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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
23 March 2017
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Chapter Meeting Tomorrow on USF Sarasota / Manatee

The UFF USF Chapter will meet tomorrow, Friday, at 12 noon on USF Sarasota / Manatee in room A221. The agenda is posted online.

USF Sarasota / Manatee is on 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34243. For details, click here, and for a map, click here. Everyone is invited to the Chapter Meeting tomorrow. There will be sandwiches, fruit, sweets, and drinks. Come check us out.

We have set up the schedule for the rest of the semester. We meet on alternate Fridays at 12 noon for lunch at union stuff:

  • March 24 on USF Sarasota / Manatee in a room A221.
  • April 7 and 21 on USF Tampa in EDU 161.
We will also have a special meeting on March 31 in EDU 161 to count ballots in the Chapter Election. UFF members, remember to send in your ballots for both the UFF USF Chapter election and the UFF statewide election. And if you are a non-member and want to participate in union elections, download, fill in, and send in the membership form; come and join the movement!.

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.

Union Elections

UFF members: don't forget to vote in the ongoing elections! The UFF USF Chapter election ballot packet should have arrived in a big white envelope; the UFF statewide election ballot packet should have arrived in a regular sized white one. UFF is a participatory democracy, but we need people to participate.

$ 500 Travel Grants for UFF Members

The USF Chapter of the UFF will award six $ 500 Travel Scholarships for summer and fall. This will be for travel for participation in a professional activity. All applications are due by April 20, and only UFF members are eligible. In addition, no recipient of the Fall 2016 cycle of travel grants is eligible to apply. The six recipients shall be selected by lot at the April 20 chapter meeting. For more information, see the Travel Scholarship Flyer.

This initiative is part of our membership campaign. If you would like to become active in the UFF USF Membership Drive, contact the Membership Chair, Adrienne Berarducci (click here).

Grievances

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).

Visit Us on Facebook

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

As the Legislature Turns

Tallahassee would be more entertaining if the stakes weren't so high. Amidst the various catfights over the budget (complicated by uncertainty over what Washington is going to do about health insurance), there is a lot of strange legislation moving forward.

  • Hot Stuff. In Tallahassee, there are bills on guns, secrecy, retirement, health insurance, and more, and while the universities are watching the budget, the unions are watching a union-busting bill winding its way through the House. For more, see below or click here.
  • Talking to Politicians. The most immediate way to influence the political process is to tell your local representative what you think. So how do you do that? For details, see below or click here.
Fuming at the news and complaining into one's beer accomplishes nothing. Doing something requires doing something, and the most effective thing to do is to become active in an organization. On campus, there are two organizations to get involved in:
  • The faculty governance system. This is the array of committees and councils ranging from departmental committees up to the three faculty senates and the System Faculty Council. Yes, this involves a lot of minutiae, but this is where a lot of the decisions are made.
  • The United Faculty of Florida. Unlike the faculty governance system, the UFF has legal standing. This means UFF is more than just an advisor to the Administration. But UFF can only get things done if UFF members get active in this volunteer organization.
If Isidor Rabi is right in saying that we faculty and professionals are the university, then it is up to us to defend it and ourselves and our university.

Hot Stuff

The great Tallahassee firestorm over the budget - originally over Florida's tourist bureau and Florida's business relocation bureau - has gotten into everything else, including the higher education budget. Florida State Senator Bill Galvano's Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2017 and Florida State Senator Dorothy Hukill's College Competitiveness Act of 2017 entail a reorganization of the colleges and a $ 131 million cut to higher education. The Florida House, for once more moderate, is considering cutting higher education by only $ 80 million. The political position of the State University System may have been compromised by a report (not yet posted online, but distributed to the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee - see pages 108 - 122 of the March 14 Packet) from the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) that over 2010 to 2016, faculty grew by 6 %, university student growth was 9%, but administration grew 12%.

Meanwhile, Florida State Representative Scott Plakon's Labor Organizations bill to require that the majority of employees represented by a union be dues-paying employees was just approved by the Government Accountability Committee. A union that did not meet this criterion would be required to go through a recertification process annually. But a union represents employees in a Bargaining Unit if the union won an election to do so (as the United Faculty of Florida did), so this bill violates the Florida state constitution, but that doesn't seem to bother the Florida Legislature much. If the bill passes, it will come into effect this summer (!), and it will take a lot of time and money to fight it in court. As only a third of the USF employees in the UFF USF Bargaining Unit - faculty and professionals - are dues-paying members, this bill would affect us immediately. And while our contract would remain in force, this new law would interfere with relations between the union and the Administration.

