UFF-FAU

United Faculty of Florida-Florida Atlantic University Chapter

  • May
    1

    May 1, 2010. Time to hunker down! FAU Administrators appear to be laying groundwork for reorganization and faculty layoffs.

    “’Knock-knock-knock!’ Professor Tracy, are you in?” someone calls outside my office door. “Oh, yes,” I reply. “But like most other faculty, I’m hiding underneath my desk, waiting for FAU’s reorganization, where I may or may not find myself booted from the the University plane and careening toward earth with little-if-any parachute.”

    These are, after all, tough times, or so we are told. Faculty and staff must once again pull in their belts, our well-compensated leaders tell us. Pay no attention to that pesky 2009 Financial Audit that shows the University’s $20 million increase in unrestricted net assets as it proceeded to terminate tenured faculty. That’s a tidy sum that would easily allow for a much-needed salary increase for Florida’s most poorly paid professors who reside in the state’s highest cost-of-living region. In fact, the administration is moving in the opposite direction, opening what will likely be a costly medical school and anxiously looking to place a whopping $60 million for a football stadium onto the University’s credit card. This is not to mention that administrator positions have grown far beyond those of instructional faculty since the early 2000s.

    Augustine once remarked that hope has two beautiful daughters. One is anger and the other is courage. For most FAU faculty faced with the facts yet also demoralized and dealing with “battered faculty syndrome,” it is understandable to be hope-less. In fact, staying underneath one’s desk in these turbulent times certainly isn’t courageous, but it’s not entirely unwise either. Heck, it’s gettin’ ugly out there.

    Consider the pronouncements of Interim President John Pritchett, who at a forum on the budget on April 5 told faculty that “layoffs are still on the table.” Such threats will likely be repeated at the May 3rd forum. Last October, however, Pritchett remarked in the College of Arts and Letters Faculty Assembly that if you “were to read a certain blog” (the one you’re presently reading, by the way) you’d think layoffs were right around the corner. What a bunch of alarmists—those union folk!  The Interim President continued to emphasize to those gathered that there would be no layoffs. Instead, administrators simply wanted to reorganize the university with the faculty’s helpful feedback and guidance, “from the ground up,” as they say. This was to be a collective “visioning” process, you will recall, done with the assistance of efficiency expert Susan Clemmons–“a fresh set of eyes.” We are now told by the same individual that layoffs are essentially not a matter of “if,” but “when.”

    The threat of a substantial reorganization of the University leading to faculty terminations was again expressed in no uncertain terms by Pritchett at the College of Arts and Letters Faculty Assembly on April 23. At that time the faculty from that venerable FTE-generating dynamo—which, given this status, you may also recall , was to be “defended” from such personnel reductions—were told of forthcoming programs where professors would be offered “retirement incentives.” On a less generous note, the President remarked, it would be a priority to allow terminated faculty “more than 30 days notice” to find another job, short-sale their home, pull their children out of school, load up the car and Tom Joad-it out of South Florida. Yes, the unnerving prospect of being wheeled out to the curb is one of many endearing feature of “belonging” to the “FAU family.”

    It is probable that such plans for reorganization and additional layoffs have gone forth in stealth form since mid-2009. You may recall that at that time the administration had to back track and regroup after the seriously botched attempt to layoff faculty in the College of Engineering. Not surprisingly, given the University’s considerable resources, administrators miraculously “found” the money to rehire these colleagues and avoid costly extralegal and legal actions. With Pritchett’s probable reappointment as provost it is almost a certainty that this planned reorganization and set of layoffs will be carried out like clockwork by FAU deans. And such a set of events, my dear colleague, may also tell us a great deal about FAU’s new leadership.

    If you are an in-unit faculty or staff member I encourage you to review Article 13 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement: Layoffs. This article is by no means perfect. However, it does require that administrators follow certain procedures if layoffs are to take place, the most important of which is the matter of rank and seniority. When administrators and their highly-paid attorneys laid off faculty in Engineering in 2009 they set up bogus “functional units” to get around this element of the CBA. This was obvious even to the casual observer, and may be attempted again, so for the foreseeable future please be especially attuned to any abrupt changes in the organization of your department, unit, and/or college.

    The continued planning of any reorganization resulting in layoffs will likely ensue over the summer and be implemented in fall. I encourage you to become a member of UFF-FAU for assistance in the grievance process should that avenue be necessary to protect your position and contest any wrongful termination. Please remember that you need to be a Union member for at least thirty days prior to any incident. If you choose not to go that route and you have reason to believe you may be targeted by the administration for layoff, it may be appropriate in the near future to consult with an attorney who will be able to act swiftly and vigorously on your behalf should such an unfortunate sequence of events come to pass.

    In solidarity,

    James Tracy
    UFF-FAU President

    See related posts:

    FAU’s Assets Swell to Almost $1 Billion: 2009 Financial Audit Now Available!

    FAU Personnel Growth By Employee Category

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  • Apr
    10

    April 10, 2010. UFF can help create a workplace where faculty and staff are treated fairly and with respect, but it is only as strong as the degree of member involvement.

    I picked one hell of a year to make my debut as UFF-FAU Chapter President. In the winter of 2008 a colleague who was also involved in UFF telephoned me and said they had been informed that no one from UFF was returning Palm Beach Post reporter Kim Miller’s calls. Miller really wanted to speak to a faculty and union member who would provide some remarks that might contrast with the administration’s press releases and soundbites, and reflect what at least some of the faculty likely have on their minds.

