In Tallahassee, the Florida Education Association continues to lobby for education funding while expressing its concerns about Senate Bill 78 and its companion, House Bill 947, which would require union members to repeatedly sign up for dues deductions. A similar pair of bills, Senate Bill 1014 and House Bill 835 inspired the Tampa Bay Times to report that Union battles brew in Florida Legislature : Two bills would change the way union members pay their dues. So the drama continues.
Meanwhile, in the news...
We will report on the UFF Senate meeting in the next issue. The senators that met over February 27 and 28 had been elected by their respective chapters, and that's a good reminder to all good union members to vote in the ongoing elections...
The ballots for the UFF USF chapter election are in the mail. The offices and representative seats, and the candidates, are all described in the chapter election page at our website. All employees who were UFF members as of February 26 should receive a ballot; if you are a member and have not received one by Sunday, March 14, contact the chapter secretary.
And the statewide United Faculty of Florida is sending out ballots for the statewide election. Again, all UFF members are encouraged to vote.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on Zoom. On the agenda: the chapter election, the statewide UFF election, opening in fall, and more. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.
Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary to get one. We are meeting on alternate Fridays at noon over Zoom. Meetings and events are posted on the Events Calendar of the UFF USF Website. Come and check us out.
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. Here is the membership form. Come and join the movement.
If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement or the recent Memorandum of Understanding, 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 Grievances Page.
Many of our students are struggling during this crisis, and the USF Foundation is supporting the USF Food Pantries to help out. They are accepting non-perishable donations, but one can also make monetary donations for the pantries at St. Petersburg, Sarasota / Manatee, and Tampa.
Yes, we are on social media.
The end may be in sight. President Biden expects to have doses for everyone by the end of May, but Dr. Fauci seems to think that normalcy is a year off. Still, the USF Administration is confident enough to announce that classes will be in classrooms come fall; on the other hand, the UFF Senate decided that the fall meeting of the Senate will be held online - despite a strong feeling that remote meetings were rather...remote.
Covid-19 was the third highest cause of death in the United States last year, so the stakes are high, and so is demand for the vaccine. Tallahassee's strategy of focusing on older people had a payoff: Covid-19 cases fell in nursing homes. On the other hand, Tallahassee diverted vaccines to wealthy neighborhoods. The state and federal governments had different vaccine priorities, which caused confusion and some resentment. Some federal sites are offering vaccine to Florida teachers under 50, but unfortunately, neither Tallahassee nor Washington are (officially - but access varies unofficially) offering vaccines to college faculty right now, despite UFF's call for shots for all faculty facing classroom teaching.
To get vaccinated in the Tampa Bay Area: visit the Vaccine Finder website. In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened a site at 755 Waters Avenue in Tampa, which serves walk-ins as well as people who pre-register. For more information about FEMA's sites, see their March 3 press release. And "high risk" Floridians may be able to get shots if their doctors fill out a form.
With more vaccines being approved and the federal government moving in - despite Governor DeSantis' resistance - and loud criticism (including a letter-writing campaign by UFF) of Tallahassee's refusal to vaccinate essential and other frontline employees, it probably wasn't surprising that the governor announced that the vaccination age for Florida will go down to 55 by the end of this month - although he did say that "I don’t think you’re going to get above 50% of people that are under 50."
Let's hope he's wrong about that, because otherwise USF may have to go back online in fall...
The USF General Counsel has posted a proposed new regulation on Use of Electronic Mail for University Business. The policy states that USF employees:
There have always been restrictions on the use of USF Webmail, whether or not one uses a USF machine. For example, a USF employee may not use USF Webmail to tell a legislator to vote against a bill before the legislature, much less broadcast political campaign materials to colleagues.
On the other hand, USF employees have long used USF Webmail to exchange emails with friends and relatives - and to announce appliances for sale and to post cat pictures on USF-maintained listservs. Technically speaking, sharing cat pictures is unrelated to university business, which leads to the interesting question of whether this policy presages shutting down the USF Talk listserv - with all the implications that that has for USF employee morale.
This is just a proposal, so feel free to post a comment for review by the USF General Counsel. Meanwhile, here is a reality check. Email is forever, especially when backed up, and much of it are legally public documents that hostile political operators may request copies of. It may be unwise to use USF Webmail to send any messages that you don't want to see posted on Campus Watch.
The pandemic has inspired reactions against eastern Asians and Asian-Americans. The Los Angeles Times reports that Anti-Asian crimes and harassment have risen to historic levels.
This is not unprecedented in America, which turned on German-Americans during World War I and then against a variety of immigrants during the 1918 pandemic (ironically, it appears that the "Spanish" flu originated in...Kansas), and then against Japanese-Americans during World War II and again when Americans started buying Japanese cars, and then against Moslems after 9/11 (although anti-Moslem attitudes go back to the 1970s). Peanuts fans may recall that when Charlie Brown was hospitalized, Lucy needed someone to hit.
Environmentalists may observe that like AIDS (and possibly the 1918 flu), COVID-19 probably emerged from the bushmeat market - and at any rate did not involve Asian-Americans at the other side of the planet. But while that explanation may appeal to puritanical vegetarians, much of the public finds that too small a button to push.
China is a bigger button, and even before the pandemic, China was being labeled the greatest long-term threat to America. Last year, pundits and politicians dubbed COVID-19 the "Wuhan flu," and some politicians and the public have done more than just talk. It's hard to act against a country on the other side of the planet, so people have turned on targets closer at hand. Asian-Americans are being sent to the hospital - and occasionally to the morgue - while politicians score brownie points with inflammatory legislation.
The Chinese government is a federal concern - and one that the federal government is already acting on - but with the next election a mere twenty months away, Tallahassee cannot resist the photo opportunity. This brings us to Senate Bill 2010 and its companion House Bill 7017 on Foreign Influence, which were announced with fanfare by the governor and his party leadership, in which House Speaker Chris Sprowls credited U.S. Senator Marco Rubio with claiming that, "the burden of oversight and accountability rests in our states."
The bill would restrict and regulate scholarly exchanges, and the state leadership of the United Faculty of Florida was less enthusiastic, expressing its deep concern about the governor's remarks; UFF President Karen Morian cautioned, "the Governor to be careful not to condemn innocent Floridians of Chinese - or Cuban, North Korean, Iranian, Russian, or Venezuelan - descent," while UFF Executive Director Candi Churchill observed that, "There are federal laws and processes in place to deal with espionage, corruption, and conflicts of interest. The people's representatives of Florida should get to work on the real needs of Floridians."
Interestingly enough, the Chinese government is assisting the Florida Legislature's effort to obstruct Chinese / American scholarly collaboration by meddling with some electronic communications between Chinese residents and the rest of the world. The politicians may be more alike than they would want to admit.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, March 12, at 12 noon, via Zoom. All UFF USF members are welcome: for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary.the Chapter Secretary. Come and join the movement.
Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join, simply fill out the membership form.
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