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United Faculty of Florida, Spring 2011

January 13, 2011


Governor Rick Scott should invest in the universities as part of his economic development plan, according to his advisors. Main Street agrees, and the New Florida Initiative even proposes doubling the university budget. The problem is that times are hard, and Florida's budget has a multi-billion-dollar hole.

We are facing the politics of scarcity, when supporters of higher education will agree with some of the current leadership on some things (university funding), but frustration poisons the atmosphere. For example, "States turning to laws to curb labor unions," reported the New York Times on January 3, reporting on efforts in Indiana, Maine, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and alluding to efforts in other states to not only reduce pensions and benefits, but also to hamper unions' ability to represent employees.

UFF has heard of similar moves afoot in Tallahassee. One development that's hit the newspapers is the revival of last year's Senate Bill 6, this time in many pieces, but still designed to micromanage public education from Tallahassee, reduce teachers' job security (Florida K-12 teachers do not now have "tenure", but rather an array of due process rights that would be attenuated), and undercut schools of education.

This may be ideology, or even payback for the last election, but certainly some of it is the frustration arising from scarcity. Frustration would make it plausible for politicians to propose sabotaging the most effective engine of growth – education – in the midst of a prolonged downturn. It may not make sense, but they need someone to hit, and public employees are handy.

By the way, we are public employees.

The situation calls for a three-pronged approach. One prong is educational: to show the politicians that not only is public education Florida's best long-term investment, but also that attacking teachers undermines education. Another prong is to build resources for lasting out the storm, and that means membership. Politicians pay more attention to unions (and their messages) if they have more members. The third prong is in between: stakeholders from the business community to management have interests closely aligned with ours, and none of us can afford to let public education be wrecked in a seizure of political venting. We must work together.

We ask USF employees to pitch in. If you don't have time to volunteer, at least the clout and resources from membership would be very helpful: the membership form is on line. If you would like to join our educational effort, please contact our Political Chair, Bob Welker.


The United Faculty of Florida is a democratic organization: all members may run – and vote – in union elections. BUT ONLY MEMBERS: IF YOU HAVE NOT JOINED BY FILLING OUT AND SENDING IN A MEMBERSHIP FORM, YOU ARE NOT A MEMBER AND MAY NOT PARTICIPATE IN ELECTIONS. If you wish to participate in future elections, you may join by downloading, filling in, and sending in the membership form. And if you join by January 31, you will receive a $ 300 dues rebate in May.

UFF members should have heard about two elections this spring, which is a lot of elections. One election is for the elected officers and representatives of the USF Chapter: these are your colleagues at USF who bargain and handle grievances and do other union work here. This is the election announced in the latest Uncommon Sense, which you should have received by campus mail, posted on line. The other election is for the statewide UFF organization, which oversees all the chapters in the state, and provides support and resources to chapters (like USF's) for bargaining and grievances.

We encourage any UFF member who desires to participate to consider running. Do not hesitate to nominate yourself: the nomination form is posted on line.


Your contract determines the terms and conditions of your employment, and it doesn't enforce itself. It is typically up to an employee to tell if their rights have been violated, and employees can't do this if they don't know what their rights are. It's a good idea to know what's in the contract.

Besides, you cannot effectively lobby the UFF Bargaining Committee about improving the contract if you don't know what's already there.

We started the series (see the first article) with an overview of the Annotated Collective Bargaining Agreement site, a description of how the site works, and an introduction to Article 15 on tenure. If you are going through the tenure process this semester should know this article, for if your rights are violated, it is up to you to notice that your rights have been violated, and do something about it.

So if your rights are violated, what do you do?

The grievance procedure is determined by Article 20 on Grievances and Arbitration, posted on line. Notice that in the first paragraph, the third sentence is the most important: "This procedure shall be the sole and exclusive method for resolving [contractual] grievances."

There are fourteen more sections after the first paragraph. Article 20.2 defines terms (essentially, a "grievance" is a formal complaint that the contract has been violated – and this has to be a specific violation, not an act of malice or stupidity of a kind not addressed by the contract). Article 20.4 is important: where is the burden of proof? In disciplinary hearings, the burden is on the administration; in all others (including complaints about the tenure process), the burden is on the grievant.

And now a plug for the union. If you are a UFF member (i.e. if you filled in the membership form and are paying dues), UFF is your agent (like a movie star or professional athlete has an agent) and will represent you in the hearing. If you are not a UFF member (if you never got around to filling in the membership form and thus don't pay dues), then you are on your own, or you can spend thousands of dollars (or even tens of thousands of dollars) on a lawyer.

(And if you do get into trouble, the person to contact is the UFF Grievance Chair, Sonia Wohlmuth. Incidentally, UFF will NOT represent any employee who was not a member at the time of the violation.)

Article 20.8 goes over the process. Notice that in the very first paragraph it reads, "A grievance shall be filed with the designated university representative at Step 1 within thirty (30) days following the act or omission giving rise thereto, or the date on which the grievant knew or reasonably should have known of such act or omission if that date is later." Management is within its rights dismissing a grievance – no matter how monstrous – filed 31 days after the violation.

Here is the process. In 20.8(C), it describes a Step 1 "informal resolution period" when the two sides try to resolve the issue quietly. If this doesn't work, 20.8(D) describes a Step 2 hearing before a "university representative". This is getting serious, and the "university representative" tends to try to rule in accordance with past precedents. And where do these precedents come from?

