United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
24 January 2013
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FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TAKES BIGGER BITE
If you have been watching your pay stubs, you may have noticed that your take-home pay went down a bit. This is because your Social Security payments just went up. The Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 reduced the Social Security tax from 6.2 % to 4.2 % as a temporary stimulus to the economy. Last year, Congressional Democrats managed get the reduction extended for another year, but now the tax has returned to 6.2 %.
This is a purely federal thing, and has nothing to do with state, local, university, UFF, etc.
UFF strongly encourages all employees to check their pay stubs. To check yours from a university computer (you will need VPN to do this remotely from off-campus), log on to MyUSF, go to Business Systems > GEMS Self-Service, allow pop-ups, and up comes Oracle's page. Go to self-service (at left), then at the upper right, under Payroll and Compensation, go to View Paycheck. Then choose the paycheck to view, and up comes a PDF file. Middle right is a box headed by "Taxes", and one of the categories is "Fed OASDI/EE"; that's what just went up.
CHAPTER ELECTIONS REMINDER
The United Faculty of Florida is a democracy, and its leadership is elected by its members. This spring, the entire UFF will be conducting a statewide election (UFF members, watch your mail), and meanwhile, the USF Chapter of the UFF is electing its own officers and representatives this spring. All dues paying UFF USF members, and only dues paying UFF USF members, may run and vote in this election.
Any UFF USF member may run for any one of these offices:
These four elected officers, and the Chief Negotiator (appointed by the President), make up the Executive Council. In addition, the USF Chapter of UFF sends representatives:
- The President oversees the operations of the chapter.
- The Vice President assists the President.
- The Secretary maintains documents and records.
- The Treasurer handles finances.
UFF USF members may run for either senator or delegate or both; UFF USF members running for an office may also run for one or both representative positions. A good route to becoming active in UFF is to become a representative.
- UFF Senators representing USF. The UFF Senate meets twice a year, from a Saturday mid-afternoon to Sunday noon, in Tampa or Orlando. UFF Senators elected in this race will attend the September 14-15 meeting this fall and a second meeting early next year.
- Delegates representing UFF at the Florida Education Association Assembly. Delegates elected in this election will attend the October 10 – 12 meeting this fall.
If you are interested, please
download, fill in, and email the nomination form to our
And thank you for your support.
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 AFTER A TERM AS A DUES PAYING MEMBER, YOU WILL RECEIVE A $ 100 REBATE. Come and join the movement.
FEBRUARY 8 CHAPTER MEETING AT USF ST. PETERSBURG
The February 8 UFF USF Chapter meeting, two weeks from tomorrow Friday, will be at noon on USF St. Petersburg, location TBA.
IN THIS ISSUE
THE COURT RULES FOR SCOTT
Last week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the State of Florida may continue to take 3 % of public employees' salaries as a "Before Tax Deduction" (lower left hand box on your paycheck stub) as a "FRS Contribution" (for those employees on the Florida Retirement System pension plan) or "ORP Contribution" (for those employees on the Optional Retirement Plan). This was a defeat for the Florida Education Association, which had sued to stop the state from taking our money.
Next issue: meanwhile, back at the ranch, the governor is meddling in higher education...
- The Road to the Supreme Court . In 2011, the Florida legislature passed and Governor Scott signed Senate Bill 2100, imposing a requirement that state and public employees contribute 3 % of their salaries towards retirement, and eliminating subsequent cost-of-living-adjustments. The Florida Education Association sued to have these provisions of SB 2100 thrown out. For more, see below.
- What the Court Said. The majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions suggests that the Court has just reversed a trend towards higher standards of conduct by the state – and a consensus that this was not about the pension plan. For more, see below.
- What now? This decision may embolden an already irresponsible state legislature, which means that the next legislative session may be a greater challenge than we had expected. For more, see below.
The Road to the Supreme Court
In February 2011, Governor Scott proposed cutting the state's payments to public employee retirement plans by perhaps 50 %. (He was originally thinking of a much bigger cut.) Up to then, Florida paid the entire minimum contribution towards retirement (employees could and can pay more). The state payments towards the pension was part of our total compensation package.
