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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
11 January 2018
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Happy New Year!

Yes, we have a new look. This new format should be readable on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. If your device has issues with the new format, please let us know, and Happy New Year!


It is not clear whether January is associated with Juno - the Queen of the Roman pantheon, who had a role in rejuvenation - or with Janus, the god of gates, doorways, and transitions. Perhaps both, and that may be appropriate for a year which calls out for New Years' resolutions to rejuvenate critical traditions and institutions.

Two decades ago, Robert Putnam observed that Americans are members of fewer organizations (from churches and temples to volunteer organizations and philanthropies), participate less in America's political life, and in general socialize less than we used to. The great community ecosystem that had underpinned our society was beginning to fray, and possible consequences were serious. Since then, the situation seems to have gotten worse. Unions are in the same boat with professional organizations, political parties, and recreational clubs. Since USF is approaching the beginning of new election cycles in two of the leading organizations in the USF community, this may be a good time to think about New Year's resolutions on building USF's community infrastructure.

  • Getting Involved. During the last few decades, the percentage of Americans who "get involved" has shrunk, and this may be part of what is ailing our nation's decision-making processes. For details, see below or click here.
  • Getting Involved at USF. USF faculty can get involved in the union, in the senates (and other organizations, too). For details, see below or click here.
  • What's Next from Tallahassee? The turmoil in Washington, D.C., is weirding out many state capitals, including Florida's. And three legislators have slunk away, leaving chaos in their wake. The next legislative session just started, and among other things in the hopper is a bill to decertify unions representing employees who are not involved enough. For details, see below or click here.
This issue follows up on the theme from the last issue of Fall, Looking Forward, which looked at some of the challenges USF faces the years ahead. Many of us may regard such challenges as something to be left to the Administration and the Board, but as the faculty and staff are the university, a lot of USF's future in meeting these challenges is up to us.


Chapter Meeting Tomorrow in Tampa

The Chapter will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon at CDB Restaurant, on 5104 E. Fowler Ave. (at the corner of 50th and Fowler, just east of USF Tampa). There will be pizza, salad, and drinks: lunch is on us. On the agenda:

  • UFF USF Chapter Election. The USF Chapter will hold its annual election of officers and representatives this spring, and the Election Committee will propose a schedule and voting procedure (click here for the proposal).
  • Travel Scholarships. The Chapter will consider whether to offer travel scholarships to members this spring.
All USF employees are invited, especially UFF members and employees thinking of becoming UFF members. Come and check us out.

Travel Scholarships

33 UFF members applied for travel scholarships last Fall, and six $ 500 scholarships were selected by lot. The recipients were Michael Berson, Iraida Carrion, Jennifer Collins, Sara Flory, Michelle Hughes Miller, and Nathan Johnson. Many applications were for travel to conferences for which the applicant was an invited speaker, and this suggests that more travel support would be helpful for USF faculty to interact with colleagues, share the results of their research, and (ahem) show the USF flag.

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).

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.

Getting Involved

In Volume II, Chapter V, of his Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:

Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions, constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds-religious, moral, serious, futile, extensive, or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found establishments for education, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; and in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it be proposed to advance some truth, or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society.
He then raises the question:
Thus the most democratic country on the face of the earth is that in which men have in our time carried to the highest perfection the art of pursuing in common the object of their common desires, and have applied this new science to the greatest number of purposes. Is this the result of accident? or is there in reality any necessary connection between the principle of association and that of equality?
160 years after de Tocqueville published those words, Robert Putnam produced a disconcerting analysis subtitled The Collapse and Revival of American Community, which contended that:
  • Americans were increasingly uninvolved in community organizations, and thus organizations from churches to philanthropic groups to professional organizations to political parties were either withering or relying on the machinery of mass communications to collect dollars from increasingly remote "members."
  • As a result, the "community infrastructure" of the nation was fraying, work that these organizations used to do is increasingly not done or done by public agencies that are, themselves, remote from the people that they serve. There was indeed a "...necessary connection between the principle of association and that of equality" - or, more precisely, getting things done in this democracy.
Cue the growing criticism of the two leading political parties in their marble towers in Washington, D.C., using their media organs to send us their bullet points. If they want to know what we the people think of all this, they consult commissions, lobbyists, and opinion polls. Meanwhile, the public grows more frustrated and more remote, some of us zoning out while others nurture resentments and conspiracy theories.

