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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
26 September 2013
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Chapter Meeting Tomorrow Noon on USF Tampa in EDU 161

The Chapter will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon in EDU 161. The schedule for the rest of the semester is:

  • On the Fridays of September 27, October 11, November 8, and November 22, at 12 noon, we will meet on USF Tampa in EDU 161.
  • We will meet on Friday, October 25 at 12 noon on a location TBA on USF Sarasota / Manatee.
As always, there will be sandwiches, chips, and soda. All USF UFF employees, members and non-members alike, are invited: come and bring a friend!

Join UFF Today!

Download, fill in, and mail the membership form. Benefits of membership include the right to run and vote in UFF chapter and statewide elections; representation in grievances (UFF cannot represent a non-member in a grievance or litigation); special deals in insurance, travel, legal advice, and other packages provided by our affiliates; free insurance coverage for job-related liability; and the knowledge you are supporting education in Florida. AND YOU CAN JOIN NOW AND AS A DUES PAYING MEMBER, YOU WILL RECEIVE A $ 100 REBATE NEXT SUMMER. Come and join the movement.


Report on the UFF Senate Meeting, Part I: Building the Union

The primary policy-making body of the United Faculty of Florida is the UFF Senate, which meets twice a year to set policy and make plans for the future. This year, in addition the senate meeting, there were several workshops on major issues this union faces - and major issues all unions face. In the next few Biweeklies, we will report on not only the business presented before the Senate, but also on material presented in some of those workshops - and how they pertain to USF.

In this issue, we outline the presentations at two of the workshops on building the union. One of the two workshops concerned recruiting new union members and the other concerned recruiting new union leaders. But both were about building a better, more effective union.

  • What a Union is and What a Union is not. Like organizations from the American Chemical Society to the Modern Language Association, the United Faculty of Florida is an organization of academics and professionals working for a common purpose. En route, the organization performs important services for their members, constituents, and community - but the union is more than a service agency. For more on this common purpose and how union members and activists work towards this purpose, see below or click here.
  • Building a Better Union. The United Faculty of Florida is primarily a volunteer organization. Its Chapter Council consists of eleven professors, eight associate professors, and two instructors. But the union itself consists of its 500+ members. So ... how do we persuade more people to pitch in? For more, see below or click here.

What a Union is and What a Union is not

A union is an organization of employees who unite to defend and advance their interests and ideals. It is based on Poor Richard's maxim that God helps those who help themselves. Employees form unions to help themselves, to help their colleagues, and to assure that their work is meaningful.

Many employees and employers would prefer some gracious authority that would condescend to assure decent treatment and meaningful employment to worthy workers. Humanity has a long history of hierarchical social and political arrangements, and many people would prefer to accept the will of one's feudal lord. But kings and employers have their own interests and agenda, and employees have repeatedly (and sometimes bitterly) been reminded of that One is never served so well as by oneself.

So when one of the recent flyers from the United Faculty of Florida talks about Member Rights, it starts with The Right to Self-Organization, and quotes Florida Statute 447.03:
447.03 Employees' right of self-organization. - Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor unions or labor organizations or to refrain from such activity, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities, for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.
This means that the USF employees in the UFF USF Bargaining Unit have the legal right to join UFF, to talk to co-workers about joining UFF, to pass out literature about joining UFF (to colleagues when not teaching), to give membership forms and grievance forms and petitions to colleagues, and to join with colleagues to improve working conditions. The USF Board of Trustees (and its representative, the USF Administration, or any of its appointees) may not interfere with your exercising these rights, or retaliate against you for exercising these rights.

Just as the faculty and professionals of USF are the University of South Florida, the members of UFF are the United Faculty of Florida. Just as the University of South Florida is not a mere creation of the Board and its Administration, with us as their vassals, so the United Faculty of Florida is not a mere service organization, with USF UFF employees as its customers or beneficiaries.

It is true that UFF provides services to its members, and in one importance instance, to non-members. UFF bargains the contract on behalf of all UFF USF employees, and will represent any UFF member in a grievance (provided that the employee didn't join UFF after the contract violation being grieved). And many members prefer to simply pay their 1 % dues and treat membership as part quiet support for their interests and for higher education, and part insurance.