Article 20.8(E) describes "arbitration": an arbitrator is sent from the Public Employees Relations Commission, hears both sides, and issues a binding decision. This decision stands as precedent, so both the union and management are careful about what kinds of cases go to arbitration. Notice that there are limits on the arbitrator's power: in cases of administrative "...discretion, such as decisions regarding tenure or promotion, the arbitrator shall not substitute the arbitrator’s judgment for that of the administrator." But the arbitrator may impose remedies, and faculty have gained tenure after grieving violations.

And a gentle reminder of the advantage of being a UFF member: "All fees and expenses of the arbitrator shall be divided equally between the parties. Each party shall bear the cost of preparing and presenting its own case." If you are a UFF member, UFF pays the bills.

And a gentle reminder to administrators: "No reprisal of any kind will be made by the University, or UFF against any grievant, any witness, any UFF representative, or any other participant in the grievance procedure by reason of such participation."

That is the grievance process. Improving the contract is a perpetual effort, and one improvement project is marked in Article 20.15: both union and management are to get together and look at "alternative mediation models" towards developing an "effective mediation program". Projects like the domestic partner benefits and instructor promotions that got into the contract this year (we'll get to these subjects in later articles) similarly took many contracts to incrementally appear. Like all else in life, the contract is a work in progress, and everyone is invited to participate by entering comments on the Annotated Collective Bargaining Agreement site.

January 27, 2011


Hostility towards public employees in general – and growing hostility towards teachers and higher education faculty in particular – is growing so severe that teacher and faculty organizations across the nation met last weekend to discuss the trend (see the California Faculty Association's draft paper).

Nationwide, anti-public employee proposals are coming amidst a backdrop of hostility against public employees in general. For example, here in Florida, last spring's Senate Bill 6 to reduce due process protections for K-12 teachers, micro-manage teacher employment from Tallahassee, undercut the schools of education, etc., is back: both UFF and the press have heard that the bill has been broken into separate pieces which the legislative leadership plans to pass (and for which Governor Scott has expressed enthusiasm).

PUBLIC EMPLOYEES ARE THE TARGET; unions are just in the way. Indeed, if temper tantrums last April by Jeb Bush and John Thrasher are any indication, anti-union proposals this year (described below) may be payback for the unions' successful campaign against Senate Bill 6, and may also be intended to distract and sweep away defenders of public employees during the effort to get SB 6 passed this coming session.

The good news is: the legislature itself is not the enemy. The unions had one great victory last fall, and thanks to the passage of the Fair Districting amendments, legislators will be more dependent on their constituents and less on the leadership. In the Tampa Bay area, USF faculty, professionals, students, parents of students, members of the university community, are constituents, and UFF believes that this spring will be a critical time to make ourselves heard.


It would make some people happy if the unions just ... went away.

In the aftermath of the November election, some states are moving to undercut or even eliminate unions. In Florida, several proposals threatening public employees like us (see the other two articles) are floating around, but the Florida Education Association is also watching for two potential efforts that target the union itself.

  1. One effort would be a proposal to "decertify" any union that does not have majority membership of the employees it represents. That would mean that if fewer than 50 % of the employees in a Bargaining Unit were dues-paying members, that Bargaining Unit would lose union representation.
    Most K-12 districts have majority membership, as do the colleges whose faculty and professionals are represented by the United Faculty of Florida, but many universities – INCLUDING USF – have fewer than 50 % membership and would lose union representation should such a law be passed. And since it is the union that bargains the contract, it would mean an end to contracts if the union went away.
  2. The other effort would be a proposal to bar employees from paying their dues by using paycheck deductions. This would mean increasing the paperwork of employees and increasing the administrative costs of the union – with little savings to the university. This may seem like a technical matter, but passing such a law was a primary reason for the Alabama legislature to meet in a special session last month – and it was swiftly signed by Alabama's new governor. If it passed here, it would be a major nuisance.
The first proposal would violate the Florida state constitution, but it would take years to fight it through the courts: like the second proposal, it imposes a financial burden on the union. That may be the point.

Our state and national affiliates are urging all unions to sign up enough members to render the first proposal moot: IN ORDER TO CONTINUE TO REPRESENT USF EMPLOYEES IN BARGAINING, WE WILL NEED A MAJORITY OF THE FACULTY AND PROFESSIONALS AT USF TO BE DUES-PAYING MEMBERS SHOULD THIS PROPOSAL BECOME LAW; we do not expect the USF Board of Trustees to voluntarily recognize UFF as your Collective Bargaining Agent if they don't have to.

As for the second proposal, UFF will be appealing to faculty and professionals to assist in educating the legislature about paycheck deduction ... and about other matters as well.


Changes to Florida law mean that if you intend to use the phased-retirement program at USF, you need to plan for a six-month period between retirement and the first period of rehiring. This is a side-effect of the new law to prevent judges and other public officials from "pension double-dipping," and it is a rude reminder of how legislators often act before they think ideas through thoroughly.

According to Article 24, Section 6B of the contract (the "Collective Bargaining Agreement", see Article 24), there are circumstances under which a newly retired USF employee – retired under the Phased Retirement Program – may seek re-employment and be rehired by USF a month after termination.

Unfortunately, while the contract does trump university rules and regulations (see Section 1.2A), the contract does not trump Florida state law: in fact, the contract has an Article 28 devoted solely to protecting the rest of the contract should some part of the contract come into conflict with state law.

Political junkies may remember the foofaraw last year over double- and triple-dipping public employees, and the public and press outcry over a few people with abnormally high double salaries. By some coincidence, Florida State Statute Chapter 121.021 (on Definitions for the Florida Retirement System) was modified so that Definition (39)(a) on Termination now contains the language: "For retirements effective on or after July 1, 2010, if a member is employed by any such employer within the next 6 calendar months, termination shall be deemed not to have occurred."

