BARGAINING: Where Are We Now?
On April 21, the USF Administration declared impasse after what the USF Administration claimed was an unproductive session on April 11, 2014.
Important context. We have gone without merit raises since 2012, and those of us who have not received promotions, discretionary raises, or adjustments in their assignments have gone without raises since then – and the Consumer Price Index has gone up 2.92 % since then. That is why UFF had proposed a 3 % (average) merit raise (for 2013) effective after ratification and a 3 % (average) merit raise in August 2014, the 2015 merit raise to be bargained later. The USF Administration REJECTED this proposal.
What the USF Administration proposed was:
The UFF Bargaining Team's responses were:
- A 2.5 % (average) merit raise effective within 30 days of ratification, for 2013, and 1 % (average) discretionary raise, to be distributed by 31 May 2015. No merit raise for 2014.
- A $ 12,500 cap for teaching a 3-hour summer school course, claiming that summer school costs too much without the cap.
- Changing sick leave payouts upon departure from USF to be based on their 2014 salary rather than their salary upon departure [so inflation would erode the payout], and would be available only to employees hired prior to 2014. Yes, that's not what the USF Administration's letter said, but that was their proposal.
The UFF Chief Negotiator will make a report at the next UFF USF Chapter Meeting, this Friday, May 2, at 12 noon, on USF Tampa, in EDU 316. All UFF USF employees, UFF members and otherwise, the people UFF represents in this bargaining, are invited to sandwiches, chips, soda, and a report by the Chief Negotiator.
- YES to the 2.5 % (average) merit raise for 2013 and YES to the discretionary raise to be distributed by 31 May 2015, but ... after ratification the two sides would bargain the merit raise for 2014. (There would be a merit raise for 2014, wouldn't there?) Also, since bargaining had delayed the 2013 raise, UFF proposed a 2.5 % (average) merit bonus.
- UFF would like information about summer. The USF Administration has failed to provide information on summer school costs, and what the financial effect of no summer school cap would be. UFF is wary of bargaining in the absence of data.
- UFF already proposed eliminating sick leave payout for employees hired after August 2014, but the USF Administration REJECTED that compromise.
We are too prone to take staff for granted, but the university would not run very long without them. And their union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), is a good friend.
AFSCME recently won a major victory for Florida public employees - and USF faculty and professionals are all Florida public employees. In 2011, Governor Scott signed an executive order mandated drug tests for all employees under his purview. USF employees are not under his purview, but if this executive order had stood, we would have been next. AFSCME went to the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU sued. The case went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, and on April 21, the U. S. Supreme Court declined to hear Governor Scott's appeal of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling in favor of AFSCME. Hopefully, this is one bad idea we won't hear about for a while.
So we all owe AFSCME and the ACLU our thanks.
Three Years as Chapter President
When Paul Terry became UFF USF Chapter President on April 1, 2011, the USF Chapter of UFF had about 330 members. We now have about 550 - approximately a third of the faculty and professionals in the Bargaining Unit. This greatly expanded the amount of work that the union does, for while the union represents all employees of the Bargaining Unit in bargaining, the union represents only members in grievances. During his terms in office, Professor Terry spent a lot of time fighting fires and helping colleagues in trouble.
That was why so many people were affected when he suffered a stroke last fall. He is convalescent - he uses a cane when walking outside - but he is doing better and plans to teach a course this summer.
Paul Terry went to college and graduate school in the University of Arkansas, specializing in educational leadership and music education, ultimately receiving a doctorate in educational administration. He started as a music teacher in Arkansas and then worked as a principal for a decade (with a brief stint as a supervisor for the Arkansas Department of Education). In 1991, he returned to higher education, first at the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, then at the University of Indiana – Purdue, then the University of Memphis (where he was director of the Professional Assessment, Development & Enhancement Center; PADEC assesses principals and assistant principals). He was a professor at Memphis when he received the Tennessee Distinguished Educator Award.
He arrived at USF in 2002 as a a professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at USF Polytech (the former USF Lakeland), and promptly joined UFF. He served as Coordinator of the Educational Leadership Program at USF Polytech, and recruited people for the program, which was shut down to make way for Florida Polytech University: "It's unfortunate about what happened at USF Lakeland, but we have to remain positive and move forward." Terry adds that, "Vice President Kathleen Moore has done a great job with the teach out."
