United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
22 September 2011
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MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
UFF will be holding a Welcome Back & Welcome to USF Reception for new (and continuing) faculty and professionals on October 4, 5:30 – 7:30 at the Embassy Suites Hotel (at the corner of Fowler Ave. and Spectrum Dr. on USF-Tampa) in Salon F. All UFF USF System employees, UFF members and non-members, are invited for hors d'oeuvres and libations.
TOMORROW IN LAKELAND!
Tomorrow, the UFF USF Chapter will meet at USF-Poly in LTB 1123 (see
directions and map. There will be sandwiches, chips, soda, and information about what is brewing in Tallahassee. And there will be a celebration cake for the USF Polytechnic faculty. Per the USF System Human Resources Office, the USF Polytechnic campus has 61 in-unit employees, who are covered by the CBA and 30 of the 61 are members of the UFF USF System Chapter, which places them at the 50% mark! USF Polytechnic in-unit employees are to be congratulated and commended for their hard work to obtain a 'majority union' membership! All UFF USF members and non-members are invited, so come and join the movement.
JOIN UFF TODAY!
Download, fill in, and mail the membership form. You must be a UFF member at the time of an incident (such as a reprimand, non-reappointment, layoff notice, or tenure/ promotion denial) for UFF to represent you in a grievance or future litigation. UFF CANNOT REPRESENT A NON-MEMBER IN A GRIEVANCE OR FUTURE LITIGATION. And if you join UFF by December 9, you will receive a $ 300 dues rebate after the academic year; it's never been easier to join the movement.
IN THIS ISSUE
REPORT ON THE UFF SENATE MEETING
The primary policy-making body of the United Faculty of Florida is the UFF Senate, which meets twice a year to deal with major issues confronting higher education faculty and professionals in Florida. The UFF Senate met last weekend, and the major issue was the legislation which will start appearing in committees during this fall in preparation for the session next spring. Many of the bad bills that did not make it last time are coming back, accompanied by additional proposals.
UFF is part of the Florida Education Association's coalition that is leading the opposition to the governor and the legislative leadership, and UFF is the most visible and effective defender of the basic values of higher education in Florida. Part of UFF's strategy is to give campaign contributions to legislators who support education; these contributions are pragmatic, not ideological or partisan, and in fact over the past few years most of the dollars have gone to Republicans. BUT DUES DO NOT GO TOWARDS CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS. So UFF relies on donations to its Political Action Committee. If you would like to donate one dollar of each paycheck to UFF's PAC, here is the form, which you can fill in, sign, and mail in. Thank you to those who sign up: we can use all the help we can get.
"THE BEAR IS ONLY HIBERNATING."
Last spring, UFF helped kill bills that would have decertified unions across the state, abolished tenure in community colleges, and eliminated dues payment by paycheck deduction. UFF also helped reduce the employee contributions towards the pension fund and minimize fiddling with the health benefits. But our sources say that all these are coming back: some will appear in committees during the fall, and others will pop up during the session next spring. For more, see below.
THE TEXAN SOLUTIONS.
Texas Governor Rick Perry is hawking a higher education package that would replace long-term perspectives with a quarterly obsession with bottom lines. This package has earned criticism from the American Association of Universities and applause from Governor Scott, who would like to try it out here. For more, see below.
"THE BEAR IS ONLY HIBERNATING"
At the UFF Senate meeting last weekend, the issue was the legislature. Last spring, the UFF and its state affiliate, the Florida Education Association, had bottled up some destructive legislation and reduced the effects of other bills that did pass. But State Senator John Thrasher, one of the central figures in the leadership, pointedly told one of FEA's advocates that this isn't over. And at the Senate meeting, UFF President Tom Auxter, UFF Executive Director Ed Mitchell, and a special visitor, FEA President Andy Ford, told the Senate that, as Mitchell put it, "The bear isn't dead; the bear is only hibernating."
Now is the time that the legislative committees start planning for spring. And while the top concern of legislators is keeping their jobs – i.e. the outcome of redistricting – some of the bills from last session are being revived. Bills that UFF and FEA expect to emerge include:
UFF and FEA are watching the situation and making plans. The unions found last spring that asking people to contact their legislators' local offices – especially in person or by phone – was particularly helpful, and the unions are incorporating what they learned last session for the next round.