If you come back before six months, you didn't really retire, and as for your pension...

The lesson is: if legislators and pundits talk loud and long about "reforming" the Florida Retirement System, then an attempt to require "reforms" like employee contributions (effectively a salary cut) or reduce benefits (ditto) or play other games is in the works. The AFL-CIO contends that no reform is actually financially necessary, but the politics of sticking it to public employees may be attractive enough to overwhelm such arguments.

The UFF and its affiliates are watching proposals to "reform" the Florida Retirement System, and will keep faculty and professionals posted.

February 10, 2011


Governor Scott presented a budget proposal at a rally organized by the Florida North Lake Tea Party. For a budget in hard times, it had a number of applause lines aimed at attendees, and attendees were wowed. Realists are less impressed by a budget composed of indeterminate ink, and Tallahassee is now trying to figure what (if anything) to do with the thing.

Meanwhile, the FEA grumpily observed that "As recently as last week, Gov. Rick Scott was saying that education funding would be untouched in his budget proposal. Today we see a far different story." In particular:

  • Per student spending for the next budget year under the governor’s proposal will be $703 less per student, which represents a cut of more than ten percent.
  • The governor's plan to have employees contribute to their pension fund represents a five percent pay cut for every teacher, school employee and other state worker. These dollars will flow out of their communities to sit in the pension fund, which represents a real economic loss for every corner of Florida.
  • These funding cuts will certainly result in layoffs throughout our schools, though it is impossible to assess the real impact until we know more about the budget.
  • The governor campaigned on creating jobs, but this budget proposal eliminates thousands of State of Florida jobs – and will lead to the loss of thousands more throughout the state because of the smaller budget.
  • In November, the voters affirmed the class size goals that they placed in the Florida Constitution in 2002. It's difficult to see how the state will help districts meet those goals with such large funding cuts.
  • The budget reallocates the federal EduJobs money that came to the state in the current budget year, despite the fact that money is already distributed to the districts.
  • The proposal calls for more vouchers, more charters, more charter conversions and more virtual education courses and programs and says nothing about the state's paramount duty to a high-quality system of public education.
However, the Florida Board of Governors observes that Scott did not recommend a cut in base funding of the State University System.


Governor Scott has proposed requiring state employees to contribute towards their state pensions. This proposal has won instant support from people who are not aware of its ramifications.

Here is how the union looks at it. We are public employees, and we are compensated for our labor by a compensation package that includes pay, benefits, and other components. When an employer hires an employee, the entire compensation package – not just pay – is at issue. If the employer subsequently cuts a benefit, or requires that the employee pay additional money in order to maintain that benefit, then the employee has suffered a cut in compensation – in effect, a cut in pay if the employee pays to maintain the benefit.

For decades, public employees have had, as part of their compensation package, a pension funded by the state. When a prospective employee considered working for a public agency in Florida, or when a current employee considered whether to stay in Florida or to move, this benefit was part of the compensation package that the employee weighed. And pensions were important to that package.

Governor Scott's proposal is to cut public funding of the Florida Retirement System (which also means cutting contributions to alternative retirement programs for those employees in an Optional Retirement Program (ORP)), which means that in order to maintain the benefit, employees like us would have to pay more. As much as five percent of our salary, according to Scott's current plan.

Scott has made it clear that this innovation is primarily intended to free up money for facilitating tax breaks, e.g., for cutting corporate income taxes.

The public employee unions, including the United Faculty of Florida, are working to educate the legislators on the consequences of this proposal. If it becomes law, it will affect retention and recruitment at a time when not only other states but other nations are sending headhunters to Florida to recruit faculty.


There is a nationwide movement to push public employees into "defined contributions programs", as opposed to the "defined benefits programs" that many have now. Here are the basics.

  • A defined benefits program – like the Florida Retirement System (FRS) program – is required to provide a pension based on a fixed formula that the employer and employee agree upon when the employee signs on. The program is required to determine employee contributions during employment so that they cover not only payments to current pensioners but also assures future solvency of the program. Independent experts reviewing FRS say that FRS has been unusually successfully in handling its funding and do not project problems provided that the current Tallahassee leadership refrains from treating it as a private piggy bank for rewarding cronies.
  • A defined contributions program – like most of our Optional Retirement Programs at USF – fixes employee and employer contributions, and invests the funds in order to generate a portfolio that can be converted into an annuity (or some other device) upon retirement; the payments from this annuity are determined when it is created, i.e., upon retirement. So in a defined contributions program, the formula for the pension is determined upon retirement – and depends on portfolio's value upon retirement – and not (as in the defined benefits program) decades earlier, when the employee signed on.
Loosely speaking, defined benefits programs provide more security while defined contributions programs provide more opportunity for a larger – or risk for a smaller – pension. Over the last few decades, defined benefits programs have been shut down or replaced by defined contributions programs – sometimes even clusters of Individual Retirement Accounts. Critics of the trend are not convinced that requiring employees to assume an extra level of risk benefits those employees, and certainly any group of employees – such as ourselves – who had a choice would not benefit by having that choice taken away.

February 24, 2011


For many years, the United Faculty of Florida has pressed for Merit Pay raises (and for Compression / Inversion pay raises because of Management's past failure to adequately fund Merit Pay raises). Merit Pay raises rely on annual evaluations, so the Collective Bargaining Agreement (the contract, posted at has a whole article devoted to evaluations.

We will look at what the contract says about merit pay in a later Biweekly. In this issue, we look at what the contract requires of the evaluation system that generates the annual reports we are all struggling through this month. (Note: the FAIR system itself was set up by the Administration, and UFF was NOT involved in its design or implementation.)

