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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
3 April 2014
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Chapter Meeting Tomorrow

The Chapter will meet tomorrow, Friday, at 12 noon on USF Tampa in EDU 316. There will be an update on bargaining, and a discussion about how we can influence the legislature.

Here is the spring schedule for upcoming Chapter meetings.

  • On April 4 in USF Tampa and on April 18 in USF Sarasota / Manatee.
  • On May 2 in USF Tampa.
There will be sandwiches, soda, and chips. All UFF USF employees - UFF members and non-members alike - are invited.

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 FALL. Come and join the movement.


If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you have thirty days from the time you knew or should have known of the violation to file a grievance. If you are, and at the time of the violation were, a dues-paying member of the United Faculty of Florida, you have the right to union representation. To contact the UFF USF Grievance Committee, go to the online contact form. For more information, see our web-page on grievances.


Retirement, the Election, and Staff Union Bargaining

In this issue, an assortment of topics.

  • The Legislature wants to reform retirement (and maybe our health insurance, too), and that's a reminder that organizations sway politicians, so maybe we should get organized.
    • But the Pension Fund was Just Sitting There. The governor and the legislature are now bleeding our retirement program to fund boodle and tax cuts. For more, see below or click here.
    • A Third World Solution - and What We Can Do About It. Pension "reform" advocates are having difficulties, but this is a wake-up call for us. Political junkies are invited to come to tomorrow's Chapter Meeting to discuss how the Chapter can become more active. For more, see below or click here.
  • Election Returns. Here are the officers and representatives we just elected, and we will be meeting tomorrow to think about the coming year. For more, see below or click here.
  • AFSCME and USF Resolve Impasse. USF staff handle our paperwork, maintain our infrastructure, and watch the things we take for granted. Their bargaining just went through impasse. For more, see below or click here.

But the Pension Fund was Just Sitting There

In the February 20 Biweekly, we reported that Florida State Senator Jack Latvala was warning the public that a plan proposed by Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford to "reform" the Florida Retirement System (FRS) would actually undermine the system.

When we were hired by USF, we had several retirement plan options. The primary option was a defined benefits plan organized by the FRS: take this option, and the state would kick in funds annually for investments that would be paid to retirees - payments fixed by the retirees' salary during their last few years. This was a defined benefits plan because the benefit (pension payment) itself was defined by the program. The state assumes most of the risk.

Many of us chose an alternative, offered either by FRS or by someone else (such as TIAA-CREF), in which the amount of money kicked in by the state would be invested and then returned, as a lump sum for an annuity, upon retirement. This was a defined contributions plan, since the benefit (pension payment) was not defined by the program, only the cost. The employee takes most of the risk. Incidentally, the state contributions to these plans tracks state contributions to the defined benefits plan, so cuts in state contributions to the defined benefits plan affects everybody (and pretty dramatically, too).

Unlike many states, counties, and municipalities, Florida has adequately funded the FRS, so there are no serious financial problems. But during the last few years, as Tallahassee has grown increasingly like a riverboat racket, the FRS has looked increasingly like plunder.

Like many other funds, the FRS took a hit in 2008. Subsequently, the state contributions were dramatically cut from $ 766 million in 2011 to $ 317 million in 2012. That's $ 450 million that Governor Scott and the Legislature decided to divert from our pensions and into boodle and tax cuts for campaign contributors.

Readers will remember how they shifted the burden of funding the FRS onto state and public employees. That is the 3 % of our pay that we now contribute. Governor Scott had originally wanted to tax state employees at 8 % of their salary, but lobbying by the Florida Education Association got it down to 5 % by the time it reached the Legislature and 3 % by the time it was signed into law. 3 % too high, but the difference between 3 % and 8 % is five times union dues.

Alert readers will notice that while the state contribution to our retirement was cut nearly 60 %, we are paying only 40 % of Scott's originally desired employee contributions. That leaves a deficit: like the State of Illinois and the City of Detroit, Governor Scott has decided to underfund Florida retirement. Since the FRS was well-funded until recently, the state has time to fix his mess.