    And then this person essentially said, “If you do speak to the press you had better be careful because they’re going to come after you.” I had heard similar remarks previously from others. For example, that Frank Brogan likely has an enemies list and you had better not speak out of turn or you’ll find yourself on it. So, I thought, “Who are we working with? The mob?”

    So, I made a decision to speak to reporters as frequently as they wished. I figured that the administration likely has the power to retaliate, and Mr. Brogan may have an enemies list. Yet, as scholars we have an obligation to stand up and speak out against an environment of intimidation, fear and favoritism. Such an environment is totally antithetical to what we do–which is to inquire, to question, to teach, and to do so from certain underlying principles of morality and truth. And sometimes the truth flies in the face of the latest press release.

    In addition, we have a union. Some of us even have tenure. And since we have these things we should put them good use; to create a workplace where faculty and staff are treated fairly and with respect.

    That being said, this past year has felt more like ten years. The Union may have lost some battles. For example, the Trustees’ decision on the 2.5% salary increase that our bargaining team fought so hard to secure. It was just when I was learning the ropes of being a Chapter officer when I attended the Board of Trustees Personnel Committee Hearing last April, and the decision was made to vote down that very modest salary increase. I can’t convey to you how humiliated the faculty in attendance were made to feel at that venue.

    With the layoffs of tenured faculty in the College of Engineering the following month it appeared that the administration had bent the stick too far. This was an overt attack on tenure, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the faculty as a whole. As one member of the Faculty Senate remarked on June 5, “If they can do that to them, they can do it to any of us.”

    I think it’s safe to say that in the wake of these events the Union and the Faculty Senate fought vigorously to defend tenure and enforce our Contract. The five faculty members who were laid off have since been appointed to positions–not their original positions–but positions with their tenure and seniority intact.

    We also learned a few days ago that the administration is moving to do away with the College of Engineering’s “functional units,” which were used to cordon off faculty in that College for layoffs. I’m not holding my breath for administrators to issue a statement that these actions were in response to the steadfastness of UFF, the Faculty Senate, and the Faculty Assembly in Engineering. But I would like to think that these bodies may have had some modest influences on these decisions. We should especially thank Faculty Senate President Tim Lenz for his leadership over the past year, UFF Grievance Chair Doug Broadfield, and UFF Service Unit Coordinator Bruce Nissen.

    FAU also has a new university president who’s been appointed and we would like to think that perhaps we’re turning a corner.

    Another exciting thing the Chapter is undertaking is a campaign to build our membership. As some of you know, this involves one-on-one contact with colleagues asking that they pay their dues, thereby becoming full-fledged UFF members. We have to remember that Florida is a right to work state, and as public employees we do not have the right not to work.

    In 2003 an overwhelming majority of FAU faculty members voted to recertify United Faculty of Florida as their bargaining representative. But, in a right to work state the same faculty can opt out of paying their dues. That’s why, aside from bargaining and contract enforcement, we have to constantly build our membership. We do that by asking colleagues to become dues-paying members. We also have to make sure that all of our resources go toward building membership. That’s what makes the chapter, the statewide UFF and FEA, and our national affiliates, NEA and AFT, strong advocates for higher education in the state and federal legislative levels and capable of rendering aid locally when we need it.

    Why is this important? Well, take for example what Republican legislators in Tallahassee are presently trying to do to the Florida Retirement System. Or what they’re trying to do to Florida’s school teachers. FEA lobbyists are in the halls of the capitol defending FRS, and prompting us to telephone and email our legislators to preserve the retirement system and teacher tenure.

    Our website has averaged close to 1,000 hits daily over the past three-to-four weeks. We could not keep you updated on this unless our state affiliate had the resources to put people on the ground to report back to us and coordinate collective action. The same can be said for providing our chapter with legal assistance when that has become necessary.

    So, our dues-paying membership is growing. We have about 42 new members sign up since September. Please thank Rob McCarthy, Mike Budd, and Dave Lee for all of their hard work on membership.

    On that note, I don’t see our Chapter moving forward in the medium and long term without us building a strong sense of community and purpose. What does that entail? It entails becoming involved, even if that involvement is one or two hours per month. We can’t have a union just by people paying their dues in case something goes wrong. The union is not merely a service plan. It consists of the collective activity of its members.

    We are fortunate enough to have jobs that allow us an incredible degree of professional autonomy and freedom. This makes it that much easier to say, “Well, let them do it. I’ve got my own projects and deadlines, so let the ‘union people’ do it.”

    With that attitude we’ll never develop. We are the union. When we begin thinking and acting more so along those lines–each of us making a modest commitment toward building the union–we’ll be on our way. Then there will be nothing that can stop us.

    James Tracy
    UFF-FAU President

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  • Feb
    17

    February 17, 2010. “Educational reform” measures put forth by Florida’s Council of 100 business leaders and endorsed by GOP power broker Jeb Bush require scrutiny in historical context.

    When considering the recent proposals comprising “Closing the Talent Gap,” put forth this month by Florida’s Council of 100,  it is important to keep in mind the dramatic political and structural changes to Florida’s State University System that have occurred over the past ten years. An oft-overlooked or forgotten chapter of Florida higher education’s recent past should be kept at the forefront of our thinking so that we may place the United Faculty of Florida and SUS’s plight in proper perspective. Central to this is  the quasi-privitization of the state’s public universities, termed “devolution,” that took place under Jeb Bush’s governorship and the successful move to destroy the statewide collective bargaining framework existing between the United Faculty of Florida and Florida’s Board of Regents.

