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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
26 July 2012
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ANNOUNCEMENTS

REMINDER: PRIMARY ELECTION ON AUGUST 14

On August 14, Democrats and Republicans will choose which candidates to nominate for the fall races for the U.S. senate, for Florida's congressional seats, for the Florida state senate and house seats, for county commission and city council seats, and even ... supervisors of elections. There are also non-partisan elections of judges and school boards and such. For higher education, the election will have unusually high stakes, so we strongly encourage everyone to go out and vote. Here are:

Remember: as silence betokens consent, if you do not vote, you consent to the results ... whatever they are.

UFF USF CHAPTER MEETING AT CDB RESTAURANT TOMORROW FRIDAY

The UFF USF Chapter will meet tomorrow, Friday, July 27, at 12 noon at CDB Italian Restaurant at 5104 E. Fowler Ave. in Tampa, just west of the USF Tampa campus. All USF faculty and professionals UFF members and non-members alike are invited to come for pizza, salad, soda, and beer. This is the last regularly scheduled meeting of the summer, so come and check us out.

JOIN UFF TODAY!

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. AND YOU CAN JOIN NOW AND PAY NO DUES UNTIL AUGUST UNDER THE FEA'S THREE FOR FREE PROGRAM. IN ADDITION, JOIN NOW AND AFTER A TERM AS A DUES PAYING MEMBER, YOU WILL RECEIVE A $ 100 REBATE after a full term. Come and join the movement.

IN THIS ISSUE

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

The legislature didn't wait until the election to designate the leadership of the 2013-14 legislature ...

Don Gaetz Don Gaetz
Senate President designate Don Gaetz House Speaker designate Will Weatherford

If we don't do anything about it, nothing will be done about it. Updates on past legislation ...

  • Research in Cuba. On June 25, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the Cuba travel ban - that the legislature passed in 2006 - will stand. For details, see below.
  • The Court Under Pressure. On September 7, the Florida state Supreme Court will hear the FEA's suit against the involuntary 3 % contribution towards our pensions - just as the court is under external pressure. For details, see below.
... the legislature will be back in spring, after the election. Democracy, wrote Robert Heinlein, means being responsible for one's own government. Please remember to vote on August 14.

ARTICLES

EARLY RETIREMENT AND CUBA

In real life, the good guys don't always win. A reminder of this reality.

In 2006, Governor Jeb Bush signed an "Act Relating to Travel to Terrorist States" barring the use of any funds handled by Florida state agencies for travel to any nation on the State Department's list of "terrorist" nations, which includes Cuba. As noted in the 13 July 2006 UFF Biweekly, this was about Florida International University and Cuba. This effectively prevented faculty of public universities from conducting research in Florida.

Two weeks later, the ACLU helped members of the Faculty Senate of FIU (and some faculty of the University of Florida and the University of South Florida) file a lawsuit. It took six years for the lawsuit to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. En route, judges ruled on both sides of the issue. The last ruling had been in 2010, when the Eleventh Circuit of Appeals ruled in the State of Florida's favor, largely upholding the law. And on June 25, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Congressman David Rivera, R-Miami, who had sponsored the law back in 2006 when he was a legislator, said that the ruling was "a victory for Florida taxpayers." Howard Simon, head of the Florida Chapter of the ACLU, said, "The research is not going to end. It will just be done by universities elsewhere outside of Florida." So for the time being, the law stands. Since the law was passed by a legislature that was less radical than the one we have now, legislative relief is a distant prospect.

Well, our colleagues tried, and nothing ventured, nothing gained. We should ask what we have learned from this episode. While judges ruled this way and that, it was a slam dunk for the legislature. The legislature would not have done that if they didn't sense that their constituents supported it; after all, this was one of those feel-good laws. After all, who cares about research into, say, social or environmental conditions in Cuba? So perhaps we have not adequately communicated the purpose of our research to the people who pay our salaries.

Next year, higher education will be targeted, and the proposed legislation won't be of the above garden-variety kind. It will be more of the getting even kind. And we can't just rely on the courts to fix things. We need to start preparing ... now.

THE COURT UNDER PRESSURE

In Spring, 2011, Governor Scott announced that Florida public employees should contribute towards their own pensions. This sounded reasonable to lots of people, even if the rationale kept changing, but Scott was ignoring the fact that the pension plan was part of a compensation package that included abnormally low salaries. In addition, rather than going through collective bargaining - as the Florida state constitution requires - Scott decided that the legislature should impose the requirement.

Scott proposed that public employees contribute 5 % of their salaries - in effect, a 5 % income tax on public employees - but after a great deal of lobbying, the Florida Education Association (FEA, the state affiliate of the UFF) and other unions got it down to 3 % (see the 16 June 2011 UFF Biweekly). Then the FEA sued (see the 25 June 2011 UFF Biweekly). The law grinds slowly, but the FEA got a favorable ruling from the circuit court last March (see the 8 March 2012 UFF Biweekly). All this lobbying and litigating cost a lot of money, and we are grateful to all union members whose dues money paid for this effort.

The case will come before the Florida state Supreme Court on September 7. And while the circuit court regarded the case as clear-cut - so does the FEA - it seems that there are two political problems that should not affect the court's decision. At least not in theory.

  • Florida's state and local governments have apparently gotten bad legal advice (or none at all) and have bet the farm on the state winning the case. The state balanced last year's budget with the money it expropriated from us, to the tune of perhaps $ 1.7 billion. And that's for one year. No one knows where the state would find the money if it was ordered to pay it back. Meanwhile, undermined by the state but beleaguered by state mandates, the counties stand to lose maybe $ 600 million.
By the way, this makes the State of Florida the second large institution captained by Rick Scott that found itself bleeding billions. Naturally, the Right is blaming the unions, and they will continue to do so through November (at least). So the court will have a lot on its mind this fall.

This is just a reminder that these judicial races and merit retention elections have pretty high stakes. And so do those city council and county commission races for people who may or may not confuse wishful thinking with legal advice. Remember to vote on August 14.

LOGISTICS

Next Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, July 27, at 12 noon, at CDB Restaurant, 5104 E. Fowler Ave. in Tampa, just west of the USF Tampa campus.

Pizza and beer will be provided by the Chapter, and all UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. 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 uff@ourusf.org.

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