CHAPTER MEETS AT 11 AM AT USF POLY TOMORROW
Tomorrow, Friday, the UFF USF Chapter will meet at USF-Poly starting early, at 11 am, in LTB 2155. This will be a special meeting because of the pressure USF Polytechnic is under: see The Other Side of the Poly Story : A letter from USF Polytechnic faculty, staff, students that appeared in several newspapers yesterday. For lunch, we will bring sandwiches, chips, soda, and information about what is brewing in Tallahassee. See the driving directions to the USF Polytechnic campus. All UFF USF members and non-members are invited, so come and join the movement.
We need candidates to run for the statewide UFF Senate! The UFF Senate is the primary policy-setting body of the United Faculty of Florida. It meets twice a year, one weekend in fall and one in spring, where it hears reports and makes decisions. If you would like to serve your colleagues as a senator, send a self-nomination letter to the UFF USF Election Chair, Professor Steve Tauber, at firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name, office and preferred email addresses, office and home phones, office and home mailing addresses, a 250-word self-description, biographical sketch or campaign statement, and a URL to any site you would like fellow union members to see when looking over candidates. But remember: only UFF members may run or vote, so JOIN TODAY!
CONTRIBUTE TO UFF PAC!
UFF needs your help to fight for you in Tallahassee. We need to help reasonable candidates get elected this fall, and we need to build relationships with legislators we will be dealing with next spring. Thanks to the U. S. Supreme Court, that means campaign contributions. But DUES MONEY DOES NOT GO TOWARDS CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS. So the UFF Political Action Committee needs donations! Download, fill in, and mail the PAC paycheck deduction form to contribute a few dollars out of each paycheck towards the PAC fund. We need all the pull in the legislature that we can get.
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 future litigation); greater opportunities for influencing the bargaining agenda; 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 if you join now, you will get a $ 100 rebate dues rebate. Come and join the movement.
IN THIS ISSUE
Yes, there were four UFF Biweekly Extras between the 9 February UFF Biweekly issue and this one. This is an emergency, and we thank everyone who called up their legislators to ask them not to cut USF and not to do anything drastic to USF Polytechnic. The budget is still winding through the process, so if you haven't called your legislator, you can still do so and have an effect. If you already have called, there's no law against calling again. Here are the official forms for finding your state senator and for finding your state representative. The state UFF office advises us that legislators are not reading their email very often, and recommends that people use their personal phone to call legislators, for legislators may not be lobbied with state phones.
THE UFF SENATE MEETING I
The primary policy-making body of the United Faculty of Florida is the UFF Senate, which meets twice a year to hear reports and set policy. This year, the Senate heard reports about Tallahassee, and made plans for this legislative session ... and for 2013.
This is the first of several reports on the UFF Senate meeting last weekend.
- Was this supposed to happen?
As UFF prepared for this legislative session, it was not clear what to expect. It was an election year, complete with redistricting, so perhaps legislators would lay low. On the other hand, UFF kept hearing rumbles about bills in hibernation. At the moment, this session seems quite different from last year's, and the hibernating bills may wait until 2013. (Or ... later this session.) For more, see below.
- What UFF and FEA are doing.
UFF and the Florida Education Association are building relationships, which includes campaign contributions, lots of talk, and occasionally urgent appeals to members and friends to make phone calls. For more, see below.
WAS THIS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN?
All last year, UFF heard rumbles about toxic legislation that might surface this session. None of the ones we worried about and warned about have surfaced, while events so far remind us of the old line that it is the bear you don't see that gets you.
The primary topic of the UFF Senate meeting last weekend was the legislative session. The biggest thing for us right now, said FEA Higher Education Advocate Pat Dix, is the budget. Dix delivered the Legislative Update, and she started with the $ 400 million cut in the State University System. Dix presented the committee's rationale: the universities had a lot of assets in reserves, and that the state could, um, borrow it and give it back next year. (But of course, the legislatures might not give it back next year.)
As for what the committee really wants, statewide UFF President Tom Auxter earlier said that the senate leadership was doing an inventory of the assets they could squeeze out of higher education.
Dix said that the pressure last week was sufficient to eliminate the $ 25 million cut aimed at USF, but that still left USF facing a $ 103 million cut. In addition, the proposal to shut down USF Poly was still in place, so "we need to keep the pressure up."
But UFF and FEA face other initiatives; "The attacks are amazing ... they're trying to run us down rabbit holes." The old toxic bills, like the one abolishing tenure, have not resurfaced (although Dix said that the legislative leadership is powerful enough to slip a toxic bill into other legislation later in the session). Instead, several camels are poking their noses into the tent. There is a proposal to shift resources to an online institution (Western Governors' University), a proposal to create a twelfth university (Florida Polytechnic), and a proposal to create a thirteenth university (also online). The House is also preparing to harass public institutions in the form of reams of accountability measures imported from Texas. UFF Executive Director Ed Mitchell said that "They think it's cheaper to put fifteen thousand students in a class."
So far, the big problem for us is the $ 400 million cut, and the big policy problem for the legislature is a $ 2 billion shortfall in expected revenue. As for why UFF and FEA are not facing the toxic bills from last year, Dix theorized that with redistricting, numerous lawsuits (some filed by the FEA – your dues money at work), and the election coming up, the legislative leadership is saving some of their agenda for next year. Mitchell said later that the union has to be active during the election, for if the fall election produces a legislature as radical as this one, we will face a far more dangerous adversary next year. And then Mitchell asked for donations to the UFF Political Action Committee.
WHAT UFF AND FEA ARE DOING
While faculty, professionals, and friends called legislators, while students visited Tallahassee to be hectored by politicians, much of UFF's state office walked the capitol halls, drumming up support for the universities. UFF has taken a pragmatic approach, building relationships with moderate legislators by taking them out to dinner and tendering campaign contributions. The result is that UFF is more likely to receive a piece of information, and more likely to have an ally in the room when something surfaces.
The actual amounts of money are small: $ 5,000 isn't much in today's world. But a check from a grassroots organization gets attention, and by cultivating the relationship, we get access.
The legislature is targeting many groups, so the FEA and several other unions formed a Labor Table to coordinate their efforts. One of the Labor Table's successes was defeating the proposal to privatize Florida's prisons. While this success did not affect higher education directly, since much of the mischief this legislative session is inspired by privatization rhetoric, the political effect was to make other schemes less attractive.
But the biggest real problem – as opposed to a problem politicians create – is the two billion dollar hole in the budget. Dix said that most legislators are not willing to discuss revenue enhancements because they are afraid of being accused of raising taxes come fall. Even Senate Bill 7206 to require that internet sales in Florida be taxed faces fierce opposition despite being supported by many Florida business groups. It will take a major transition in an election to produce a legislature willing to act more responsibly.