    Florida is part of the “Old South,” and one of the South’s legacies is a hostility toward independent worker organization that can be traced, without too much imagination, to the antebellum era. In the face of broad unionization throughout the US northeastern, mid-west, and western states during the 1940s and 1950s, American corporations sought to relocate to areas where there was less unionization and the deck was stacked against organizing through anti-labor laws. Like many of their counterparts in the Old Confederacy after passage of the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, Florida legislators moved to make it more difficult for workers to form unions through implementation of “right to work,” or “open shop” laws. At institutions where a majority of workers managed to vote union representation into existence, such laws allowed employees to opt out of paying dues even though they were members of the bargaining unit and received the protections and benefits of representation. UFF’s present organizing efforts are rooted in attempts to work within the framework of these very laws designed to undermine worker power and solidarity that a strong union can provide. Our organizing efforts are never-ending.

    The UFF membership’s resolve to maintain its capacity as a statewide faculty union was dealt a heavy blow in the early 2000s. The Board of Regents that oversaw the SUS resisted a handful of powerful legislators’ attempts to build law schools at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Florida International University, and a medical school at Florida State University. Infuriated at the BOR’s recalcitrance, Governor Bush and an unusual coalition of Republican and Democratic state legislators moved to abolish the BOR and decentralize the SUS. The result was that each institution was placed under the direct oversight of a separate Board of Trustees.

    This decentralization of power to BOTs was in close accord with the national Republican Party’s mission to privatize public institutions and run government “like a business.” The move was also an obvious attempt to weaken Florida’s teacher and faculty unions, which have been strong supporters of the Democratic Party. Bush made sure the eleven new BOTs were loaded with pro-business Republican donors, a practice reconfirmed in  BOG Chancellor and Bush associate Frank Brogan’s October 2009 BOT (re)appointments. These trustees, many of whom do not possess a full understanding of public higher education and would just as soon farm out university instruction to unqualified “private contractors” (adjuncts), are indifferent if not hostile toward public employees’ unions and collective bargaining.

    The governance changes were used by the new BOTs as a basis to end bargaining that, since the UFF’s establishment in the mid-1970s, took place between UFF and the BOR. The BOTs argued unanimously that they were no longer bound by the statewide agreements. In response, with the aid of our parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, UFF mobilized and collected thousands of authorization cards from large majorities of faculty to recertify each UFF chapter as a bargaining agent with their respective BOTs. At eight universities faculty support for recertification of UFF was 65% or more and the BOTs at these institutions voluntarily recognized UFF. At FAU 70% of faculty members who were approached signed cards for recertification. University of West Florida and Florida State University held out for elections where UFF went on to win 90% or more of the ballots at each institution. The University of Florida’s BOT refused to recognize UFF until 2005, when an appellate court decided in the Union’s favor (Fiorito and Gallagher, 2006).

    The radical move to decentralize was tempered in 2002 when Florida Governor Bob Graham’s voter amendment mandated a Board of Governors to administer SUS affairs. In contrast to the BOR, however, power exercised by the BOG takes a backseat to the BOTs. (The BOG Chancellorship being occupied by Bush’s former Lieutenant Governor is a curious new development that deserves close scrutiny.) In light of the above, the aforementioned package of “educational reform” proposals put forward by Florida’s Council of 100 and vigorously endorsed by Bush must also be looked at with major reservations, particularly by public educators. For example, the moves to strip K-12 teachers of tenure–or to otherwise make tenure meaningless–is a policy already being tested in the SUS. Further, the document’s buzzwords, such as “accountability” and “efficiency,” often translate to jeopardized academic freedom and an increasingly deteriorating educational experience for students.

    This history is willfully forgotten by administrators and trustees at FAU and other state universities, many of whom calculated that UFF would be incapable of reviving itself after the SUS’s decentralization. The sentiment is reflected in remarks such as, “UFF ‘represents some faculty at [ABC] University.'” Keeping in mind this recent history, such an assertion should be recognized for what it is: an attempt to mislead those of us who’ve forgotten or are unaware of our institutional and historical positions in the struggle to preserve the profession’s autonomy. Without question faculty at FAU and throughout the SUS desire independent representation before their administrations and Boards of Trustees, even though the legacy of Old Dixie allows them the opportunity not to pay for such representation.

    In solidarity,

    James Tracy
    UFF-FAU President

    Fiorito, J. and V.C. Gallagher (2006) ‘Renewal in the United Faculty of Florida: class war in paradise?’ Labor Studies Journal Vol 31,No 3:39-64.

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  • Jan
    15

    January 15, 2010. The FAU Board of Trustees and Administration are attempting to make their corporate-style downsizing plan more palatable by cloaking it in the themes of “social justice,” “change,” and the imagery of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Slowly emerging from behind closed doors, one of the initial “Visioning Cafés”–focus groups conceived by efficiency expert Susan Clemmons and originally planned to take place on the heels of the College of Engineering’s layoff of five tenured faculty members last spring–is awkwardly scheduled as a central feature of Social Justice in Action: A Working Tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., sponsored by the FAU Office of Multicultural Affairs over the MLK holiday weekend.

