd, because the union had long ago won the right to assign course releases to bargaining team members, but as the Board of Trustees is (unlawfully) ignoring the terms and conditions of the old contract, our team members are working on their own time.

(The union is litigating the course release issue, but no one expects a ruling before Spring.)

The union's agenda has always been: due process. We want explicit procedures and criteria for making decisions. We want fiddle-proof mechanisms for how assignments are made, how evaluations are interpreted and how salary decisions are made, how resources are distributed, etc. We don't want a Dean simply looking into a crystal ball and deciding who gets tenure and who does not; we want a formal process, with intelligible criteria for collegial decision-making.

In a well-managed institution, the points of contention would be: what are the specifics of the procedure and criteria. The union would push for specifics that would benefit faculty, while the institution would push for specifics that would allow them greater control over faculty. But strangely, in Florida, the Board teams have traditionally opposed procedures and criteria altogether. This is strange because failures of procedure are common and embarrassing, but perhaps process usually is not a priority to the boards.

And usually both sides prefer that bargaining be a relatively low-temperature affair. That is why the USF Chapter has maintained a relative "cease-fire," avoiding some of the high-profile tactics that some of our colleagues are trying across the country (see recent issues of the Chronicle of Higher Education). We hope that in this will encourage the Board and the Administration to see the value of a sound relationship with the union --- and the value of sound procedures. But we are watching our colleagues elsewhere, and taking notes.


November 27, 2003

BARGAINING: What's Been Happening

As mentioned in the Nov. 13 Biweekly (see ), bargaining over the last few months opened on one part of the contract that both sides agreed had to be changed because of the reorganization: the grievance process.

The union team, led by UFF Chief Negotiator and Professor of Accounting Bob Welker, proposed only one set of modifications: the team proposed eliminating the second "step" of the process.

  • Under the contract, a grievance -- a charge that the Administration has violated the contract -- is first heard in a "Step 1" hearing in the Provost's office, and, if necessary, appealed to a "Step 2" hearing in Tallahassee before lawyers representing the Board of Regents, and then, if necessary, appealed before a disinterested third party, an "impartial arbitrator."
  • Because the Board of Governors refuses to do things like hear grievances, the union team proposed this modification: first mediation if practicable, then Step 1, then arbitration, with no Step 2.
The Administration proposed to eliminate arbitration on many issues not immediately affecting job status: arbitration would be permitted for issues involving tenure, promotion, salary, etc.

In other words, the Administration itself would be the highest level of appeal in the grievance process in issues involving academic freedom; access to documents; appointments; discrimination based on creed, race, religion, sex, etc.; benefits; employee rights and work conditions; job assignments; leaves; off-the-job activity; performance evaluations; non-reappointment; promotion; rights to royalties and control of inventions and creative works; sabbaticals; sexual harassment; and the grievance procedure itself. Over half the grievances now filed fall into these categories. In addition, the union would not be able to get arbitration for any grievances the union chapter files. Thus the union would not be able to get arbitration for grievances on access to communications (mail, listservs, etc.); the right to consult with the president (who has refused to meet with the union for two years); the use of facilities; and release time for bargaining team members and other union officers, as well as announced policies that the union believes are unlawful and violate faculty rights or impair union operations.

Since it is arbitration that keeps the system honest, the union would not agree to the proposal, and bargaining was stalemated.

FREEDOM FROM FEAR: An Old Issue Resurfaces

Then something more primeval came up. Fear.

The phenomenon is an old one. A faculty member will not speak to a union organizer on-campus, or even off-campus in the same town. A faculty member would like to join the union, but is afraid that if union mailings are noticed in her/his box, others in the department will see.

It seems to be worse at branch campuses, although it is present at some areas of the Tampa campus. It is real, if not constant. Is the fear justified? After all, retaliation against any employee for union activity is a violation of federal law. And only an incompetent and petty chair would pressure faculty one way or the other on whether to be in the union, or even to be active. But there has been a little retaliation, against union officers and even against relatively quiet union members --- largely at the departmental level (yes, there are incompetent and petty chairs out there). In many cases, the fears are overstated --- people have all kinds of fears --- but the union is very concerned about leadership styles that create fear.

Well, now it's not just the union that is concerned.

First, some background. The Legislature has recently decided that the satellite campuses of USF should be sort of independent. The Administration composed an Inter Campus Operating Procedures proposal, replacing the previous document of 1992 (both documents are on-line via the page of materials for the October meeting); the new proposal was made without faculty input. The Faculty Senate was concerned about such a proposal being made without faculty input, and appointed an Ad Hoc Committee on Inter-Campus Operating Procedures, whose report was presented to the Senate on Nov. 12 (and is on-line a large .pdf document). The report enumerates many reservations about the proposal, especially the amount of power it proposes concentrating in the hands of the branch campus Chief Executive Officers.