Article 10 on Employee Performance Evaluations is the legal language that governs evaluations: all evaluation methods employed at USF on faculty and professionals (excluding those in places not represented by UFF) must be consistent with this language.

Except for certain types of temporary or contingent employees, all employees are to be evaluated annually, and "Personnel decisions shall take such annual evaluations into account...". In particular, the results of annual evaluations are used in determining Merit Pay raises.

Now that the evaluation process is fresh in everyone's minds (especially for those on evaluation committees or in supervisory positions), let's review what the contract REQUIRES of evaluations. Remember that this series of articles on the contract has several purposes:

  • To educate everyone – not just employees, but supervisors as well – about the legally binding requirements of the contract.
  • To show employees that they have rights and protections – because rights and protections are more useful if you know about them.
  • To ask employees to think about the contract, and what adjustments might be advisable when the contract comes up for negotiation in the fall of 2012.
In particular, it is important for evaluators and supervisors to be able to use the FAIR reporting system to properly conduct evaluations.


Section 10.3 has several important requirements, some of which (ahem) have a history of being inadvertently violated:

  • Each department or unit must compose written procedures for evaluation (and for using said evaluations in computing Merit Pay raises), and all members of that department or unit must have the opportunity to participate in composing the procedures – and there must be a vote to recommend procedures.
  • The evaluation must be completed within thirty days of after the end of the term in which the evaluation was made. So if the evaluation is composed in spring, it must be complete within a month of the end of spring term.
In fact, under 10.3A, an employee evaluated this spring must receive the evaluation by June 4 (thirty days from the end of the term on May 5), and have the opportunity to "discuss" the evaluation with the supervisor prior to the evaluation being finalized; the employee has the right to "discuss concerns" with the evaluation with the next highest administrator above the supervisor.


Section 10.4 starts by saying that employees are evaluated based on their assigned duties. This requires that assignment information be available to the committees and supervisors who compose the evaluations.

Evaluations of teaching performance may include:

  • Observation of classroom teaching by a supervisor (provided sufficient notice is given),
  • "Teaching evaluations" (a misnomer, since these are really student surveys),
  • "...any relevant materials submitted by the employee" such as class notes, syllabi, student exams and assignments, peer evaluations of teaching, and
  • "any other materials relevant to the employee's teaching assignment".
English professors should feel free to comment on the last two sentences of 10.4A – but notice that the evaluation "must" take into account "relevant" material submitted by the employee. Notice that FAIR's Annual Report form permits the entry of a Teaching Narrative, which evaluators definitely should consider.

Then there is "Contribution to the discovery of new knowledge, development of new educational techniques, and other forms of creative activity." This includes "...research and creative activity that has not yet resulted in publication, display, or performance."

At this point, the Administration would like us to mention the importance of entering research, scholarship, and creative activity contributions into FAIR's Vita-Bank database. Although the evaluation committees and supervisors can read lists of contributions entered as narratives into text boxes, it is the Vita-Bank entries that generate productivity measures.

Other categories such as "Public service", "participation in the governance processes", and "other assigned university duties", are allocated in FAIR under Service, Other Instructional Activities, etc.

In general, the evaluators use the material automatically presented to them in the Annual Reports (which employees can view in FAIR) and from other sources, and the material presented by employees.


The evaluation is a lot of work for employees and evaluators alike. But it does mean that the primary evaluations of employees – for personnel decisions and Merit Pay raises – is in the hands of those peers who the members of the department or unit feel are most competent to conduct those evaluations.

February 28, 2011


The long-rumored legislation to shut down unions with less than fifty percent membership has arrived. Representative Scott Plakon has filed a bill to amend the Florida labor statute to require that every union have at least fifty percent of its Bargaining Unit be dues paying members in order for that union to bargain and enforce a contract. Less than fifty percent, the union's legal authority to bargain and maintain the contract goes away, and ultimately the contract goes away.

  • Representative Scott Plakon's website is at:
  • House Bill 1023 is posted at The operative text is: "A certified bargaining agent that represents less than 50 percent of the employees eligible for representation as employee organization members must recertify the employee organization as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of all employees in the unit, pursuant to this section, by July 1, 2011, or the certification of the employee organization as the exclusive bargaining agent for the employees in the bargaining unit is revoked. This subsection does not apply to an employee organization, however organized or constituted, that represents, or seeks to represent, employees who are law enforcement officers, as defined in s. 943.10(1), or firefighters, as defined in s. 633.30(1)."
  • To answer the obvious question, Yes, of course this is a violation of our (Florida state) constitutional right to bargain. Governor Scott would like something done about that, too. Here is Governor Scott on Bloomberg News, talking about public employees (like us) and getting rid of our unions (and our contracts), possibly by changing the constitution: Meanwhile, there is no sign that the Tallahassee politicians are going slow down just because the law is unconstitutional; and fighting it would mean years of litigation.
That would mean years of litigation as the contract itself fades away.