Unions apparently are not immune to all this. Union "density" - the percentage of employees who are union members - has been declining since the 1950s. Kim Moody has written a depressing account of how unions have declined as members became less involved. Moody contends that once upon a time, unions were mutual aid organizations in which members helped and supported each other. Now, members increasingly treat unions as service organizations, paying dues for services rendered. Professional and faculty organizations are not immune either; witness the academic societies reacting to the current anti-intellectual climate by appealing for money from members so that said societies can hire staff and coordinators who can reach out to a lay community that, once upon a time, faculty interacted with personally.

This calls for a genuinely grassroots solution. We can start with ourselves, and get more involved. And since we are educators, we might consider Putnam's advice that students should be encouraged to participate in organizations. "Participation in extracurricular activities...is another proven means to increase civic and social involvement in later life." This point is particularly pressing considering a recent survey of teens found that teens are no longer socializing in person, but on the net, often with unhappy results.

If there is any problem to be addressed by the slogan, "Think globally, act locally," this is it. So, locally, what can we do at USF?

Getting Involved at USF

There are many places to get involved at USF, and two of them are governance and the union, and we encourage faculty and professionals to get involved. This spring, both the USF Tampa Faculty Senate and the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will be holding elections. There will be calls for nominations, and then there will be elections. We strongly urge everyone to consider participating, as both the faculty governance system and the union need more grassroots involvement if they are to carry out their missions.

Meanwhile, someone is giving us a poke. Florida Representative Scott Plakon has presented a bill to decertify unions that do not have a majority of the employees they represent as dues-paying members (see below for details). That is to say, he proposes to decertify unions lacking sufficient employee participation. If the last half century has taught us anything about unions, it is that they exist only if employees that they represent participate. So maybe this bill is a useful reminder: use it or lose it.

What's Next from Tallahassee?

The legislature made a mess of things last year (see some criticism and some contrition here). The public is increasingly unhappy with the way things are going, and three legislators have just slunk out of their seats amidst accusations of misconduct and harassment. A healthy instinct for self-preservation might suggest grown-up behavior in the current legislative session, which opened Tuesday and runs to March 9.

But observers expect trouble. The Tampa Bay Times complained that a Legislature unable to run its own affairs is trying to micromanage local governments, while Tampa Bay Times pundit Adam Smith predicted that the holes left by the three departing legislators will lead to a right turn. Of course, considering the growing movement that led to the three departures, and the Legislature's history of 'sex, alcohol, and harassment', anything can happen, especially if additional shoes drop.

Recalling that last year's near trainwreck was the budget, it doesn't help that the budget this year is again a problem.

In the meantime, the Florida House leadership seems to be ascendant: Smith reported that nearly half of political insiders polled claimed that House Speaker Richard Corcoran is the most powerful person in Tallahassee. Corcoran has a personal animus towards the Florida Education Association - possibly arising out of FEA's opposition to charter schools, one of which was founded by Corcoran's wife. So anti-union bills presented by powerful House legislators should be taken seriously.

Cue Representative Scott Plakon, who has proposed (yet again) a bill to decertify unions (at least those that Corcoran doesn't like, like those representing teachers and staff) that have majority support but not majority membership, i.e. most of the employees support being represented by the union for bargaining and enforcing a contract, but most do not pay for it much less become active. The bill is now on track to go to the House this session. The unions are putting up a fight, and the proposal violates Article I, Section 6 of the Florida State Constitution, but if this bill passes, unions could be crippled during a long court battle.

The recommendation from union leaders is to persuade employees to join as the bill does not apply to unions with majority membership. If you would like to join, download, fill in, and mail or email the membership form today. And come to a Chapter Meeting - tomorrow at noon at CDB Restaurant - and check us out.


Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, January 12, at CDB Restaurant at 5104 E. Fowler Ave., just east of USF Tampa.

We will have lunch at the meeting. 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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