Committee Chairman Steve Permuth, in his verbal presentation, directed attention to pages 15, 16, and 18. The Committee went to the satellite campuses, and reported that:

  • "Of great and profound concern to this committee is the sense of real and perceived attempts to discourage and dissuade faculty from exercising their rights to ask questions, to file legitimate grievances, to maintain an academic alliance to the Tampa campus, or meet one to one with members of this committee without fear of recrimination or regret ... When faculty feel the need to meet a member of this Committee off campus, so no one knows about the meeting and are willing to talk on the phone only if assured they will not be identified, this is a sure sign of trouble."
The report recommends that the Senate convene a panel of faculty, chairs and administrators to investigate "what we believe is egregious and disturbing conduct in attempts to 'quiet' faculty ... ."

The Senate was deeply disturbed, as was President Genshaft, who announced that she would direct the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity Affairs to conduct a formal investigation. She also said that no complaints had ever reached her, even though she was in the Senate room when, in 2002, Chapter President Roy Weatherford had said that he was sorry to report a growing sense of fear and intimidation at USF.

So now that the issue is in the open, the union has three comments.

  1. Some officials do cultivate a fearsome reputation to keep subordinates quiet. Their powers are usually more limited than it may seem, and their powers are very limited in daylight or in a crowd. Now that a window is opening and a crowd is gathering, it may be safer to talk.
  2. But who to talk to? Since the Senate and the Union represent the faculty (in different ways), the prestige of the Senate and the legal power of the union make them logical people to turn to. There will more information on this in the weeks and months ahead. And the Office of DEOA will be conducting a formal investigation.
  3. What to talk about? There are a lot of vague fears floating around, and some specific concerns based on actual events and policies: actual events and policies are the only things the Senate, the Union, or the Office of the DEOA can deal with. Accuracy and detail is important: as in grievance cases, documentation can be critical (if you get in trouble, start a journal, recording everything that happens, with dates, and copies of documents).
Hopefully we have finally brought the monster out to bay. Dealing with it will be a protracted process, but this is a situation where fear itself is the greatest enemy.

SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER: Thursday, November 20

These were merely two of the major problems before the union. There were others. For example, the Adminis- tration unilaterally eliminated phased retirement, and public notice was made only after some faculty applied for it and were turned down. No rationale has been given, and on November 12, Faculty Senate President Elizabeth Bird expressed concern about the Administration unilaterally abrogating terms and conditions of employment without even public notice.

The union is granted three minutes every three months to speak to the Board of Trustees at their general meeting. At the November 20 meeting, Chapter President Roy Weatherford went overtime as he had a lot to say. While union members handed out marigold and ivory handouts, Weatherford told the Board about the stalled bargaining and faculty fears. He also mentioned in passing the constraints under which the union is operating, including the Administration's refusal to honor the union's assignment of release time to union officers and the bargaining team. The Times, the Tribune, and the Oracle reported the story: see stories by the St. Petersburg Times, the Tampa Tribune, and the USF Oracle.


The holiday season is upon us, and in some ways, things have simmered down a bit since then. Union Chief Negotiator Bob Welker reports: "UFF has made proposals on the following eight subject matter areas which correspond to Articles 1-7 and 20 of the expired contract, namely: Recognition, Consultation, UFF Privileges, Reserved Rights, Academic Freedom and Responsibility, Nondiscrimination, Minutes, Rules and Budgets, Grievance Procedure and Arbitration. The USF Administration has made counter proposals to five of our subject matter area proposals and we expect them to make counter proposals to at least two more of our subject matter area proposals on December 5, 2003. The UFF Bargaining Team looks forward to representing the interests of the employees in the bargaining unit as the bargaining process continues."

On the longer term, as we compose a new contract with a new Board as USF is reorganized, we are in one of those windows of opportunity when effort and courage stands a good chance of being rewarded. The whole of the university is being reorganized, SACS is coming, enrollment is rising, the research mission is expanding (imposing growing demands on both infrastructure and red tape) and all while the Board of Governors and the Legislature have their hands on their ears while humming loudly. USF now stands at the crossroads. Led by a proactive faculty, USF could become a major academic bridge between north and south, a leader in confronting the challenges of the 21st Century. But this future is not guaranteed. In the lives of universities as of people, timing is everything. And the time is now.