Usually, in an election year, legislatures don't do much radical stuff because that is not the time to alienate constituents. But this is a strange year, and several bills that would disrupt the entire K-20 system are winding through the process. USF employees who want to find out what's up are invited to the union's open forum with pizza on what's happening in the Legislature, how it affects us, and what we might do about it. Next week Wednesday, February 28, from 11:30 am to 2 pm, at CDB Restaurant, 5104 E. Fowler Ave., just east of USF Tampa.
The Chapter will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon in the Palm Room, USC 258, on USF St. Petersburg (for information on visiting USF St. Petersburg, click here). There will be sandwiches, snacks, sweets, and drinks: lunch is on us. The remaining meetings this semester will be:
UFF invites everyone to a Spring Social today, starting at 6 pm, at Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill at 1320 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, northwest of USF St. Petersburg. We will be in the upstairs room. Come talk to union bigwigs about the hot issues, the Legislature's proposal to reorganize USF - and the Legislature's proposal to do away with UFF.
The USF Chapter will hold an open forum meeting on legislation that would affect us, particularly the union-busting legislation. All USF employees are invited to attend on Wednesday, February 28, 11:30 am to 2 pm at CDB Restaurant, 51st & Fowler Ave., just east of USF Tampa. Come find out what is going on, and what we can do about it.
The USF Chapter of the UFF will award five $ 500 Travel Scholarships for next spring and summer (a sixth will be awarded to a UFF member who votes in the chapter election). This will be for travel for participation in a professional activity. All applications are due by April 18, and only UFF members are eligible. In addition, no recipient of the Summer or Fall 2017 cycles of travel grants is eligible to apply. The five 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).
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 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 our previous episode, legislators had decided to liven up an election year by pushing two union-busting efforts and blindsiding the USF community with a surprise bill to unify USF.House Bill 25, which would bust most public employee unions (including UFF) in Florida, passed the House a while ago, but it's Senate companion is currently sitting quietly in three committees. House Bill 7055, which would do a zillion things, including bust much of the Florida Education Association (but not UFF), passed and was sent to the Senate, where it seems to be facing a rougher ride. HB 7055's language that would bust K-12 unions got a lot of press coverage, and some senators were not very happy with it. Schoolteachers were unhappy about HB 7055, too, and some protested; FEA President Joanne McCall wrote an op-ed on how, fifty years after the Florida teachers' walkout, teachers still seek respect.
Then news organizations reported that on Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee voted 5-4 to remove the union-busting language from the Senate version of HB 7055. Yet as of Thursday morning, this change was not reflected in the bill's current text or list of amendments (although it was in the bill's history), and Wednesday's official analysis (see p. 23) said that the union-busting language was still there. The UFF Tallahassee office advises us that "All amendments on a House bill in the Senate travel with the bill and must be passed or defeated at each Senate stop. Decertification as in HB 7055 for K-12 instructional personnel is not dead." Anyway, the fact that HB 7055 is being reviewed by only two committees, not three, suggests that it is being fast tracked, and there is a long way to go. Specifically, the two bills would have to be reconciled before being sent to the Governor to sign, and all kinds of mischief can happen in the reconciliation process. Stay tuned.
House Bill 423, which would consolidate USF, is still in the Education Committee.
For more, come to the open forum on what's happening in the Legislature, how it affects us, and what we might do about it. Come next week Wednesday, February 28, from 11:30 am to 2 pm, at CDB Restaurant, 5104 E. Fowler Ave., just east of USF Tampa.
Every two decades, a handful of Florida politicians appoint a Constitutional Revision Commission to propose amendments to the Florida state constitution. The commission roams around Florida, collecting proposals from the public while working on its own. Ultimately, it will present some amendments to be voted on in the fall election - without being vetted by anyone else (unlike citizen's proposals, which are vetted by the Florida Supreme Court).
So far, neither education nor unions appear to be their primary focus, although some of the proposals from commissioners would impact education, like creating additional hurdles for tuition increases and requiring legislative supermajorities to raise taxes. Of course, the commission has until May to submit proposed amendments, and anything can creep into their inbox between now and then.
The 700+ proposals from the public range from creating the right to grow and use cannibis to giving gun open carry permit holders the right to conceal carry to tightening the classroom size amendment already passed by the public and subsequently evaded by politicians to prohibition of many classes of billboards to repealing the prohibition against a state income tax. It is not clear whether or not the commission will seriously consider any of these.
The Florida Bar recently complained that ninety percent of Floridians do not know what the CRC is doing, and implicitly encouraged citizens to get involved. For those who are interested, the CRC will visit USF St. Petersburg on March 13, from 1 pm to 7 pm, at the University Student Center. The CRC has posted an FAQ sheet about the hearing and a list of proposals to be discussed.
Whatever they propose will be submitted to voters in fall. Stay tuned.
On February 16, polls opened for USF adjuncts to vote on whether to be represented by the Service Employees' International Union (SEIU). The SEIU had collected signatures for a petition to the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) for an election, and after a hearing, a ruling, an appeal, and another ruling, the election is running from February 16 to March 13.
This is the usual way employees get a union. The workers, often with assistance, advice, and guidance from an established union like SEIU, collect enough signatures from employees to compel an election. (This is often called a card campaign as employees sign on cards.) Management can voluntarily recognize the union at this point, but otherwise, PERC holds a hearing at which the employees and management present their case, and PERC rules. If enough employees have signed cards, PERC typically will rule in favor of an election in which employees decide whether to be represented by the union. If a majority of those voting vote in favor, then the employees are represented by the union. This is how UFF came to represent USF faculty and professionals. (Incidentally, it is PERC, not the union, that decides who the union represents.)
Last June, the USF Chapter of the UFF supported the adjuncts' right to an election. The next seven months were full of legal wrangling, but on February 5, SEIU's Faculty Forward program announced that the election was on. (As a reminder of what unions are for, three days later SEIU Faculty Forward announced that Washington University graduate workers won dental insurance using "direct action"; for examples of direct action, see the graduate students' Workers Forward Facebook page.)
SEIU's effort is part of a broad campaign to organize academia across the country.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, February 23, at noon, on USF St. Petersburg, in USC 258.
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.
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