Although the union's legal charge is to bargain and enforce a contract, the union has other duties as well, including educating politicians about colleges and universities. In a happier era, this meant telling politicians what colleges and universities need; nowadays, it means educating politicians about what colleges and universities definitely do not need. Either way, it means meeting politicians, either during off season in their district offices, or during legislative sessions in the capitol. We are now in the third week of this year's legislative session, and a number of union members are going to the capitol.
The United Faculty of Florida is always happy to announce the accomplishments of UFF members, and in the past two weeks, two members have had opinion columns published in the Tampa Bay Times.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow, Friday, at 12 pm at USF Tampa in EDU415 and on Zoom. On the agenda: the new dues collection system, student protests, the legislative session, and more. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.
Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but to Zoom in you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary to get one.
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.
Florida makes a state law by having its House of Representatives and its Senate pass identical bills, which are then signed by the Governor. If a bill is to become law, then versions of the bill have to be filed in both the House and the Senate at the beginning of the session. For each chamber, the version of that bill runs a gauntlet of committees, which can alter or kill it at any step of the way; the more committees that get to look at it, the more difficult it is to get it to the floor of the chamber intact (if at all), where the members finally get to vote on it. But by then, the two versions may be different, so they have to be reconciled so that two identical versions can be approved. If the bill - which may or may not resemble the original - makes it that far, it goes to the Governor's desk. And the Governor can decide whether to sign or veto it (if it is vetoed, the Legislature can overturn the veto - if in each chamber, two-thirds of the members vote to overturn).
One important exception is the budget. The one thing that the Legislature has to do is pass a budget, which is invariably full of all sorts of things that legislators want (because their constituents want them). The Governor can veto individual items in the budget - a "line-item veto" - which means that a legislator may be happy that one of their desiderata is in the budget when it went to the Governor … and then be unhappy when that desideratum is vetoed. This gives the Governor a lot of leverage over legislators - especially if he has a track record of vetoing pet projects.
The legislative process is a complex machine with lots of moving parts, which makes it difficult tor a small group of politicians to push dubious legislation through. Normally, most bad legislation is stopped in committee and never even reaches the floor, i.e., a vote by the entire chamber. And that's the idea: most state constitutions are modeled after the U.S. constitution, and the authors of the U.S. constitution wanted to make sure that bills were sufficiently vetted before they became law.
There are ways to "fast-track" the process - just in case something really important came up - but a fast-track requires two-thirds majority support. One would hope that dangerous or destructive legislation would not acquire the acquiescence of two-thirds of each chamber…
Legislators represent their constituents, but neither they nor their staffs are clairvoyant, so they rely on their constituents, the media, and the political leadership (not necessarily in that order) to tell them what the priorities are and to suggest what to do about them. That means that constituents that want legislators to attend to them should recall that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and talk to their legislators.
The Florida Education Association (FEA) asked members to come and join the activists, lawyers, lobbyists, and tourists visiting the capitol. There are clusters of people in business suits, cowboy hats, matching T-shirts, organization uniforms, and more (the FEA asked everyone to be respectably dressed).
(It is possible that this anxiety extends beyond members of the legislative majority: see the Chronicle's account [USF login required] of where the letter by Florida public college presidents came from.)
Some people go to the committee meetings. When hearing a bill, the committee starts with the bill's sponsor. For example, Representative Dean Black presented his bill to bar union dues payment by dues deduction and to decertify any education or staff union in which fewer than 60% of the employees it represented paid dues (which he assured the committee would not happen). Black insisted that the bill would be good for the employees, good for the unions, good for everybody (see the Tampa Bay Times article [USF login required] for details). After the bill is presented, the committee lets members of the public comment - usually for 30 to 120 seconds each. In this case, many members of the public told the committee that the bill was not good for employees, not good for unions, and not good for Florida; the committee approved it anyway (it is one of the Governor's priorities).
Another way to talk to legislators is to visit their offices and talk to them - or to their aides (and talking with aides rather than their overbooked bosses can be useful). Like college students, aides and legislators will take handouts, especially something readily scanned like a page with bullet points. However, something sufficiently alarming may get their attention. For example, while many legislators might be able to anticipate the gist of statements about Florida and academic freedom from the American Association of University Professors, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Florida Philosophical Association, those that regard STEM as the future may (and some were) disturbed by an article in Nature and a posting by the Editor-in-Chief of AAAS Science.
All union members are invited to join in. For the remainder of this legislative session, the FEA will be educating legislators about the dangers to Floridian education posed by some of these bills. In the longer term, the FEA is seeking to build stronger relationships with legislators of both parties. If you are interested in joining the effort, contact the Chapter Secretary.
The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, March 24, at 12 pm on USF Tampa campus in EDU415 and on Zoom; for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary. All UFF USF employees are welcome.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.
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