    As many readers of UFF-FAU’s  blog are aware, the “Visioning” exercises that began in the College of Engineering in January 2009 culminated in the creation of bogus “functional units” (or “pools”) in April and the termination of five tenured faculty members exactly one month later. The university-wide “Visioning” program is intended to prepare FAU faculty and staff for probable layoffs following the restructuring of colleges and departments. Should layoffs commence and faculty put in too much of a kick, such events and polling can be carted out as evidence that the administration made sincere efforts to actively involve faculty in restructuring plans before they were carried out. Reviewing communications between FAU administrators and Clemmons from last spring, there is an unmistakable emphasis in the consultant’s technique of manipulating employees into believing they have an active role in plans that are more or less on the drawing board and well underway. However, using the memory of Dr. King and the civil rights movement as a Trojan Horse for such a scheme marks a substantial new low.

    As scholars such as Michael Erik Dyson have observed, in the last few years of his life King’s increasing intellectual development brought him to the realization that the plight of African Americans for social justice did not just involve confronting America’s enduring legacy of white supremacy; it was (and remains) intertwined with the maldistribution of the country’s resources, particularly away from educational and economic opportunities and toward the oppression of the world’s underclasses, palpable from the streets of America to the jungles of Southeast Asia. Indeed, King’s growing class consciousness was evident in his final days as he traveled to Memphis in support of a municipal workers’ strike.

    Since Dr. King is not here to speak for himself, it might be worthwhile to consider whether he would look favorably on a public institution’s administrator types invoking his image and spirit to stage-manage and downsize their workforce. Given that FAU possesses one of the most racially diverse student bodies in the United States, it is doubtful that MLK would side with President Frank Brogan and the school’s Board of Trustees in their  efforts to make faculty salaries the second-lowest in the state among public institutions, and among the lowest in the nation. Nor would he condone the termination of tenured faculty without cause, which would, among other things, damage the institution’s national reputation and thereby the worth of credentials earned there. If King were afforded the opportunity, would he shy away from reminding us of Florida’s 2000 presidential election, where thousands of African Americans were deprived of the sacred right he so courageously fought to secure?

    Finally, it is doubtful that this King, the one who actually lived and breathed and routinely challenged the status quo, would be at ease in a surreptitious focus group conducted in his name, under the guise of “social justice,” whose aim from the available evidence seems all too clear. This King, the one who cannot be confined to a postage stamp or other voiceless homage, advocated for a genuine social justice that runs counter to the  increasing disenfranchisement of FAU’s faculty body in the name of accountability and efficiency.

    In solidarity,

    James Tracy
    UFF-FAU President

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  • Oct
    14

    (Original publication date October 14, 2009)

    Changes in the academic workplace come about as a consequence of clearly understood and clearly intended managerial, corporate, and political initiatives with the explicit intention of inducing the faculty to relinquish certain values and practices. Individually and collectively, faculty members make choices when they adopt new organizational cultures. -Marc Bosquet, How the University Works (10).

    At a conference I attended this past spring I was chatting with a young Canadian sociologist  whose scholarship focuses on labor organization in North America and Europe’s technology industries. The conversation turned to our own academic workplaces, and I described to him the situation at FAU–how top university administrators have hired an outside consultant with expertise in “enterprise resource planning.” He looked at me with moderate alarm. “So, you’re going to be re-engineered?” “It certainly looks like that’s where we’re headed,” I replied.

    No information I’ve encountered since then has convinced me otherwise, and the evidence available is worthy of our consideration. Susan Clemmons’ credentials suggest how she has spent most of her professional life advising companies such as Burger King on how they can do more with less, while squeezing existing workers to produce more without putting in too much of a kick.  Granted, conducting research in the lab or crafting an article or lecture isn’t quite like serving up a burger and fries, but this has not prevented FAU administrators and trustees from being swept away with Clemmons’ promises of “visioning” and “change.”

    Clemmons’ dissertation, The Impact of Information Technology on Organizations: A Study of Enterprise Resource Planning System Influences on Job Design and Organizational Culture, suggests her expertise in the relationship between employee sentiment, “re-engineering,” and “Enterprise Resource Planning”–or ERP. Reengineering and ERP are the information age successors to the time and motion studies termed “scientific management” that Frederick Taylor imposed on factory workers a century ago. “Engineering” here refers not to the creation or manipulation of mechanical or electronic elements but rather of work processes and organizational structures. This orientation toward the workplace has since become ingrained in management thinking and practice. Indeed, Taylor’s notion of managerial surveillance and control toward increased worker productivity at the expense of worker skill and autonomy endures in ERP. Such practices have grave implications for academicians, who, like their artisan forebears, have become accustomed to a significant degree of autonomy over their work and work practices.

    The deployment of ERP across service industries in the late 1980s and early 1990s resulted in waves of layoffs, yet its promise of increasing productivity remained unfulfilled. Further, as workers were shed management typically enlarged its ranks and power. As Century Foundation fellow and Financial Times correspondent Simon Head argues in his 2003 book, The New Ruthless Economy: Work and Power in the Digital Age, technology itself is a way of life–or, more specifically, a  way of work spanning from the “Fordist” (mass production) era to the present information age.