For a more comprehensive list of mischief that legislators are up to, see UFF's list of interesting legislation as of last week. And if you are not a UFF member but feel you should help the union defend its right to represent you, you can join today.

Talking to Politicians

Your legislators are your elected representatives, so if you feel strongly on an issue, you should feel free to communicate with your legislator. But there are written and unwritten rules. First, the unwritten rules.

The medium is important. Any communication that takes a few seconds or little thought - like clicking a button to add your name to a petition - will not count for much. Politicians are inundated with these things. In her New Yorker article on What Calling Congress Achieves : It's said to be the most effective way to petition the government, but does it really make a difference, Kathryn Schulz wrote that according to a recent survey, messages "that staffers tend to disregard include tweets and Facebook posts (less out of dismissiveness than because of the difficulty of determining if they come from constituents), online petitions (because they require so little effort that they arenít seen as meaningful), comments submitted through apps like Countable, and mass e-mails that originate from the Web sites of advocacy groups." Unless one is joining a huge crowd of tweeters (see below), sending in one of a small mass of tweets is not likely to affect much. In theory, communications that take time and effort are more impressive because they show that the voter cares: phone calls and snailmail would matter more than emails. Phone calls being instantaneous and snailmail taking days, phone calls should be the most effective of all.

In practice, the situation is more complicated. Schulz writes that the effect often depends on the effort that the politician's staff has to put into receiving the messages. Emails can be scanned, letters must be opened, phone calls must be answered. Fashion may also play a part, for Schulz reports that that recent survey suggests that "when it comes to influencing a lawmakerís opinion, personalized e-mails, personalized letters, and editorials in local newspapers all beat out the telephone." Apparently, telephones are brontosaurs to the trendy Washington set (what the less trendy Tallahassee set thinks of telephones is not clear, but the UFF state office thinks highly of them).

Schulz notes that messages about relatively obscure issues have a greater impact than messages about hot ones. The hot issues attract a lot of communications - and lobbyist attention (with ... campaign contributions ... appearing but in no way suggesting any correlation, nudge, nudge, wink, wink). On the other hand, less hot issues generate fewer messages, so a single one can have a a proportionately greater impact.

One point that Schulz did not address is that also depends on the politician. The old-fashioned "all politics is local" politicians pay close attention to their constituents, as encounters with politicians influence votes. The new, improved politics-is-driven-by-tv-internet-and-talk-radio politicians care less, as they figure that with enough lobbyist money they can win the next election without worrying about the relatively small number of constituents alienated by inattentive representatives. But one point that Schulz did address is that many representatives ignore missives that are not from their own district - and discount messages whose sender's district is uncertain (one reason to include one's snailmail address in messages to politicians).

Moving beyond Schulz, how does one influence a politician on a hot topic? There are two ways to do this, and both take a lot of time and work.

  • Building personal relationships with politicians over time. Politicians are like everyone else: they respond more readily to people that they know. If you meet with a politician (or and influential staffer) repeatedly to discuss things, you are in a better position to be taken seriously.
  • Being in an organization. Organizations build relationships with politicians over time, and they also are able to get, in relatively short order, a large number of participants to send a large stream of missives. Politicians can be impressed (or even intimidated) by volume
This brings us to two practical points.
  • The written rules for communicating with politicians. First of all, use only your personal equipment: do not use state or public property (e.g., your office computer or office phone) to lobby legislators. First of all, it's not legal. Second of all, they don't like it, and there is little point in gratuitously irritating someone you are trying to lobby. And here's an unwritten rule: if this is a one-time communication which will be recorded by a staff person, the important thing is not your argument - which will be scanned (if that) - but your position. So be polite, give your name and address, and have a brief message that clearly states your position. Contact information for the Florida legislators is available via the Legislature page of MyFlorida.com.
  • It takes more than just a few missives. Having an effect generally means getting involved over the long haul, and that means joining and becoming active in an organization that supports your goals. For example, the United Faculty of Florida pushes for support for higher education, support and freedom for research and scholarship, and fair treatment of faculty and professionals. If you would like to join UFF's communicating-with-politicians arm, contact the Chapter Secretary.
The First Amendment guarantees our right to be heard, but speaking up is up to us.

LOGISTICS

Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, March 23, on USF Sarasota / Manatee, in room A 221.

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.

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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