United Faculty of Florida-Florida Atlantic University Chapter
September 1, 2012. Welcome back to the Idea Factory! What’s on the horizon for FAU faculty this coming fall.
Welcome back to the Idea Factory. The distant metallic sound you might hear is the sharpening of knives by some of our state overlords in Tallahassee in the hopes of gutting public education and unions once and for all. Our governor established a Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform in May. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the panel’s main task is “to identify ways to make the state’s higher education systems more efficient.” This euphemism of “efficiency” hangs in the air like a toxic cloud barely covering the cost-cutting and privatizing of public education that lurks beneath it. We have seen efficiency at work in inflating class caps, gouging students for higher tuitions, increasing course loads, questioning the viability of tenure, and demonizing faculty and faculty unions.
We expect to see anti-union legislation making the rounds in Tallahassee again this year. Two bills likely to appear this year will eliminate payroll deduction of union dues and also decertify unions with less than 50% membership. At FAU we are currently hovering at 40%. We need to make our numbers 50% by the end of the academic year so that faculty can be adequately represented on the campus and within the state. You can print a union membership form at the bottom of the webpage: http://www.uff-fau.org/?p=16. Send it to Chris Robé CU 214 on the Boca campus.
On the state level, UFF’s lawsuit (through our affiliate, the Florida Education Association) regarding the 3% FRS deduction will be going before the state supreme court this fall. Although the defendants wanted to drag the case out, our attorneys fast-tracked it to the supreme court since we won an overwhelmingly positive verdict from a circuit court judge who decreed the deduction unconstitutional. If we win the following case, a challenge to the 2.5% ORP deduction is soon to follow. Remember, your union dues help pay for actions like this that protect your paycheck.
On the campus level, we have been bargaining since spring. More details are available on the flip-side of this broadsheet regarding our process. Some issues we have stressed are raises/equity (as always), parental leave, partner benefits, and promotional raises for instructors and lecturers.
Also, after receiving numerous complaints from faculty regarding internal SACS accreditation, UFF-FAU has compiled a report based on faculty comments and submitted it to the provost and others in charge of SACS accreditation on August 14. We are waiting to hear back from them to schedule a meeting regarding our concerns and recommendations. You can read the report on the UFF-FAU website (www.uff-fau.org).
The instructor/lecturer promotional structure has now been put in place. Your departments/schools should have determined the criteria for promotion last spring. If they have not, please let us know. UFF-FAU has contacted the provost to determine submission deadlines for instructor/lecturer promotional materials. We are still awaiting an answer. We will let you know as soon as we hear back from them. Also, we would like to hold a workshop for all instructors/lecturers going up for promotion this year this fall, depending upon the due date of materials.
The UFF-FAU new faculty luncheon will be held in the Board of Trustees’ Room (3rd floor Administration Building) on September 14, 11:30-1:30 PM. This is open to all faculty. We encourage you to bring new faculty and/or non-union members to the luncheon. UFF-FAU will update you on our actions as well as answer any questions you might have. Also, the statewide UFF Senate will be held in Tampa on September 22-23. This is open to all UFF senators, bargaining team members, and EC members. It serves as a valuable forum to network with other UFF chapters to compare issues and concerns.
UFF-FAU wants to hold a speaker series each semester. We are looking for faculty input on who to invite. The talks can range from pragmatic matters (e.g. “What are my retirement benefits?”) to broader concerns (e.g. “How is public education being eviscerated?”). Please email your suggestions to president(at)uff-fau.org.
We will also be releasing the administrative survey in the next few weeks. Be on the lookout.
Finally, we are always looking for faculty to get involved. Half of the union’s task is advocating on behalf of the faculty’s collective interests. But this advocacy becomes hollow if we don’t have faculty actively supporting the union by getting involved. The first step is joining. But the next step is participating in the union with whatever unique skills you possess. We can always use more bargainers, grievance representatives, recruiters, writers, artists, mathematicians, and the like. You can dedicate as much or as little time as you have available. But dedicating some time is of the utmost importance.
Since we would like to have our union density over 50% by the end of this academic year, we need faculty who are willing to recruit: going to other faculty offices and speaking to colleagues about their concerns and how they intersect with union goals. Please write to me at president(at)uff-fau.org if you are interested. If we have enough people interested, we will hold a recruiting workshop this fall. Look forward to seeing you soon!
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February 28, 2011. New legislation could eliminate UFF and Collective Bargaining Agreement protections altogether
Professors, librarians, instructors, and all other faculty in the State University and State College Systems are now under attack and facing a crisis of unparalleled proportions. Several pieces of legislation presently being concocted by right wing lawmakers are poised to target the most cherished aspects of faculty life—tenure, due process, academic freedom, fair summer salaries and every other favorable working condition enumerated in UFF collective bargaining agreements (CBAs).
Perhaps the greatest threat to faculty at FAU and elsewhere in the SUS is House Bill 1023. Introduced on February 25, HB 1023 amends Section 447.307 of the Florida Statute. Upon passage, HB1023 will decertify UFF as the bargaining agent for all UFF chapters that have fewer than fifty percent dues-paying members. At FAU many faculty members may understand how important the Contract is, yet only about three out of every ten bargaining unit members are dues-paying members.
One percent of your salary can seem like a large chunk of change, and so some colleagues reason that they can “go it alone,” redirecting that money for the cable bill or a fill-up at the gas station. After all, they figure if they do their work and receive excellent evaluations they should be OK in terms of job security and advancement. In reality, however, we fool ourselves if we think that honest and conscientious performance alone can replace a union contract that carefully delineates the parameters and expectations of workplace performance for both employer and employee. Moreover, in a state like Florida the lack of a Collective Bargaining Agreement puts virtually all the power in the hands of administrators.
Under state law, absent a contract all workers become “at will” employees, meaning that your employment is essentially “at the will of” the employer. There are no protections from arbitrary layoffs in the event that an administrator dislikes you, your teaching or research. A chair or dean merely needs to have a desire of their personal choosing to replace you and—poof!—with a brief two weeks’ notice your life will have changed for good. As the UFF’s successful defense of tenure during the FAU and FSU faculty layoffs in 2008-2009 demonstrated, CBAs are central to the tenure preservation and due process.
It’s true. Without UFF and the CBA tenure will be rendered essentially meaningless because it’s not defined under state law. Our faculty positions, tenured or not, could disappear without any prior notice and FAU administrators will not have to provide a reason for firing us. The many years one has devoted to the institution and the profession will not matter. Think how tremendously attractive this will be to those who are only awaiting the go-ahead to exchange a full professor for three instructors who can generate about four times the number of FTEs.
An overwhelming majority of FAU faculty recognize the importance of having a collective bargaining agreement, since over and over again they have voted to continue to be represented by UFF. Yet the CBA can also quite easily be taken for granted, for a majority chooses not to pay union dues. These colleagues may wish to ask themselves if tenure, due process, and academic freedom mean anything, and what faculty life at FAU would be like without the Contract’s guarantees.
If you’re one of the 250+ UFF members at FAU, please print out at least three membership forms at UFF-FAUMembership_Form_2011-3-241 and bring them to your colleagues, explaining the seriousness of the situation. If you’re not already a member, please print out a form, fill it out, and return it to me at Culture and Society Building, Boca campus, Room 220.