    For the tens of millions of Americans who work in offices and factories, this is the definition of technology that counts. From the early 1990s onward, the twin phenomena of “reengineering” and “enterprise resource planning” have been prime examples of workplace practices built around new information technologies. Relying on computers and their attendant software, reengineering and ERP automate, simplify, join together, and speed up business processes. Reengineering and ERP do this by imposing upon those processes the standardization, measurement, and control of the old industrial assembly line. (4-5)

    ERP has since become commonplace in most service industries. Since the early 1990s

    reengineers have steadily widened the scope and ambition of their activities to include sales, marketing, customer relations, accounting, personnel management, and even medicine — “managed care” being essentially the reengineering of health care. For the 80 percent of Americans now employed in these service occupations, reengineering in its various forms has become a dominant force in their working lives. (5)

    The sociologist Stanley Aronowitz remarked several years ago that a faculty position was “the last good job in America,” and reflecting on the surface value of that observation this perhaps all seems rather far-fetched. But the historical record is rife with examples of craft guilds and entire occupations overcome by industrialization and automation, and as the ranks of administrators grow while faculty decline those of us in higher education would be remiss to consider ourselves wholly immune from such practices, as the five colleagues laid off from FAU’s College of Engineering will attest.

    Administrators have repeatedly proclaimed how with the help of Susan Clemmons, “change” will be ushered in, and soon Florida Atlantic will look like a vastly different institution. “Your current situation has presented an opportunity to use a systemic approach to change,” Clemmons gushed to FAU Provost John Pritchett and Vice President for Finance Ken Jessell via email in early March as her lucrative consulting deal was coming to fruition. “I applaud your insight in recognizing the daunting task of successful and sustainable change.”

    The operative word here, “change,” is the preferred term used by ERP consultants in lieu of “restructuring,” or “downsizing,” which rightly sets off alarm bells among the rank and file, thereby greatly hampering such efforts. Similarly, the “vision” buzzword suggests a degree of shared governance and worker empowerment, but in management’s view these are acceptable only if such energy is properly channeled into a plan with largely predetermined ends.

    Particularly appealing for Frank Brogan and his successor is how ERP provides upper-level administration (presidents, vice presidents, provosts) with an increasingly powerful top-down hierarchical form of surveillance, measurement, and control of middle management and workers, in this case administrators further down the totem pole (deans, assistant deans, department heads), and their subordinate faculty and staff. ERP’s privileging of efficiency and productivity over all else (e.g. producing credit hours, pulling in grant money) also provides a basis and rationale for the severances which those lesser university administrators will eventually be called on to carry out. Project Vision’s intent and design should also be of enduring interest to faculty throughout Florida since one of its early proponents is now overseeing Florida’s entire State University System.

    The FAU administration is well aware that it cannot simply terminate tenured faculty because the Collective Bargaining Agreement, however flawed, stands in the way. It must therefore reorganize the Colleges and Departments in some fashion whereby the targeted faculty members–perhaps those who may be deemed “too strident” or are otherwise simply superfluous under reorganization–are sequestered for intimidation and possible elimination. (Assistant professors and instructors have another disciplinary cudgel hanging over their heads, termed “non-reappointment.”)

    There have at times been instances of a renewed sense of empowerment and a broad revulsion among faculty against the administration’s actions–such as what took place in the College of Engineering’s Faculty Meeting on October 2 and the Faculty Senate on June 5–but faculty governance at FAU (or any other university, for that matter) will work to uphold the interests of faculty members only to the extent we are actively involved, and the presence and influence of administrators often makes forthright democratic exchange difficult.

    UFF is the only body capable of organizing and exercising a genuinely independent voice for faculty rights at the workplace in this and many other situations, which is exactly why on many occasions the administration dispatches its bevy of attorneys to deal with us. Yet it is a voluntary organization that cannot act successfully on your behalf without your support, and as FAU administrators moves forward with their plans that will likely alter the very nature of our working conditions and livelihoods, that support is needed now more so than ever. Please consider joining and becoming involved in your UFF-FAU chapter today.

    In solidarity,

    James Tracy
    UFF-FAU President

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  • Aug
    17

    August 17, 2009. Your rights as a public employee in the state of Florida, as well as the right for UFF to be your representative, are defined under Florida Statute 447: Labor Organizations. I encourage you to read this important law in full at your leisure, and draw your attention to four of its most pertinent sections concerning you and your employment below.

    Some FAU faculty members and staff represented in the Bargaining Unit are reluctant to outwardly support or become members of UFF. In some instances this may have to do with their misunderstandings about their rights as employees. Or, it may involve misconceptions about labor unions in general often circulated via mass media, or through peers and other cultural outlets. In other cases, however, there is the actual fear of reproach by the FAU administration. That this has crossed the academic’s mind even in the slightest points to an environment that is intellectually inhibiting and indeed a poor backdrop for creative inquiry and overall scholarly development. Section 501 of FS 447 expressly forbids employers from interfering with a labor union’s formation and development, normal functions, or expression related to such when carried out within the parameters of this law. Further, this section forbids intimidation of or discrimination against employees because of their membership in or activities in support of such an organization.