March 10, 2011


The legislative leadership's strategy, said FEA Higher Education Advocate Pat Dix, was to throw everything at us at once, every day something new, and hit the ground rushing when the legislative session opens – and this week it opened on Monday. She handed out FEA Frontline reports enumerating bills that affect UFF substantially:

  • Senate Bill 830 to end payment of union dues by pay deductions, which would increase unions' administrative costs. A reminder that union-busting often consists of death-by-a-thousand-cuts.
  • Senate Bill 1130 to require Florida Retirement System (FRS) participants to pay into their pension plans – as opposed to the current practice where (as part of our compensation package), the FRS is funded by employer contributions. The first version of the bill had FRS participants being required to spend 5 % of their salary to make up for cuts in state funding, but after A LOT OF UNION PERSUASION, that was reduced to 2 % – and according to Senate Budget Subcommittee Chairman Jack Latvala, the 2 % will be imposed only if necessary. (The bill is still winding through the legislative process, and the unions are watching it carefully.) Incidentally, contributions to the FRS are linked to contributions to Optional Retirement Programs like TIAA-CREF, so this affects employees on ORP as well.
    (Interesting fact about this bill. When the legislature and the governor want to cut state contributions to FRS pensions in order to fund corporate tax cuts, who are they targeting? It turns out that 48 % of the "FRS active membership" are school employees, 23 % are county employees, 18 % are State University System employees, with state, city, and community college employees making up the remainder. So in this issue, we are not small fry: we are major figures on the hit list. And this legislature has TWO YEARS TO GO, while Governor Scott has FOUR YEARS: we are in for a long struggle, another reason why we should get organized asap.)
  • House Bill 1023 is the one that would require UFF to have a majority of the 1600+ faculty and professionals be dues-paying members in order to bargain and enforce the contract. And under the law, without a union, the contract will quickly fade away. That's the reason for the current membership drive (the main flyer is posted online).
(As mentioned in a recent Biweekly Special (see The Wolf is at the Door), this bill is clearly unconstitutional. But that only shows the Florida legislative leadership's contempt for anything that impedes their desires.)

Dix mentioned a number of other bills with broader effects:

  • Senate Bill 736, the "Teacher Quality Bill", allows for established teachers to be non-renewed even if evaluated as "highly effective" without due process or just cause. It shifts money from current salaries to pay for a new performance pay plan, and allocates no new funds for a bunch of new standardized exams.
    (This is the Reincarnation of Senate Bill 6 from last year, and has many of the same problems. For USF, it greatly reduces the incentive for schoolteachers to pursue higher degrees, or to take enrichment programs to bring them up to speed on the latest in educational practice. That could affect enrollment in our College of Education.)
  • Senate Bill 1128 to eliminate defined benefits in the Florida Retirement System (for the difference between "defined benefits" and "defined contributions" plans, see the article in the February 10 Biweekly).
  • Senate Joint Bill 958, the latest incarnation of the "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" (TABOR), would place tighter restrictions on taxes than the ones already in the constitution. This would depress funding when the latest estimate of Florida's deficit this year is $ 3.6 billion.
And on top of all this, Governor Scott proposes cutting education by 10 % in his budget ; notice that cutting items like education allow him to fund the high-priority item at the bottom, "Eliminate Florida's Corporate Income Tax". Interestingly, Scott's budget is not linked to his webpage; a number of observers have commented that Scott's administration is a lot more opaque than his predecessor's.

Dix explained that the legislative leadership has very tight control over the legislature: the faction led by House Speaker Dean Cannon, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and Florida GOP Chairman John Thrasher control the Majority Party in the legislature, which allows the leadership to threaten and intimidate moderate members outside of the dominant faction. And the Majority Party has a veto-proof majority in both houses, which means that it does not need to compromise with the Minority Party. Dix explained that while house and senate bills are filed by a variety of representatives, the bills are actually assigned to representatives by the leadership, which is the ultimate source of this rush of legislation, and which is using all its muscle to get this legislation through.

Meanwhile, they're thinking of jacking up our health insurance...

March 24, 2011


During the month preceding Spring Break, more than 60 USF faculty became new members of UFF, and today more than 30 % of all employees in the UFF USF Bargaining Unit are UFF members. And now a majority of faculty and professionals at USF Poly are UFF members – USF Poly is the first institution within the USF system to have majority membership. UFF is very hopeful that we will achieve majority membership in the entire system within months.

The immediate issue is Florida House Bill 1023, now before the Government Operations Subcommittee. This bill would require that any union representing public employees (except for law enforcement officers or firefighters) have a majority of the employees be dues-paying members by July 1, 2011, or be decertified – i.e., its legal authority to represent employees would go away. And without a union, the contract itself would fade away: see our main flyer.

While we hope that this bill won't pass, we must prepare for it if it does. And this is only the first battle: the current legislative leadership is in place for two years, and the governor for four. The fates of the universities are at stake. This can be seen in one of the major effects of this attack on the unions.

Prior to the last election, UFF's primary message to the legislature was that if Florida was going to be a major player in a globalized economy, then Florida needs an educated and skilled workforce. Florida needs research universities and quality undergraduate education. During the previous few years, UFF joined with the system's administrators and business organizations (see the February 2010 Biweekly article on UFF in the New Florida Initiative) in advancing a New Florida Initiative (see the BOG posting on last year's activities) to expand and strengthen higher education in Florida. In fact, UFF had originally planned this spring to talk to legislators about supporting higher education.

But now, UFF's state affiliate, the Florida Education Association, is fighting a train of bills targeting public employees and their unions. The extreme right wing of Florida has persuaded what SHOULD be allies of faculty – business organizations such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce – to support legislation targeting public employees and their unions, and that assault and the commitment of the state’s political leadership to balance the budget without looking at revenues has driven a wedge through the New Florida Initiative.

The buzz over the New Florida Initiative, the spearhead for a panoply of expensive projects ranging from the I-4 High-Tech Corridor to USF's plans for research development, has become a murmur. Privately, many GOP supporters acknowledge to reporters and some UFF leaders that the governor's killing of high-speed rail has sent a deadly message to business outside the state: go ahead and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on planning for projects in Florida, but Governor Scott has no qualms about ripping the rug out from under you at the last minute. Governor Scott's radical agenda has pushed New Florida off the table.