And UFF, like many academic and professional organizations, tries to make membership more attractive by offering benefits, special deals, and even credit cards. UFF's affiliates are no different. Right now, the American Federation of Teachers offers special deals in auto, disability, home, life, long-term care, pet, and vision insurance, health club and health discount deals, legal and financial services and counseling (including, of course, an AFT MasterCard), entertainment and hotel discounts and car rental programs, and special deals on books, computers, cosmetics, flowers, magazines, and tires: for more, see the AFT + Member Benefits page. Both the Florida Education Association and the National Education Association make similar efforts. All UFF members are members of these affiliates and are therefore eligible for these benefits. Coupon-clipper types have bragged about how they make a profit by union membership.

But UFF members are members, not customers. UFF members vote in chapter and state elections, can serve on UFF committees (we always need helping hands), and run in chapter and state elections (chapter elections are next spring). UFF members participate in the decision-making process and collectively provide UFF the clout it needs to be effective: the strength of a union lies in its membership. For UFF members, UFF is not only your union, it is a movement of which you are part.

Building a Better Union

At the UFF Senate meeting, there were two workshops on building unions. One was on the Membership 365 project to recruit new members. The other was on Growing the next generation of leaders. Since UFF is a volunteer organization, these are merely two aspects of the same construction project.

Currently, about one-third of all UFF USF employees are UFF members. Several years ago, activists from SUNY's United University Professions visited USF and told UFF activists that when UUP membership went above 50 %, there was a phase change in the relationship with the administration. Bargaining became easier (and the union got more), grievances became less contentious (and more grievances could be resolved amicably), and the union had more resources to help faculty development. That, together with an attempt by the Florida legislature to pass a law decertifying all unions with less than 50 % membership, convinced UFF activists that UFF would be more effective if a majority of the UFF USF employees were members.

And there is another reason. If the volunteers administering a union form a small and unrepresentative group, then the union's collective awareness of faculty concerns is limited and its ability to represent faculty is undermined.

At the Membership 365 meeting, a UFF organizer said that UFF activists should go out among non-members and ... listen. What are faculty and professional concerns? What do they feel UFF should be doing, and do they feel that UFF is effective? How is UFF perceived?

Activists should not be alarmed if some non-members disagree with some things that the union has done, or some positions that the union has taken. The union is a participatory democracy, and the way to get it to change course is to participate. And considering that Chapter elections are next spring ...

Recently, a professional organizer from the National Education Association visited USF Tampa and told UFF activists that a successful membership campaign - one that achieved majority membership - would conclude with approximately ten per cent of the union members in the recruitment drive. In other words, recruitment would not consist of a small group going door to door talking to people and recruiting new members. Instead, recruiters would recruit recruiters, and the campaign would grow exponentially, with more and more recruiters going from door to door and more and more UFF members participating in building the union - and some of them will become the next generation of leaders.

The workshop on The Next Generation of Leaders was conducted by a veteran of FIU's successful campaign to reach majority membership (currently, 55 % of the UFF FIU employees are UFF members). One of the major points was this: The union is not a service agency; it is an organization of faculty. The union does not address concerns and issues of faculty and professionals; it provides means for faculty to effectively address important issues themselves. The union provides infrastructure: the union can form task forces (composed of concerned faculty), provide a forum for reports (written by concerned faculty), and thus make it possible for faculty to achieve their goals.

This is not too different from what academic and professional organizations do. Is there a field whose journal coverage is problematic? Maybe it's time for a new journal. Is there something that the government could do to help? Let's form a committee to lobby Congress. Are our students having trouble finding jobs after graduation? Let's look into it. And it is active members who form the editorial board of the new journal, make up the committee to lobby Congress, and research employment options for coming cohorts of graduating students.

Membership will be the primary topic on the agenda at the Chapter meeting tomorrow Friday at 12 noon in EDU 161. We invite everyone to come and find out how an organizing campaign is conducted. For more information, contact our Membership Chair, Professor Art Shapiro.

NO CHAPTER MEETING TOMORROW FRIDAY. Chapter Meeting next week Friday, September 20, at 11 am in the Student University Center's Ocean Room (second floor) on USF St. Petersburg.

There will be free sandwiches, chips, and soda pop. All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.

Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join, simply fill out and send in the membership form.

NOTE: The USF-UFF Chapter website is http://www.uff.ourusf.org, and our e-mail address is uff@ourusf.org.

About this broadcast: This Newsletter was broadcast from uff.ourusf.org, hosted at ICDsoft.com, and is intended for all members of the UFF USF Bargaining unit (USF faculty and professionals at most departments). A (usually identical) version will be broadcast to USF-News and USF-Talk from mccolm@usf.edu.

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