    On a related note, the FAU administration and its highly paid attorneys would probably like for you to believe that the UFF-FAU chapter is a sort of fringe group that has little influence or clout. As far as chief administrators are concerned, the fewer employees who sustain UFF through their activities and dues the easier it is for them to enforce their will as they please. Indeed, in his August 3 letter to Governor Charlie Crist, FAU President Frank T. Brogan referred to FAU’s UFF chapter as “the union that represents some faculty at Florida Atlantic University” (my emphasis). In fact, UFF represents almost all full-time faculty at FAU–close to 1,000 professors, instructors, and librarians. This is because after Governor “Jeb” Bush abolished the Board of Regents and set up local Boards of Trustees, thereby decentralizing the bargaining process and jeopardizing UFF’s very existence, faculty at each of Florida’s public universities including FAU voted overwhelmingly in favor of UFF as its independent advocate and bargaining agent rather than relying on the whim and fancy of the newly established Boards of Trustees to do as they please. Even so, as you likely know, under Brogan the FAU-BOT has been emboldened to spurn the recommendations of the PERC Special Magistrate over faculty salaries and more recently convinced itself that it can run roughshod over tenure, a decision UFF is presently fighting through the grievance process. We deem each of these moves truly “vitriolic,” and contrary to sound university governance.

    It is important to keep in mind that despite their ominous-sounding titles, often hefty salaries, or even political pedigree, administrators are here to serve the faculty, and not the other way around. Knowing your rights under the law helps to establish and ensure a workplace free of intimidation, favoritism, “old boys networks,” whispering campaigns; indeed, it allows us to build an enviornment of mutual respect that benefits us all, and thus the students and communities we serve. UFF is the most effective avenue for the realization of such a workplace, but it can only do so through your involvement and support.

    UFF stands for the faculty’s rights and, in the spirit of the US Constitution, ensures the specific right to petition management for the redress of grievances without fear of retribution and provides assistance for binding arbitration in the event that such grievances cannot be adequately settled. However, we can only assist you in the grievance process if you are a dues-paying member of the union. Please consider becoming a member of your UFF chapter at FAU today.

    In solidarity,

    James Tracy
    UFF-FAU President

    447.209  Public employer’s rights.–It is the right of the public employer to determine unilaterally the purpose of each of its constituent agencies, set standards of services to be offered to the public, and exercise control and discretion over its organization and operations. It is also the right of the public employer to direct its employees, take disciplinary action for proper cause, and relieve its employees from duty because of lack of work or for other legitimate reasons. However, the exercise of such rights shall not preclude employees or their representatives from raising grievances, should decisions on the above matters have the practical consequence of violating the terms and conditions of any collective bargaining agreement in force or any civil or career service regulation.

    History.–s. 3, ch. 74-100.

    447.301  Public employees’ rights; organization and representation.

    (1)  Public employees shall have the right to form, join, and participate in, or to refrain from forming, joining, or participating in, any employee organization of their own choosing.

    (2)  Public employees shall have the right to be represented by any employee organization of their own choosing and to negotiate collectively, through a certified bargaining agent, with their public employer in the determination of the terms and conditions of their employment. Public employees shall have the right to be represented in the determination of grievances on all terms and conditions of their employment. Public employees shall have the right to refrain from exercising the right to be represented.

    (3)  Public employees shall have the right to engage in concerted activities not prohibited by law, for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. Public employees shall also have the right to refrain from engaging in such activities.

    (4)  Nothing in this part shall be construed to prevent any public employee from presenting, at any time, his or her own grievances, in person or by legal counsel, to his or her public employer and having such grievances adjusted without the intervention of the bargaining agent, if the adjustment is not inconsistent with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement then in effect and if the bargaining agent has been given reasonable opportunity to be present at any meeting called for the resolution of such grievances.

    History.–s. 3, ch. 74-100; s. 9, ch. 77-343; s. 191, ch. 79-400; s. 6, ch. 83-214; s. 154, ch. 97-103; s. 1007, ch. 2002-387.

    447.401  Grievance procedures.–Each public employer and bargaining agent shall negotiate a grievance procedure to be used for the settlement of disputes between employer and employee, or group of employees, involving the interpretation or application of a collective bargaining agreement. Such grievance procedure shall have as its terminal step a final and binding disposition by an impartial neutral, mutually selected by the parties; however, when the issue under appeal is an allegation of abuse, abandonment, or neglect by an employee under s. 39.201 or s. 415.1034, the grievance may not be decided until the abuse, abandonment, or neglect of a child has been judicially determined. However, an arbiter or other neutral shall not have the power to add to, subtract from, modify, or alter the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. If an employee organization is certified as the bargaining agent of a unit, the grievance procedure then in existence may be the subject of collective bargaining, and any agreement which is reached shall supersede the previously existing procedure. All public employees shall have the right to a fair and equitable grievance procedure administered without regard to membership or nonmembership in any organization, except that certified employee organizations shall not be required to process grievances for employees who are not members of the organization. A career service employee shall have the option of utilizing the civil service appeal procedure, an unfair labor practice procedure, or a grievance procedure established under this section, but such employee is precluded from availing himself or herself to more than one of these procedures.

    History.–s. 3, ch. 74-100; s. 1, ch. 74-378; s. 14, ch. 77-343; s. 38, ch. 87-238; s. 12, ch. 88-290; s. 32, ch. 91-57; s. 135, ch. 95-418; s. 156, ch. 97-103; s. 154, ch. 98-403; s. 101, ch. 2000-349.

    447.501  Unfair labor practices.

    (1)  Public employers or their agents or representatives are prohibited from:

    (a)  Interfering with, restraining, or coercing public employees in the exercise of any rights guaranteed them under this part.