And fighting the train of anti-public employee and anti-union legislation has diverted resources from our efforts to push for resources for higher education.

While we face a governor and a legislative leadership that is singularly hostile to education, we have several advantages. First of all, the polls show that the public does not support cutting public employees and whacking unions. And despite the current weaselishness of some of Florida's leading business organizations, many Florida businessmen still support bringing Florida into the 21st century. And the Fair Districting amendments are now going to court: once they come in force, legislators will be more dependent on their constituents and less on the leadership.

But the fight for our rights and for quality higher education and research will not happen by itself. The two primary faculty representative groups – the faculty senates and the UFF – both need the resources to effectively represent the faculty's point of view.

The UFF USF Chapter will be meeting tomorrow to count ballots, review the membership campaign, and plan for the rest of the semester. All employees in the USF UFF Bargaining Unit are invited to come. It's at noon in EDU 214; sandwiches, chips, and soda will be provided by the chapter.

April 4, 2011


On March 29, the Florida House K-20 Competitiveness Subcommittee reported favorably on House Bill 7193, "An act relating to contracts with personnel hired by a Florida College System institution board of trustees; ...; prohibiting the award of tenure, a multiyear contract, or a continuing contract; ...". You read that right: the bill would prohibit Florida community colleges from awarding tenure to anyone (except their presidents).

The bill is posted on-line. The bill was presented by Subcommittee Chair Erik Fresen, R-Miami-Dade, who argued that it was necessary for administrations to have the flexibility to make rapid changes in response to changing student demand. His bill was supported in the hearing by Associated Industries and opposed by the United Faculty of Florida, whose Executive Director told the subcommittee that the bill would undermine Florida's competitive position in higher education. The representative of the Florida State Colleges said that there was no consensus among the FSC presidents, and indeed there was not, for one spoke in favor of the bill while others later came out against it. The hearing was recorded, and the posted on-line; Executive Director Ed Mitchell's statement starts at 38 minutes into the video and continues for ten minutes.

The bill is now before the House Education Committee. See the Orlando Sentinel story. UFF will follow the bill and continue to educate the government and the public about the consequences should it be passed. It should be noted that this bill was presented (and suddenly!) about a week after Governor Scott signed a bill eviscerating K-12 teachers' due process rights. It is likely that the successful passage of the K-12 bill emboldened radical legislators to take the next logical step. And while Representative Fresen explicitly denied that the bill targeted "pointy-headed professors", we should not have any delusions about what the legislature will try should HB 7193 make it to the governor's desk.

April 7, 2011


A strange and ominous campaign against one America's leading scholars reminds us how national campaigns work.

William Cronon, Frederick Jackson Turner Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison (he is also a Vilas Research Professor there), is a Rhodes Scholar, a Danforth Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, a MacArthur Fellow, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has held numerous prestigious posts, most recently President-elect of the American Historical Association. He is also a "public intellectual" in the sense that he attempts to educate the public. His forum is his blog, "Scholar as Citizen", at .

His first posting, "Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here)" (posted on-line) observed that "...after the Goldwater defeat in 1964, visionary conservative leaders began to build a series of organizations and networks designed to promote their values and construct systematic strategies for sympathetic politicians." While some of these institutions are well-known (employees appear regularly on Fox News and the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour), others "...remain largely invisible," which is why " like the ones we’ve just experienced in Wisconsin can seem to come out of nowhere."

Cronon focuses on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which Cronon describes as claiming that "its members [state legislators] introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)." In general, ALEC is portrayed as a somewhat secretive organization funded by wealthy interests and pushing a legislative agenda that, perhaps, appeals to those interests.

ALEC is not that secretive, for like everybody these days, they have a website. ALEC advertizes itself as:

  • " of America’s most dynamic public-private partnerships with nearly 300 corporate and private foundation members" (so we know where the money is coming from), and
  • "...the nation's largest nonpartisan, individual membership association of state legislators," and
  • that it promotes "the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty."
As for membership: But in view of the recent initiative to end tenure at Florida community colleges, what we would like to know is: is this one of those ideas pushed by ALEC? Is it possible that the national pandemic of anti-tenure legislation for K-12 teachers, and now this Florida bill, were produced by "scholars" (that's what ALEC calls them) working at this think tank? Alas, we cannot tell, for while ALEC is producing model education legislation (suggestive titles posted on-line), only members are permitted to peek inside.

Of course, as Cronon himself admits, nothing about this is illegitimate. In fact, it's protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of the right of association. Indeed, one question that a UFF member might ask is: why don't unions have think tanks to develop bargaining initiatives for contract negotiations, not to mention model legislation of our own? The answer to the UFF member is: of course we have think tanks, and yes they do provide bargaining resources for bargaining teams, not to mention model legislation. In fact, the Biweekly has linked to postings at such think tanks in the past. Unions don't to have the big bucks that the corporations have, but we've got more volunteers and, in our humble opinion, better scholars.

Indeed, Cronon neglected to mention that academies from the Lyceum to Harvard, and academics from Aristotle to Edward Teller, have played similar roles. So what's the fuss?

There was a fuss. Not much from ALEC, which prefers to whine: (for example. And Cronon is one of the nation's leading scholars, so the usual campaign of the sort directed against scholars like Norman Finkelstein and Ward Churchill wouldn't work: Wisconsin-Madison is not going to make a spectacle of itself trying to fire one of its stars. Instead, the Republican Party of Wisconsin made a public information request for all emails emanating from Cronon's campus account containing one or more of the words: Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or Mary Bell.