So the question is: what to do about this artificial problem? And about House Speaker Weatherford's proposal to eviscerate the program?

A Third World Solution - and What We Can Do About It

The FEA and its allies managed to defeat Weatherford's plans last session, so this year, Weatherford tried to divide the FEA'a alliance by offering to keep the defined benefits plan for state and public employees represented by historically Republican-leaning unions (like those for the fire and police) while shoving everyone else into defined-contribution plans.

This tactic doesn't seem to be working. The Fraternal Order of Police came out against Weatherford's proposal, and Florida State Senator Greg Evers predicted that no pension bills will pass this spring.

Still, this is Weatheford's top remaining priority for his tenure as speaker, a tenure that ends this year. Meanwhile, FEA is hearing rumors about games with health insurance and other critical issues. Considering how weird the situation has been since 2011, the FEA is taking nothing for granted.

And neither should we. At tomorrow's Chapter Meeting, we will discuss not only retirement but also what we can do with a Legislature gone amok. That means developing the means for educating politicians. So here is a special appeal to political junkies to come to the Chapter Meeting tomorrow so we can get organized.

Election Returns

Every spring, the USF Chapter of the University of South Florida holds elections. All dues-paying members, and only dues-paying UFF members, are eligible to participate as candidates and as voters. This year, the results of the election are:

  • Arthur Shapiro was elected president.
  • Steve Lang was elected vice president.
  • Gregory McColm was elected secretary.
  • Sonia Wohlmuth was elected treasurer.
In addition, we elect members to represent the Chapter in the statewide United Faculty of Florida Senate, and in the statewide Florida Education Association Delegate Assembly. The representatives elected were:
  • For the UFF Senate: Katerina Annaraud, Daniel Belgrad, Adrienne Berarducci, Jill Brasky, Pablo Brescia, Cecil Greek, Valerie Janesick, Steve Lang, Barbara Loeding, Greg McColm, Adriana Novoa, Vic Peppard, Steve Permuth, Patricia Pettijohn, Frank Pyrtle III, Harry Vanden, Robert Welker, and Sonia Wohlmuth. Art Shapiro serves ex officio. There is a tie for the remaining seats, which will be resolved at tomorrow's Chapter Meeting.
  • For the FEA Delegate Assembly: Katerina Annaraud, Adrienne Berarducci, Barbara Loeding, Gregory McColm, Steve Permuth, Patricia Pettijohn, and Art Shapiro. Frank Pyrtle and Robert Welker are alternates.
The newly elected officers and representatives may be contacted via the
People page on the UFF USF website.

AFSCME and USF Resolve Impasse

During the last two weeks, three broadcasts - one from President Genshaft and two from UFF (on March 28 and on April 1) mentioned "impasse". But there was also a more poignant story going on, for unlike faculty, the staff's union was in impasse.

The union representing staff - the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees - declared impasse on the issue of sick leave. Many employees don't use all their sick leave, and over the years, contracts across the country say that a longstanding employee who resigns or retires will receive some or all of the unused sick leave as a cash payout. At USF, both staff and faculty had sick leave payouts in their contracts. With salaries failing to keep up with inflation and the Legislature playing with our health and retirement benefits, sick leave payout was a non-trivial part of the compensation package. Bargaining between AFSCME and the USF Administration stalled over sick leave payout, and AFSCME declared impasse.

A crowd of staff came to the March 24 Impasse Hearing, and it was standing room only with staff overflowing out the door. Just before the hearing, AFSCME and the USF Bargaining Team reached a compromise: current staff hired before 2014 would keep their sick leave payout option, but new hires would not get it. While everyone waited to hear if the USF Administration would accept the compromise, AFSCME leaders told staff that if they wanted better job conditions and compensation, they needed to join the union. Many employees do not realize that in order to be a union member, one has to join; an employee is not automatically a union member.

The compromise was approved. Now the new contract has to be ratified by USF staff and the USF Board of Trustees. It includes a pay raise of $ 1,000 for staff earning over $ 40,400 a year, and $ 600 for those earning less than $ 40,000. We wish our staff the best.


Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, April 4, at 12 noon on USF Tampa in EDU 316.

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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