    (b)  Encouraging or discouraging membership in any employee organization by discrimination in regard to hiring, tenure, or other conditions of employment.

    (c)  Refusing to bargain collectively, failing to bargain collectively in good faith, or refusing to sign a final agreement agreed upon with the certified bargaining agent for the public employees in the bargaining unit.

    (d)  Discharging or discriminating against a public employee because he or she has filed charges or given testimony under this part.

    (e)  Dominating, interfering with, or assisting in the formation, existence, or administration of, any employee organization or contributing financial support to such an organization.

    (f)  Refusing to discuss grievances in good faith pursuant to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement with either the certified bargaining agent for the public employee or the employee involved.

    (2)  A public employee organization or anyone acting in its behalf or its officers, representatives, agents, or members are prohibited from:

    (a)  Interfering with, restraining, or coercing public employees in the exercise of any rights guaranteed them under this part or interfering with, restraining, or coercing managerial employees by reason of their performance of job duties or other activities undertaken in the interests of the public employer.

    (b)  Causing or attempting to cause a public employer to discriminate against an employee because of the employee’s membership or nonmembership in an employee organization or attempting to cause the public employer to violate any of the provisions of this part.

    (c)  Refusing to bargain collectively or failing to bargain collectively in good faith with a public employer.

    (d)  Discriminating against an employee because he or she has signed or filed an affidavit, petition, or complaint or given any information or testimony in any proceedings provided for in this part.

    (e)  Participating in a strike against the public employer by instigating or supporting, in any positive manner, a strike. Any violation of this paragraph shall subject the violator to the penalties provided in this part.

    (f)  Instigating or advocating support, in any positive manner, for an employee organization’s activities from high school or grade school students or students in institutions of higher learning.

    (3)  Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (1) and (2), the parties’ rights of free speech shall not be infringed, and the expression of any arguments or opinions shall not constitute, or be evidence of, an unfair employment practice or of any other violation of this part, if such expression contains no promise of benefits or threat of reprisal or force.

    History.–s. 3, ch. 74-100; s. 1, ch. 77-174; s. 160, ch. 97-103.

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  • Aug
    14

    July 17, 2009
    Florida’s State University System has a new Chancellor: FAU President Frank Brogan. The Board of Governors selection, however, suggests the body’s limited regard for the public institutions they oversee. Over the past several months former lieutenant governor Brogan and the FAU Board of Trustees, which consists almost solely of political appointees, have done a great deal to exhibit their sheer contempt for FAU faculty members. After UFF-FAU won a recommendation for a minimum 2.5% salary increase from an objective third party–PERC Special Magistrate Joseph Schneider–Brogan’s BOT told the faculty, “The ruling didn’t go our way so we’re not going to play by the rules. Professors will thus take the 1% salary increase we originally proposed.”  Mind you, the decision the BOT spurned was the result of an impasse process the BOT’ bargaining team sought in the first place, and was forced on faculty just a few months after Boss Brogan gave his personal staff raises of 10-15% each.

    If this wasn’t proof enough of Brogan and the BOT’s disregard of faculty, the second shoe to drop involved the termination of tenured faculty in the College of Engineering after a  reorganization process that barely veiled the targeting of Engineering faculty with tenure. This action has served to intimidate all faculty at FAU from taking issue with administrative policies, a common practice of faculty governance that is in the very spirit of university life. After all, a university’s administration is supposed to support the teaching and research mission that faculty carry out. At FAU the reverse is the case: Faculty have been made to feel as if they must walk around on egg shells to keep from raising the ire of certain administrators and risk being targeted for elimination themselves. A similarly reverse dynamic is on display at BOT meetings over the past six years, where BOT members have appeared to vigorously agree with and cater to Brogan’s every whim instead of providing administrative oversight and guidance.

    Brogan and the FAU BOT have wielded their power in a reckless manner that would be expected far more so from corporate chieftains than an assembly of professionals entrusted with the oversight of a public institution of higher learning. As Brogan moves on to his post overseeing the SUS, BOT members and administrators would be well served to distinguish between power and authority.  Brogan has brandished his power by commanding administrators to carry out dubious practices, such as bad faith collective bargaining and layoffs of tenured faculty–practices that administrators with some measure of professional integrity would have condemned or refused to partake in.  These actions resulted in administrators and the BOT squandering the limited authority they may have accumulated in the eyes of faculty over the past several years because authority, unlike power, must be earned through mutual respect.

    In solidarity,
    James Tracy
    UFF-FAU President

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  • Aug
    14

    July 3, 2009.
    A good deal of misunderstanding and even misinformation surrounds the UFF-FAU/BOT Collective Bargaining Agreement and how the CBA benefits faculty and staff in the Bargaining Unit. This is particularly the case with regard to arbitration, the process UFF-FAU is pursuing for four of the five tenured faculty members in the College of Engineering who received layoff notices on May 29. This requires some explanation especially at a time when FAU faculty ponder whether their own jobs may be at risk after the Administration’s move to abruptly layoff these colleagues.

    The CBA is the faculty’s contract with the University Board of Trustees that governs conditions of employment. In the event the FAU administration violates the rights of a faculty member as defined under the CBA, that individual should contact their UFF-FAU Steward or the Contract Enforcement Chair to discuss their concerns. A grievance may then be produced and filed with the Administration. If the Administration does not provide a satisfactory response and resolution, a hearing ensues before an independent, professional arbiter who weighs the merits of each side and renders a decision that is binding.