In an era when courts let corporations weasel out of pension commitments, politicians and pundits thought it unfair that public employees still had pensions, complete with cost-of-living-adjustments, and that the state was paying for them. Hence Senate Bill 2100, which required that employees pay almost a third (remember that Scott had wanted it to be more; FEA persuaded legislators to lower it): employees would pay 3 % of their salary. And the cost-of-living increases would go away, too.
The rationale kept changing. Originally, Scott and the legislative leadership claimed that the Florida Retirement System was in financial trouble, but actually FRS was in quite good shape. The bottom line was that with employees paying 3 % of their salary towards their pensions, the state could cut its contribution by almost a third.
After Senate Bill 2100 was signed, the Florida Education Association sued (union dues paid for the lawyers) and in March 2011 Judge Jackie Fulford ruled in FEA's favor. Scott denounced the ruling and the state appealed.
The FEA lawsuit was a high priority case, and after the Florida Supreme Court heard it, the Court was considering it while three of the seven judges were up for merit retention votes – and they were targeted by the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity organization. Senior members of the Bar, and several unions (including the FEA), condemned the campaign and supported the retention of Justices Lewis, Pariente and Quince, while the Florida Republican Party Executive Board opposed retention. The effect of this campaign on the justices can only be surmised.
What the Court Said
In last week's decision, Justices Labarga, Canady, Pariente and Polston voted to uphold the constitutionality of Senate Bill 2100. The majority opinion of the decision, with all four concurring, concedes "that the amendments were not enacted to make the FRS actuarially sound but were intended to respond to the State’s projected budget shortfall." While one might conclude from this that the "contribution" was thus an income tax imposed on public employees, the majority preferred to regard the issue as being whether one legislature can reduce benefits provided by a prior legislature.
The gist of the various opinions appears to be that over the last few decades, the courts have raised the standards by which the legislature must meet its obligations. The opinions cite old precedents saying that the state has substantial discretion to renege on its obligations, but over the years, that discretion declined, up to and including a 1992 case in which the United Faculty of Florida (!) successfully won a Florida Supreme Court decision that the state must show a "compelling state interest" before reducing previously approved appropriations to pay employee salaries.
Unfortunately, the majority opinion, and Justice Pariente's curiously apologetic concurrence, focused on older precedents. The UFF case was cited in the two dissenting opinions of Justices Lewis and Perry (Justice Quince concurring). It might be reasonable to regard the majority opinion as a reversal of the trend towards higher standards of conduct as regards to contracts; it seems likely that that is how the political leadership in Tallahassee will interpret the decision.
So there it is. Regardless of what we may think about a 4-3 decision with four opinions, the result clearly not only throws this issue back into the legislature's arena, but concedes considerable ground to the legislature. It is likely that our legislative leadership, crocodile that it is, will be emboldened to try for more.
The reactions were swift. Tallahassee.com reported that not only did House Appropriations Chair Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, have new proposals for fiddling with the pension plan, but also that House Speaker Will Weatherford tweeted "This day just got $2 billion better." The Sun-Sentinel reported that Scott said that the decision "...supports our efforts to lower the cost of living for Florida families," and that FEA lawyer Ron Meyer retorted, "I think it's a great day for Florida families if starvation is a good thing." (The Herald-Tribune quoted Meyer warning that the decision implied that "If they came in and said we have to take 10 percent, 15 percent, I suppose constitutionally they would be empowered to do just that.")
The newspapers were divided: the Tampa Bay Times thought the decision was For state workers, a blow to the wallet and to confidence, while the Tampa Tribune thought that Pension ruling a win for taxpayers.
The Herald Tribune reported quoted FEA President Andy Ford saying, "I believe our arguments were correct, even if the justices didn’t agree. We still believe that a promise is a promise ... We are more determined than ever to change the face of the Florida Legislature. The next elections in 2014 can turn this decision around."
Meanwhile, the court has tossed it all into the legislative arena, and that is where the FEA is turning next. You can help, and the FEA will need all the help it can get to defend your rights and the higher education system you help build. Download, fill in, and mail a membership form today. And we will keep you informed of events in Tallahassee.
Next Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, January 25, at 12 noon, in EDU 150 at USF Tampa.
Sandwiches, chips, and soda will be provided by the Chapter, 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: All employees 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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