Pensions. Yes, Florida public employees now "contribute" 3 % of their salary towards their pensions, but the original number had been 8 %, it had been cut to 5 % by the time it became a bill, and a lot of union agitation got it down to 3 %. But the reality is that it is not really a contribution towards our retirement. Florida's pension system is one of the soundest in the nation, and the benefit had been part of our compensation package. This 3 % is actually an income tax on public employees, and this is one tax the governor will probably attempt to raise. There are also some noises about health benefits...
Tenure. The original Senate Bill 6 to enable arbitrary and capricious dismissals of K-12 teachers (and to deny local boards the power to reward teachers who sought additional education and training) had been vetoed by Governor Charlie Crist. It was resurrected last spring and signed by Governor Rick Scott. And last spring, State Senator Erik Fresen introduced a bill to abolish tenure at community colleges; when Mitchell asked Fresen why not abolish tenure in the State University System, Fresen had responded by saying that it was easier to just go after the community colleges at that time. FEA has heard rumbles that tenure in higher education is again appearing on the table, and so has the press: see the Sunshine State News on how Tenure Battle Looms at Florida Universities, Colleges.
Unions. Two bills FEA expects to see again are: a bill to decertify a union if it does not have at least 50 % membership, and a bill to bar a union from collecting dues by paycheck deduction. FEA is concerned that the first bill might appear early in the session and be effective immediately, and is urging chapters to build their membership this fall. The latter bill would greatly increase the unions' administrative costs (paycheck deduction is a lot simpler than, say, sending out bills). Of course, both bills are unconstitutional, but fighting them in court would take years.
THE TEXAN SOLUTIONS
UFF is watching a Texan initiative that seems to have won the support of Governor Scott: the 7 solutions advanced by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a right wing think tank and member of the State Policy Network, which is "fighting to limit government and advance market-friendly public policy at the state and local levels."
The difficulty with inexpert micro-management can be seen in Breakthrough Solution # 1, Measuring Teaching Efficiency... (notice that "efficiency" is the priority). The information gathered will include the number of students taught in the previous twelve months and compute the salary per student; meanwhile, someone would read ALL research articles by faculty.
Florida State University President Eric Barron pointedly claimed that Florida Can Do Better Than Texas. He wrote that "Much like community colleges, the metrics in the Texas proposal encourage larger class sizes, higher teaching loads for faculty, and a use of adjuncts as a way to increase the number of students being taught while lowering the cost." Barron observed that universities have different missions from community colleges, and therefore should have different goals. He proposed modified versions of the breakthrough solutions, suggesting, for example, that instead of metrics applied to individual teachers and classes, that they be applied to departments and colleges.
Tweaking the Breakthrough Solutions may not be an adequate response, especially if, as UFF President Tom Auxter said to the Chronicle, "[Scott]'s already finished the conversation all by himself." In the Chronicle article on Florida May Be Next Battleground Over Faculty Productivity, Auxter warned that imposing a plan that relied on performance-based bonuses – and no actual raises – would result in stronger faculty leaving Florida.
Scott expressed interest in Barron's alternatives, perhaps because the counterproposal did not address the issue of micro-management. The bill that eliminated job security for K-12 teachers was a state-level imposition on local school districts. Breakthrough solutions, no matter how tweaked, would entail a similar imposition on higher education, which Florida voters ten years ago voted to make relatively independent of the state government. The State Policy Network may claim to fight to limit government, but what their affiliate is proposing is micro-management of traditionally independent agencies. For example, one proposal is that merit pay be no longer a matter between UFF and Academic Affairs; but instead the Department of Education would dictate a formula in conformity with some statute.
UFF will be watching these breakthroughs for any legislative proposals that arise out of them. Meanwhile, for a Texas view of the Breakthrough Solutions, an Alliance for Texas A & M University has posted a pair of videos on the solutions that are breakthroughs....
Next Chapter Meeting tomorrow, Friday, September 23, at noon, on USF-Poly in LTB 1123.
Sandwiches & sodas are provided by the union, and all UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.
Membership: Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join,
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