In 2021, Senator J. D. Vance told the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando that "Professors are the enemy." The political leadership in Tallahassee has taken that sentiment to heart and is pushing ferocious legislation targeting education in general and higher education in particular. The union and Floridians concerned about the future of the state are applying the brakes, but being practical, we have to be prepared.
We are always pleased to announce the accomplishments of UFF members, so we are happy to report that Elizabeth Aranda published an opinion column in the Tampa Bay Times. Warning that Helping an undocumented immigrant in Florida could soon be against the law [USF Login Required], she wrote, "Imagine driving your elderly mother to a doctor's appointment and being charged with a third-degree felony. Or, having your neighbor over for dinner only to be arrested." Providing counsel to the public, even unwelcome counsel - especially unwanted counsel - is part of a scholar's job, and we encourage faculty to reach out to the community and share your expertise on critical issues of the day.
And Happy Passover and Happy Easter. Spring is here, when all the world looks to the future.
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 Chapter Election, current legislation, and more. We will count ballots received yesterday, Wednesday. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.
Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, and every UFF member is invited to observe - or even participate in - the counting of the balltos, 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.
Last week, a bill banning union dues payment by paycheck deduction and providing for spontaneous decertification of unions moved forward: Senate Bill 256 passed, and now its companion bill House Bill 1445 on Employee Organizations Representing Public Employees is moving forward. If HB 1445 passes - and the bills are reconciled so that they say exactly the same thing - a single bill goes to the Governor's desk. Since the Governor pushed the bill, he will probably sign it.
If the bill is signed into law, the union must change its dues collection system quickly. Fortunately, we have been preparing for this for some time, and soon UFF and our state affiliate, the Florida Education Association (FEA) will be contacting members about the change. That is the reason for these recurring heads up announcements that…
The good news is that the new Anti-Woke Act, HB 999 / SB 266, appears stalled - in no small part because of UFF members going to Tallahassee to tell legislators that tenure and academic freedom are critical to a functioning university system. And some parts were changed, but it still bars many Diversity / Equity / Inclusion initiatives and "critical race theory." Hopefully, the bills will stay stalled, and the union intends to keep up the pressure.
And it's not just the Legislature. Apparently responding to legislation passed last spring, last week, the Board of Governors approved a new regulation mandating "post tenure review" of each tenured faculty member every five years.
The laws are passed and signed, regulations posted and approved, and now we have an authoritarian utopia, right?
But things may not turn out as planned (assuming that the politicians actually did any planning), especially if we do not roll over. Of course, if Florida's government wrecks its universities, talented faculty and students will go elsewhere. But in addition to that, there are mechanical problems that may pose more immediae problems for the state government.
Consider Post Tenure Review. Every year, a fifth of all the tenured faculty are to be reviewed. Imagine the red tape, not to mention endless litigation; this is clearly an unfunded mandate to the universities to hire more administrators and lawyers. Of course, these innovations are not currently in any contract, and typically such innovations have to be bargained. (And the UFF USF contract says (in §31.2) that neither UFF nor the USF Administration are obligated to bargain anything to be implemented before August 2024.) If the Board of Governors wants to implement this regulation now, the USF Board of Trustees will have to compromise on what post tenure review entails.
If only one could get rid of those pesky unions; then the Board could do what it likes. Despite Representative Blake's denials, getting rid of the unions is the goal of SB 256 / HB 1445. It may well be signed. And then what? When the law requiring 50% density in K-12 teachers' unions was passed, teachers joined in order to keep their union. Blake himself expressed confidence that the unions could sign up 60% of their represented employees. But what happens if a union only signs up 59%? That 60% is clearly an arbitrary number, and the Florida State Constitution says that employees have the right to form unions to bargain and enforce contracts; it says nothing about paying dues, much less percentages. It is quite likely that these laws are unconstitutional, so we can expect more litigation.
And consider New College. A new board swept in with an attitude of "New College is ours; let's enjoy it." Admittedly, firing the lawyer wasn't the first thing that they did - it was second, after firing the president. They then hired a new president at $1 million a year [USF login required], which required some scrambling to get the money. Yes, New College's endowment has $58 million, but almost all of that has restrictions preventing it from being used as boodle. The new board got rid of the provost, but more importantly from the boodle point of view, they also replaced the president of the New College Foundation - i.e., the person in charge of the $58 million - with another political operative. Considering comments by board members about replacing faculty, one may wonder if this is about fighting wokeness or just about Jobs for the Boys. But with donations falling and students and faculty thinking of leaving, one wonders what happened to the Board's fiduciary responsibilities.
Politicians might be able to plead ignorance about retention and recruitment issues in a subculture (academia) with which they are unfamiliar, but the failure to address these mechanical problems - as well as the sloppiness of the legislation itself - suggest a lack of due diligence. Or, as mentioned in the previous biweekly, fear of a bully.
But what happens in the end depends substantially on our defense of education in Florida, so as for UFF and our affiliates, we will continue to fight, we expect to win in the end, and we invite everyone concerned about education in Florida to join us.
The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, April 7, 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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