But first, the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida is conducting its annual election, and the Chapter has issued a Call for Nominations. UFF members - and only UFF members - may run in this election. The Chapter will be electing the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, 20 UFF senators (the president serves as a senator ex officio), and 11 FEA Delegates. If you are interested in running for election, download, fill in, and email the Nomination Form to the Election Chair by March 4.
Speaking of union leadership...
The primary policy-making body of the United Faculty of Florida is the UFF Senate, which meets twice a year, in September and in February, to hear reports and determine policy. Last weekend, the Senate met online. Much of the meeting consisted of nuts and bolts, rather like a ship at sea preparing for a storm.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on Zoom. On the agenda: report on current legislation, report on the Town Hall meeting, the chapter election, and more. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.
This semester, the chapter will meet on Feb. 25, Mar. 11 & 25, April 8 & 22, and May 5. Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary to get one.
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.
"Professors are the enemy," President Nixon told National Security Advisor (and Harvard Professor) Henry Kissinger in one of his taped conversations. "Write that on a blackboard one hundred times and never forget it." Last fall, venture capitalist, author, and senate candidate J. D. Vance said that, "... if any of us want to do the things we want to do for our country and for the people who live in it, we have to honestly and aggressively attack the universities in this country." The line that went viral was Vance quoting Nixon: professors are the enemy.
In 2018, Gallup reported that public trust in higher education was declining, apparently in part because of access and affordability, and in part because many Americans thought that universities were pushing a "liberal" political agenda. But access and affordability problems - longstanding and growing problems resulting from policies made by politicians now decrying the universities - are not what the current storm is about. The effort to suppress Critical Race Theory, control public health research, and restrict expert testimony by faculty is (at least overtly) aimed at getting faculty to shut up. And if the accreditors object, then get rid of the accreditors.
This may not be a "campaign," so much as a fashion movement. Horror stories about professors (or doctors or lawyers or business executives) behaving badly makes excellent clickbait to attract visitors to websites that make lots of money through advertising. Promises to pass the Stop The Professors Act may win politicians votes from the more gullible sectors of the electorate - and it can distract attention from issues that politicians would rather not discuss (like access and affordability). Some of the fashion leaders may be just along for momentary gain or even just for the ride with little thought of where this movement is going.
But the consequences of all this may be dire. After all, governments have long supported universities (despite the backtalk from faculty and students) because they are indispensable - and not just because of STEM. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians and Mesopotamians quickly discovered what every functioning government has known ever since: it takes educated bureaucrats to administer a nation. As for STEM, it is no accident that Tampa's recent Synapse Summit featured the university presidents of the three universities anchoring the much vaunted I-4 High Tech Corridor initiative. (And this initiative will also need business, social science, humanities, and - as Richard Florida has repeatedly pointed out - the arts.) Florida is not alone in its ambitions. But with some legislatures using their own universities for target practice, targeted universities are beginning to face retention and recruiting problems. And this is not just a higher education problem: K-12 teachers are leaving education altogether.
This storm is what the UFF Senate was responding to.
Whatever the actual sequence of events, eventually the union may not be able to function at a university where only a minority of the employees that the union represents in bargaining are dues paying members and where only a small portion of the membership is active in the union. The political reality is that if only a minority of the employees are members, then the union is a target for union-busting. The likeliest vehicle would be legislation decertifying any minority union, if not this year, then soon, so the Senate focused on upgrading its infrastructure to recruit more members ...
... and to encourage members to be more active. After all, if members are not satisfied with the union, the way to get things fixed is to get involved. Something to think about now that it's election season (and members are encouraged to nominate themselves for offices and representative positions).Six of the twelve institutions in the State University System already have majority UFF membership, so it can be done.
The Senate focused on improving the union's infrastructure. This includes not only a more active recruitment campaign, but also improving how the union bargains and enforces contracts. (The union also educates politicians about the consequences of their legislation.) And as the union grows, there will be more work to be done - and more resources to do the work - and anyone interested in helping to build the union is invited to come to the chapter meetings, every other Friday. The next meeting is tomorrow, and you can get a Zoom invitation from the Chapter Secretary.
Every UFF senate meeting includes a meeting of the State University System (SUS) Bargaining Council, where each university chapter reports on how they are doing in bargaining and other matters. Naturally, we were all very interested in the report by the representatives of the University of Florida (UF).
First of all, since we are in the midst of bargaining at USF, we are all interested to know that UF has a new contract that includes a 3% merit + across-the-board raises. (There was an additional cash raise for low-paid employees. Incidentally, UCF won a 2.5% raise and a bonus.) The biggest sticking point was conflict of interest, in part because of recent administrative misbehavior. Three UF faculty had been denied permission to testify as expert witnesses because the UF Administration claimed that the lawsuits in question were filed against the State or against state agencies, and since UF was itself a state agency, that was a conflict of interest. The UF Administration ultimately backed down - but only after a lot of negative publicity and a lawsuit (which is in court). For more on this episode, see the article in the 4 November 2021 Biweekly.
Of the other shenanigans described in the 16 December 2021 Biweekly, there was no discussion of the political interference in UF's COVID research, and as for critical race theory, about which the UF Administration had a brief panic attack, there are several educational events being planned - which brings us to an aspect that the UFF Senate did not directly address.
The fashion mavens for this attack on education in general - and higher education in particular - would not be so dangerous if it wasn't gaining traction with large sectors of the public. Part of the problem may be that much of the public has little interaction with higher education. Various community and professional organizations are trying to get faculty to speak to churches, clubs, community groups, etc., on topics of interest. One side effect of such community engagement would be that the public get to see real faculty members, not the caricatures encountered on the web. And this engagement is exactly what these community and professional organizations hope to accomplish. If the public was less receptive to anti-faculty propaganda, the fashion mavens would move on to something else.
The next chapter meeting will be on Friday, February 25, 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 and send in the membership form.
NOTE: The USF-UFF Chapter website is http://www.uff.ourusf.org, and our e-mail address is email@example.com.
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