In 2008, Professor Terry filed a grievance over the USF Tampa Department of Educational Leadership and Development’s failure to communicate with him on common responsibilities. Professor Terry won, and the settlement included a commitment by the USF Administration to abide by their contractual obligations. This the Department failed to do, and Professor Terry filed another grievance, which went all the way to arbitration. The USF Administration was required to post a Notice to Employees that the USF Board of Trustees violated the law and would abide by the law in the future. Only UFF’s access to the Florida Education Association’s financial resources and legal talent made the successful pursuit of the grievance possible.
Professor Terry was elected UFF USF Chapter President in 2011, and made member recruitment a priority. UFF started having more events, and he started the tradition of holding chapter meetings in regional campuses. Increasing membership meant increasing the chapter's grievance load - there is now a Grievance Committee to spread the load - and meeting with administrators to resolve dangerous situations before they became flurries of grievances. Unions are necessary: "If we didn't have unions, the administration would have us digging ditches."
He suffered a stroke on November 18, and Vice President Art Shapiro became Acting President. Professor Terry's family took him home to Arkansas to recover, and then helped him move back to Tampa. Meanwhile, union members stepped forward to help with the growing tide of grievances (not all of which are due solely to the growth of the union).
Professor Terry plans to teach this summer, and has a sabbatical lined up for next year, when he will be studying evaluations of senior higher education administrators. But he is still thinking of K-12 schools, and believes that at all levels, administration should focus on "teacher empowerment" for "teacher-run schools." In particular, "we need more teachers to become principals."
A Union Member From Start to Finish
A letter from former UFF USF Chapter President Sherman Dorn.
This summer, I will be leaving USF to join Arizona State University. My new job is a great opportunity, an exciting challenge, and puts me much closer to most of my family, especially my mother. I am proud of my colleagues at USF and have never regretted one second that I have worked here.
I will miss many things about Tampa and Florida. Yes, our state can drive us crazy in so many ways, but we also have so much to appreciate. One of Florida's resources is the fact that public employees have a right to unionize. That right does not exist in Arizona, and at Arizona State I will not have the chance to join a faculty union.
I have been a union member from my first month on the Tampa campus, and I will be a union member on my last official day in June. I signed the membership form in August 1996 because I wanted to join a group that defended our common academic values and concrete interests. Our disciplinary organizations are wonderful and do not protect our legal rights. As an American social historian, I know that union history is NOT just about industrial unionism and bread-and-butter issues, though those are important. Unions have also fought for shared values, and public-employee unions have especially fought for fair treatment--teachers unions represent a majority-female constituency, and every attack today on teacher and faculty unions is an attack on a majority-women workforce.
When I was president of the USF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, I filed grievances on behalf of the chapter, but I also filed an individual grievance before I became a chapter president. In the 2005 summer term, I realized that staff in Academic Computing (what later became IT) had rewritten the network-access statement to include prohibitions on the use of the network for anything that was deemed offensive by the staff: anything not strictly course-related, anything connected to religion or politics, or anything tied to for-profit enterprises. This clearly violated the union contract, and it also violated student rights and common sense. I filed a grievance in June 2005, and wrote about the issue in September.
We finally resolved the grievance the next March. Without a union contract, we might have reached the same result, but having the leverage of a faculty union required the university to respond in a way I think the bureaucracy would not have without an enforceable contract. Anyone who has been a faculty member in Florida for long understands how politicized higher education policy can be. The United Faculty of Florida is often the only voice defending academic values as well as our material interests. The state legislature's attitude towards higher education will have its ups and downs as well, and we need UFF as a representative of our interests, steady and consistent across the years.
That is also true at the local level. The collective-bargaining relationship with USF's management will always have its ups and downs, and through that we need to remember that faculty should have an enforceable contract in the same way that USF's athletic coaches have contracts that they can force USF to follow. When I was a brand-new assistant professor with a young family, I thought union dues were a great investment in my rights and values. I still feel the same.
Yours in solidarity,