United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
12 January 2017
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Chapter Meeting Tomorrow near USF Tampa Campus
The UFF USF Chapter will meet tomorrow, Friday, at 12 noon at CDB Restaurant at 5104 E. Fowler Ave., in Temple Terrace (at the intersection of 51st Street and E. Fowler Ave., just east of USF Tampa Campus). A draft agenda is posted online and includes:
Everyone is invited to the Chapter Meeting tomorrow. There will be pizza, salad, and drinks. Come and join the movement.
- Spring Election. The USF Chapter of UFF is a democracy, and with officers and representatives elected by the members of UFF at USF. Elections are held each spring, and the Election Committee shall present a proposal for conducting this year's election to the Chapter tomorrow. Once the proposal is approved, a Biweekly Special to UFF members will announce the election procedure, together with a Call for Nominations. All UFF members are eligible to run and to vote (and only UFF members are eligible to run and to vote) in this election.
- Travel Scholarships. Last fall, 36 UFF members applied for the six $ 500 travel scholarships offered by the chapter. So six members will receive support towards professional travel this term or in summer. The spring cycle is on the agenda.
- Spring. Plans for this spring.
This spring, we will meet on alternate Fridays at noon, at locations TBD.
Come and check us out.
- We will meet on January 27, February 10, February 24, March 10, March 24, April 7, and April 21.
- We will meet on USF St. Petersburg on Febuary 10 and on USF Sarasota / Manatee at a date TBD. All other meetings will be on USF Tampa.
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. 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; see also the main article (left).
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Visit the United Faculty of Florida at USF Facebook page. This page is a place where UFF members can exchange thoughts and ideas. The page is "public", but only dues-paying UFF members are eligible to post items on the page. If you are a UFF member, ask to join on the page, or contact the Communications Committee. The Committee will invite every UFF member that asks to join. So check us out. UFF members are welcome to join, and non-members are welcome to look.
IN THIS ISSUE
2016 was a year of the (fire) monkey, and 2017 will be the year of the (fire) rooster. Roosters, one astrological enthusiast reminds us, wake up early and decisively in the morning. And perhaps so should we. We start this year with two wake-up calls. One is local: this spring features the election of UFF chapter officers and representatives - and also election of faculty senates. Since the UFF and the senates are the primary media for faculty voices to be heard, we should take these elections seriously. The other wake-up call is statewide: it's time for Florida to revise its constitution again.
Meanwhile, the West Central Florida's Federation of Labor (with which UFF is affiliated) has a young workers group called the Florida Future Labor Leaders, and they will be showing the film Matewan on a shootout in 1920 between coal miners and the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency (the latter specializing in private security and union-busting). It stars Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, and Mary McDonnell. It will be shown Thursday, January 26, 7:30 pm, at the Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin Street, Tampa, FL 33602. Tickets are available online.
- Revising the Constitution. Almost like cicadas, every twenty years Florida forms a commission to propose amendments to the Florida constitution. That can affect us as citizens and as public employees. For more, see below or click here.
Incidentally, the statewide United Faculty of Florida is also holding its election this spring.
We will elect a new statewide president and vice president, as well as Governance Board members for the Florida Education Association and delegates to our national affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. UFF members should be receiving postcards calling for nominations this week.
Revising the Constitution.
Florida has had five constitutions since joining the union in 1838 (not counting the 1861 Ordinance of Secession), and the fifth one was ratified in 1968. (The fifth became necessary because the fourth one violated the U. S. Supreme Court's one man, one vote doctrine that legislative districts have approximately the same population.) Florida's current constitution has an unusual requirement: every twenty years, a Constitutional Revision Commission will be appointed and spend a year composing constitutional amendments to present to the voters. And these proposed amendments are presented directly to the voters with no vetting by the Florida Supreme Court or the Legislature.
There have been two commissions thus far. In 1978, the commission proposed eight amendments, all of whom failed; nevertheless, some of the proposals later made it into law. In 1998, the commission proposed nine amendments, eight of which passed. Those were the days when all it took was a majority to pass an amendment; now it takes a 60 % majority.
The commission for 2018 will soon be appointed. Of the 37 members of the commission, fifteen will be appointed by Governor Rick Scott, nine will be chosen by Florida Senate President Joe Negron, nine will be chosen by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, three by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga - and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is automatically a member (assuming she doesn't leave for Washington). Scott, Negron, Corcoran, and Labarga are accepting applications, and as of December 9, there were over a hundred applicants.
Some of these politicians have announced agenda items. In particular, Speaker Corcoran announced that he would like the commission to fix "bad supreme court decisions" and he told the Miami Herald that in making his nine appointments, "Absolutely there is a litmus test." It is not exactly clear what that litmus test might be, but while he did say that he would not choose lobbyists, he would consider single issue advocates.
The union has a stake in this as the state constitution protects our collective bargaining rights. Article I, Section 6 of the Florida State Constitution reads:
Right to work. The right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or non-membership in any labor union or labor organization. The right of employees, by and through a labor organization, to bargain collectively shall not be denied or abridged. Public employees shall not have the right to strike.
This does three things:
- It classifies Florida as a "right-to-work" state. In Florida, a union and management cannot have a contract that requires all employees to be members of that union. This is why UFF membership is not automatic for USF employees: an employee has to sign up. (One consequence of this is that in Florida, unions are not required to represent non-members in contract grievances - and UFF does not.)
- Employees have the right to organize unions that can then represent them. In Florida, any attempt to prevent an employee from joining a union or becoming active in a union is illegal - and actionable. UFF has big lawyers to enforce this.
- Police, firefighters, teachers, civil servants, and yes, professors at public universities may not go on strike. We are required to use more subtle forms of persuasion (some of these provided by law).
It isn't clear whether union rights will be on the commission's agenda. In late 2015, a Miami legislator caused a kerfluffle when he said that collective bargaining could be on the agenda. Recently, Speaker Corcoran called the Florida Education Association (UFF's state affiliate) "downright evil" for fighting a charter school voucher program in court, but he may just have been aggrieved (his wife founded a charter school). After a year of hyperventilation over tweets, it is not clear what quotes should be taken seriously, much less literally.
Governor Scott has encouraged Floridians to apply for appointment to the commission, and the Florida Bar has posted links for prospective applicants. Meanwhile, the Partnership for Revising Florida's Constitution has put up a site for citizens interested in more information. And involvement does not necessarily mean serving as an unpaid volunteer for a year: there will be hearings and solicitations, so there will be opportunities for citizens to be heard - provided that citizens make use of those opportunities.
By the way, the Constitutional Revision Commission isn't all that's on the Legislature's agenda. While the Legislative session officially convenes on March 7, preparations are already underway. The deadline for submitting bills is January 27, and already there have been bills filed regarding voter registration, restoration of felons' civil rights, school recess, tuition and fee waivers, having computer programming courses satisfy foreign language requirements, authorizing a licensee to openly carry a handgun, texting while driving, authorizing municipalities to regulate or ban disposable plastic bags, locations where licensees may not bear firearms, traffic infraction detectors, ratifying an Equal Rights Amendment, restrictions on assault weapons, and if past history is any guide, there will be about 2,000 bills filed.
This is the year of the rooster. A good year to keep awake.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, January 13, at on USF Tampa, at CDB Restaurant, 5104 E. Fowler Ave. in Temple Terrace, just east of USF Tampa.
There will be sandwiches, chips, and drinks. All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.
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