Florida Faculty need a union now more than ever

We are not suffering the McCarthy–style attacks of the 1960s, but we now confront equally grave threats:
Budget cuts. The state legislature has cut its allocation to the State University System by 30% in the past 5 years, and the UF administration has responded by merging departments, reducing the number of faculty, and changing degree programs (for instance, several graduate programs have been frozen or abolished). We need a strong union so that faculty have a voice in these critical academic decisions.

Legislation threatening our Collective Bargaining Agreement. In 2011 HB1023 was introduced in the Florida State Legislature. This bill would decertify any union with less than 50% membership. Without certification, our CBA is unenforceable. This bill failed by a close margin, and only through the united effort of labor unions across the state, such as Florida Education Association and unions representing police, firefighters, and nurses. We expect a similar bill to be introduced in 2013.

Cuts to Faculty pensions. In 2011, the state legislature passed legislation that required all public employees to contribute 3% to their pensions, which amounted to a 3% pay cut. The FEA has been successful thus far in challenging this first cut, see “Accomplishments.” In 2012, the legislature passed additional cuts to the Florida Retirement System that further reduced the retirement plan of many faculty by over 2%.

Education Policy that compromises the quality of education and faculty rights. The Florida legislature passed SB736 in 2010, which abolished tenure in the public school system (K-12), and the same forces tried to pass a bill to abolish tenure in the state college system. This bill failed thanks to the joint efforts of UFF and state college presidents.

This year, higher education is one of Governor Rick Scott’s top priorities. He has established the Blue Ribbon Taskforce to reform higher education, and his model is “The Seven Breakthrough Solutions” for higher education developed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which includes shifting away from tenure, replacing merit raises with bonuses, dividing research from teaching, and giving state support for higher education directly to individual students rather than to universities. Stay tuned to the UFF newsletter and website for more news as the taskforce continues its work. Follow on Twitter / Facebook