This was, as Cronon observed, a threat as well as a nuisance: see his blog posting. Still, it was legal, and Wisconsin-Madison is releasing screened emails. Cronon continues to run his blog, but observers are accusing the Republican Party of Wisconsin of trying to intimidate more vulnerable scholars. Meanwhile, the think tanks, left, right, in between, and elsewhere, continue to produce models and reports while politicians politic. For an account of all this, see the New Yorker's article.

There are several lessons to take from this affair.

  • First of all, it's time to grow up about how politics works. Just as we academics participate in a vast ecosystem of academic and professional organizations that provide invaluable resources and occasionally educate the public and the government, so does everybody else. Unions are part of that ecosystem. They are more expensive (how many academic organizations keep legions of lawyers on call?), but they serve a critical and keystone role.
  • Second, the position of academia has eroded in the last decade. Our adversaries (let's be clear about this) were emboldened by getting Ward Churchill and Norman Finkelstein fired, among other successes, and are now aiming higher. To the extent that the campaign against Cronon is a trial balloon, everybody's academic freedom is in danger. The time has come to stand our ground.
  • Third, this could easily happen in Florida. Florida has public documents laws, and emails from our campus accounts are public documents. Imagine screening a year's worth of emails for personnel and other confidential materials. We live in times so dangerous that USF Information Technologies could receive a similar request about faculty members working on climate change, evolution, look-say reading pedagogy, new mathematics, or anything else that rubs a radical politician the wrong way.
This is a political battle, and the union is already at the front lines. We need your help and support. Please join today: the membership form is posted on-line.

April 21, 2011


Florida's legislative leadership is taking a shotgun approach to unions, pushing many laws and passing enough to hurt public employees, including their collective bargaining rights. As described in the April 4 Biweekly Extra, this is part of a nationwide campaign in which radical right wing legislators coordinate via think tanks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC; see the April 7 Biweekly story). Here are some of the kinds of bills being pushed and passed in Florida and elsewhere.

  • Banning collective bargaining or restricting its scope. The Wisconsin law eliminated the right of university professors to organize (after the Wisconsin senate passed the law, faculty at four Wisconsin campuses voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionization). Idaho also passed a bill restricting the subjects of collective bargaining; in particular, class sizes are no longer negotiable. Ohio passed a law denying collective bargaining rights to most public college faculty – a move recommended by president of Ohio's state association of universities (!). Some of these bills are already in litigation, and others will be in litigation soon.
    Such legislation in Florida would be hopeless, as the right to collective bargaining is in the constitution: so far, Florida politicians (like Governor Scott) have only talked about changing the constitution, although they are trying to pass a number of unconstitutional bills to get rid of unions, most notably House Bill 1023, which would "decertify" (i.e., eliminate bargaining and grievance authority of) unions not having a majority of the employees it represents as dues-paying members. This bill is still sitting quietly in the Government Operations Subcommittee as the Florida legislative leadership continues to test the waters.
  • Banning dues collection by paycheck deductions. The chief effect is to increase unions' administrative burden: unions have to arrange for dues collection by other means, such as electronic credit card or debit payments. Alabama was the first state to pass such a bill. This bill did not hobble the Alabama unions as much as union-busters had hoped, and this bill is in litigation. Florida House Bill 830 was intended to do away with union dues deductions as well, but after a great deal of loud complaints by unions, the latest version permits union deductions that do not go into political campaigns. Union dues do NOT go into political campaigns anyway, but some organizations – insurance companies come to mind – do direct revenues to political campaigns, so this bill may still generate some interesting litigation.
  • Abolishing K-12 tenure, which usually means eliminating the due process protections K-12 teachers currently have (in many states, K-12 teachers do not have the property right courts call "tenure"). Idaho has just done away with K-12 tenure, and Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee are thinking about it. Florida teachers did not have "tenure" but they did have due process rights, which were just eviscerated when Governor Scott signed HB 736.
    As for higher education, Representative Erik Fresen's bill to eliminate tenure in Florida Community Colleges (to be fair, as Fresen repeatedly said, the bill would not take tenure away from anyone who already had it, it would merely bar any more community college faculty from getting it). This bill set off alarm bells among all the grown-ups who value higher education in Florida, but during the hearings the administrations took cover while the United Faculty of Florida took the defense. The bill is now before the Education Committee amidst many buzzing rumors – including newspaper reports that Education Committee Chair William Proctor opposes the bill. Stay tuned.
  • And of course, pensions. There is a view that just as the education budget is a gigantic pot of money that should be dispensed to campaign contributors rather than being wasted on schoolchildren, pension funds are gigantic pots of money that could be freed up for cutting taxes on campaign contributors rather than being wasted on public employees. Georgia, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsin and other states are all toying with public employee pension "reforms" for a variety of reasons. Alabama has just ended its DROP program, while a bill to transform the Kansas pension fund into a system of IRAs appears to have died in committee. Some pension funds (like the Kansas fund) had been seriously underfunded for years; last year, the Pew Center on the States had "serious concerns" about the Kansas pension.
    The Pew Center report graded Florida as a "Solid Performer", with the second highest percentage of "accrued liabilities funded" (101 %, making Florida second only to New York). Nevertheless, Florida Senate Bills 1128 and 1130 have just passed the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee. The rationales for these bills keep changing – Governor Scott is one of the few politicians still publicly worrying about the soundness of the Florida Retirement System – but serious politicians (ahem) are not claiming that the FRS needs rescuing.
    Similarly, the details of the pension bills keep changing. The Florida Education Association (UFF's state affiliate) and other unions had some incremental successes in this fight, especially in the Florida Senate, whose Budget Committee decided to extend drop to 2016 and to impose a tiered pension contribution system, starting with 2 % for employees making less than $ 25,000 (yes, there are full-time employees making this little at USF) and rising for those who make more. The House has different ideas, and the fight continues.
The unions are fighting by sending union staff members to educate legislators about the consequences of this raft of legislation, and also, ahem, by organizing mail and phone campaigns and also media events to remind legislators that a lot of their constituents do not approve of the current legislative agenda. The unions are even planning advertisements (see an example). Meanwhile, the union's lawyers are preparing to go to court over the unconstitutional laws that do get passed. And in all such political matters, the fight that the unions are able to make depends critically on the level of support they receive from the employees whom they represent.

