United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
17 November 2011
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TOMORROW AT SARASOTA
Tomorrow, the UFF USF System Chapter will meet at USF-Sarasota / Manatee in room B336. The campus is on 8350 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota: on I-75, take exit 217 towards Bradenton and follow FL 70 (which becomes 53rd Ave. E.) until you reach 14th Str. W. (U.S. 41) and turn left; 14th Str. eventually becomes Tamiami Trail (see the campus map). This is part of the Chapter's policy to meet at all USF System campuses regularly. As always, all UFF USF Bargaining Unit employees are invited to check us out; all UFF members may participate (including voting on business before the chapter) and all participants and guests are invited to have sandwiches and soda pop. 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.
DONATE TO UFF PAC!
With the spring legislative session coming up, the UFF Political Action Committee is making campaign contributions to critical legislators. Dues money does NOT go for campaign contributions, so the UFF PAC relies on donations. Legislators cannot accept campaign contributions during or just before the legislative session, so UFF PAC is asking for donations by December 1. If you would like to make a donation to UFF PAC (and you don't have to be a UFF member or even an employee in the USF UFF Bargaining Unit to donate), you may download and send in our form with the donation. Thank you, and special thanks to all USF employees who are deducting a dollar (or more!) per paycheck to UFF PAC; if you would like to enroll, you may download and send in the form. Alas, as the late Californian House Speaker Jesse Unruh said, "Money is the mother's milk of politics," and we have to be practical.
IN THIS ISSUE
LESSONS LEARNED ABOUT THE POWERS THAT BE
USF will be greatly impacted by legislative politics next spring, and two major events last week tell us a lot about what can be done, and what outcomes can look like.
- USF POLY: WHEN IN DOUBT, PUNT. Under enormous pressure, the Florida SUS Board of Governors tabled the issue of USF Polytechnic's independence – for now. For more, see below.
- OHIO: ORGANIZATION CAN DO IT. Ohio voters rejected anti-union legislation in a referendum that threw out one of the most toxic state laws passed this last year. It didn't just happen; it took a lot of hard work. For more, see below.
USF POLY: WHEN IN DOUBT, PUNT
On November 9, the Florida State University System Board of Governors decided not to separate USF Polytechnic from the USF System at this time, but instead enumerated eight "benchmarks" – see the press release – that USF Poly is to achieve before the Board revisits the issue.
The issue goes to the question of the "status" of the campus. "USF Lakeland" opened in 1988 as the only institution in Polk County – a growing community with aspirations – that granted Masters degrees. USF Lakeland was created by legislators for the Polk County boosters who supported them (a history not unlike USF Tampa itself, in many ways a creation of the late Congressman Sam Gibbons). Since then, Polk County has had a piece of USF downtown, and hence the mixed feelings of having a piece, and only a piece.
So the benchmarks composed by the Board of Governors may not be as central as two issues raised in comments by the leading architect of the USF Poly independence push, Florida State Senator J. D. Alexander:
The Board's decision to delay deciding was almost predictable: with enormous political forces on one side, and almost consensual predictions of disaster on the other, the human reaction is to put the mess off to next year, if then. But the fundamental problems of the position of USF Polytechnic and the obliviousness of decision-makers to faculty and professional advice remain, and these problems must be addressed.
- "USF's priorities are (at the) Tampa (campus). They're not here; they will never be here." Allocation of scarce resources, including the attention of the central administration (which is a scarce resource), is a sensitive point in any system. The system should not be stuck in a zero-sum game; after all, the San Francisco Bay Area has three major universities and many major regional institutions and smaller high-class institutions. But the fear of getting stuck in a zero-sum game could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, a prophecy that would compromise not only the USF System but the entire region the system serves.
- Alexander dismissed UFF's poll results showing opposition by 27 of 35 responding USF Poly faculty and professionals as 'a biased representation of only union faculty members,' according to WTSP. The nitpicky retort is that UFF polled the entire UFF USF Poly bargaining unit, and besides, a majority of those employees are UFF members. More to the point, Alexander was dismissing what the faculty had to say. Politicians may have the power to create, fund, defund, or alter colleges and universities, but that does not mean that they know what they are doing. It is the faculty who know the most about higher education, and this was a proposal that faced overwhelming opposition from USF Poly faculty. It took that opposition, plus opposition from students, administrators, and a growing number of nervous community boosters to table the proposal.
OHIO: ORGANIZATION CAN DO IT
In what is being called one of labor's major recent victories, Ohioans voted 61 % to 39 % to repeal a bill targeting public employee unions. Among its provisions were restrictions on several subjects of collective bargaining, including health care, pensions, and staffing. The most controversial provision is very interesting for us Floridians: when a union and an administration (e.g. a school district or police department) are unable to reach an agreement (i.e. they are in "impasse"), then the administration's governing board (e.g. the school board or city council) may impose a resolution.
The reason why we Floridians would be interested in that provision is ... such a provision is already in force in Florida.
But giving one side the final say would have been a radical innovation for Ohio. Opponents of Senate Bill 5 quickly collected a million signatures to place a referendum to repeal Senate Bill 5 on the ballot, and formed an organization (We are Ohio) to turn out a "no" vote (the referendum on Senate Bill 5 was on its continuation; as a majority voted "no", it was repealed). The depth of feeling was reflected in the fact that We are Ohio outspent the pro-SB 5 organization, Building a Better Ohio, by almost four to one; this is unusual since in the USA, corporate campaign spending is about fifteen times that of union campaign spending.
This victory didn't just happen. We are Ohio and its union backers were convinced that most Ohioans opposed Senate Bill 5 and would vote against it if they voted. To make sure that they did, unions across the nation did what unions do to make up for the financial disadvantage they typically face against corporations: they called for volunteers in Ohio to go door to door asking people to vote, and they called for volunteers out of state to man phone banks to call voters to remind them to vote.
FEA sent five staff workers to Ohio to help turn out the vote, and the AFL-CIO set up phone banks and parceled out phone numbers to volunteers. American Federation of Teachers Executive Vice President Francine Lawrence wrote to union affiliates, "As an Ohioan, I would like to thank everyone who spent countless hours knocking on doors and making phone calls, which helped make history..."
That's what it takes to win, especially in a country where "didn't show up to vote" usually wins a majority of the electorate. Concerned citizens need organizations to amplify their concerns, for politicians have learned that it is safe to ignore unorganized citizens. For unions, organization is critical in dealing with government. Barack Obama raised three quarters of a billion dollars in 2008 for his campaign; about half a million of that came from union-affiliated political action committees. Money helps (see the Donate to UFF PAC blurb at left), but a union's real strength comes from the participation of its members and volunteers.
Next Chapter Meeting tomorrow, Friday, November 18, at noon, on USF-Sarasota / Manatee in room B336.
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,
simply fill out and send in the membership form.
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