    Arbitration is in many respects an apparatus for dispute resolution that has some similarities to legal routes, yet is often much speedier and practical than filing an individual lawsuit, which requires attorney fees and may be drawn out for many months, even years, without satisfactory resolution. The FAU administration has the deep pockets to hire high-priced labor-management attorneys (at taxpayer expense) to prolong the process until the plaintiff is outspent or just gives up. Arbitration is far less onerous, and it does not prevent one from later pursuing a separate lawsuit where appropriate. Indeed, UFF has had a strong record in arbitration cases and a positive decision only strengthens a lawsuit. The Union’s new Southern Unit Service Coordinator, Dr. Bruce Nissen, has over thirty years of experience in labor-management relations research and understands the intricacies of bargaining agreements. He will be working closely with our chapter on arbitration and related matters and will be an invaluable asset as we proceed.

    The assurance that you will receive due process and adequate representation via arbitration are among the many benefits your UFF membership provides you. Remember, you must be a dues-paying member at the time an incident takes place for UFF to assist you in filing your grievance. If you are not already a member, please consider joining today.

    In solidarity,
    James Tracy
    UFF-FAU President

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  • Jun
    16

    June 16, 2009

    “If the administration can fire [tenured professors in the College of Engineering], it can fire any of us.” –faculty member at United Faculty Senate Special Meeting, June 5, 2009.

    As individuals who have dedicated our lives to the academy we need to seriously ask ourselves, Is tenure still meaningful at FAU? You may be enjoying your time away from campus, but the FAU Administration and Board of Trustees are not taking the summer off. After having terminated five tenured faculty members in the College of Engineering and Computer Science they are working overtime this summer to set the groundwork for even more layoffs over the next year. They have chosen to ignore the Faculty Senate’s unanimous condemnation of this act. Under the auspices of revenue shortfalls, Enterprise Resource Planning consultant Susan Clemmons, who knows little about higher education and probably much less about your discipline and area of expertise, is being paid $150.00 per hour to advise the administration on how to reorganize colleges, schools and departments, and what faculty and staff will be shown the door after this reorganization.

    On Wednesday, June 17 the Board of Trustees intends to ratify the reorganization of the College of Engineering. If you are concerned about the status of the profession at Florida Atlantic and the uncertainty of tenure it is important that you make your presence known at this meeting. Keep in mind that the agenda is somewhat lengthy. You may attend the meeting via telephone or in person. A time for public comments is provided toward the end of the meeting. For more information on attending and to reference the agenda visit http://wise.fau.edu/bot/notices.php . President Frank Brogan and the BOT dismissed a unanimous condemnation by the University Faculty Senate of the firing of the five Engineering faculty.

    UFF-FAU is holding an Executive Committee Meeting on June 19 at noon in General Classroom South 258, Boca campus. All interested faculty and staff are welcome to attend. Please feel free to bring your lunch and questions.

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  • Apr
    15

    Florida Atlantic University gained national recognition when its football team won back-to-back bowl games. If a competition existed for depressed faculty salaries FAU might be playing for the national championship. In March, a Special Magistrate appointed by the Public Employee Relations Commission recommended FAU administrators grant professors a minimum 2.5% raise. Yet President Frank T. Brogan has moved the goalposts on FAU faculty by rejecting the Magistrate’s decision and putting the process before the Board of Trustees which he essentially controls.

    Last year FAU administrators sought to go to an impasse when the faculty union rejected a 1% raise offer. At the impasse hearing, FAU administrators claimed the University didn’t have sufficient resources to sustain more than a 1% salary increase. The faculty’s bargaining team and an independent auditor countered that FAU is actually in a very strong financial position, with over $70 million in the bank and as much as $5 million per year from a deal struck with Clearwire Communications for use of FAU’s digital bandwidth.

    With so much cash on hand it’s puzzling how FAU administrators continue pleading poverty and browbeating faculty about potential layoffs. If there’s any personnel area that needs to be scaled back it is the administration itself, according to findings of a recent study by the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University.

    In the end, FAU students and their families bear the burden when administrative ambition trumps academic integrity. The money that students fork over in increased tuition payments often goes toward more positions and higher salaries for administrators who seldom teach classes. Meanwhile students can?t find the classes they need to graduate while existing classes swell in numbers.

    The FAU football team will go on to win many more games in coming seasons. But FAU’s academic wherewithal will continue to deteriorate because Brogan and the Board of Trustees still refuse to acknowledge that the faculty is the very heart and soul of the institution they oversee, even after independent authorities tell them they’ve steered far off course.

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Upcoming Meetings

Membership Meeting and Election:

  • Friday Mar 27, 11:30 - 1:30 pm - Majestic Palm Room, Student Activity Center
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Bargaining Meetings:

  • Feb. 12th (Thursday) at 9:30 am - Provost Conference Room.
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Executive Committee Meetings:

  • Friday Jan 23, 12 - 2 pm - BU207
  • Friday Feb 20, 12 - 2 pm - BU207
  • Friday Mar 20, 12 - 2 pm (if needed) - BU207
  • Friday Apr 24, 12 - 2 pm - BU207

Become a Member 

UFF President

Robert Zoeller;
Department of Exercise Science
561-297-2549
president@uff-fau.org

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