April 25, 2011


The Florida Legislative Session is scheduled to end on Friday, May 6, which means that we are now entering the final crunch – assuming Governor Scott doesn't call any special sessions (which has happened before). Meanwhile, the Florida Education Association (UFF's state affiliate) and other unions are continuing to oppose a stream of anti-public-employee bills pouring through the legislature.

Public employees are targeted directly by Senate Bill 2100, which would require that public employees (like us) pay a percentage of their salary to their pension plan (to the Florida Retirement System, or to an Optional Retirement Plan if the employee chose not to go on the state system). This would be a flat amount (like 3 %) or a progressively tiered system (perhaps 2 % to 6 %, depending on salary). And the result would be to free up funds from General Revenues for other activities (like cutting corporate taxes) that the legislative leadership and the governor prefer. In effect an income tax imposed on public employees, a point that unions are making repeatedly.

But there are many bills, and May 6, looms, UFF will continue to watch all these bills and to educate legislators about their consequences. Indeed, our own UFF USF Chapter President Paul Terry visited Tallahassee to speak to legislators. It is there that he heard Sunrise Mayor Michael Ryan – one of over a hundred speakers against a union-busting bill (this was HB 830) that had no fiscal impact on the state – ask, "Where does it fit in with balancing the budget and saving homes?" (See the Broward Beat story and the UFF FAU posting and the Broward Teachers Union posting.) And that is a point that the unions are making about these bills: what do they have to do with jobs and the economy – the issues that legislators and the governor ran on last fall?

The unions are inviting employees from around the state to speak, producing standing-room only hearings occasionally visited by corporate lobbyists who support anti-public employee legislation. And the unions are continuing to watch these bills. Stay tuned.

May 5, 2011


UFF has received numerous reports of changes in assignments – particularly teaching assignments – for the upcoming academic year. Although many faculty and professionals are being informed of the changes by their supervisors, the pressre for these changes is coming from Academic Affairs – and we expect that once the Provost is informed of the magnitude of the Legislature's cuts (from the fraction of USF's budget that comes from state appropriations), they will take more specific actions.

First of all, ASSIGNMENTS ARE COVERED IN THE CONTRACT. So get out your copy that UFF sent you – or go to – and turn to Article 9 on page 15:

  • First, note from Section 9.3 on page 16 that each employee must be given their assignment, in writing, for the year.
  • Second, note from Section 9.2(C) on page 15 that administration may determine the type and mix (research, teaching, service) of assignments. But there are limits; for example, see 9.2(A) just above (C). This is especially true if you are seeking tenure or promotion; see 9.3(D) on page 17.
  • Third, we're not talking about just adding duties (a.k.a. "doing more with less", no matter how many times administrators repeat that phrase): a simple increase in duties in an assignment – e.g., increasing teaching load without a commensurate reduction in research and/or service – would be inappropriate.
If you are a member of UFF and you have received an arbitrary or unreasonable new assignment, in particular:
  • If you are tenure-track or working towards promotion or on multi-year contracts and you have been given an assignment that undermines your position, or
  • If your assignment is simply larger than that of previous years, then contact our Grievance Chair, Sonia Wohlmuth, as soon as possible. (Always remember: a grievance must be filed within thirty days of the violation.) But once again, if your contractual rights are violated by an assignment, UFF CANNOT REPRESENT YOU UNLESS YOU WERE ALREADY A UFF MEMBER. So sent in the membership form today!
While we do not expect drastic action – USF had over $ 317 million in unrestricted net assets as of June 30, 2010 (an increase by over $ 28 billion from 2009; see the last report to the state) and expects substantial tuition increases – we do expect some action, and we need to hear from faculty and professionals.


"Organizing" means two things: building an organizational mission and structure, and recruitment.

We face three years or more of hostility in Tallahassee, including likely union-busting legislation (we are still awaiting word on this year, but there is always next year, not to mention any legislative special sessions). That is why we are focusing on RECRUITMENT. For example, under proposed legislation (last seen sitting quietly in committee) we would need majority dues-paying membership simply to continue being your Collective Bargaining Agent. If this bill is not passed now, we expect it to reappear later.

In a modern democracy, power and influence is wielded by organizations. Union-busting legislation is being composed and pushed by organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries; the government (whose members won their elections with support from organizations) is responding to those organizations. The only way to repair the balance is to build our own organization, the union.

So we need participants as well as members. And one perk of participation is: a union with a much larger membership has more resources – especially manpower – than it did in the past. UFF will be able to do things it could not do in the past. So what direction will UFF take? UFF is a volunteer organization set up by its constitution and bylaws as a participatory democracy, and that means that the direction UFF takes will be the direction that the membership itself wants to go.

Of course (as the state office reminds us), the current priority is recruitment. But the Services & Membership Committee is going out to talk to faculty and professionals, and build up the connections and the infrastructure of the union while encouraging people to join. WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE FACULTY INTERESTED IN THE FUTURE – AND POTENTIAL – OF THE UNION TO JOIN THE UFF SERVICES / MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEE. Contact Muslim Ali at And if you haven't already, send in the membership form today!