Who Says Public Employee Unions Do Not Have Power?
Representative Scott Plakon (R-Seminole) obviously thinks UFF and other public employee unions are not good for Florida. He has filed HB 11, which establishes a decertification process for those public sector unions having less than 50% membership. This union-busting tactic is not new for Plakon: he filed a similar bill in 2011. That bill never reached any legislative committee.
But times have changed. It is not an election year and Plakon is emboldened by his prolonged service in the House of Representatives plus a new and more anti-employee sentiment in the House.
What does the bill do? The bill, if passed, would add an additional requirement to an employee union’s annual renewal with the Public Employees Relations Commission. That requirement is that each certified bargaining unit (each UFF chapter) of a registered employee organization (in our case UFF) must provide the number of eligible employees for union membership and the number of members who pay dues or do not pay dues. If that information is not presented then the certification for that bargaining unit is revoked.
If the certified bargaining unit dues paying membership is less than 50%, that bargaining unit must petition PERC for recertification as the exclusive bargaining representative within one month after the date on which the bargaining unit applied for renewal. Application for PERC recertification requires either voluntary recognition of the union by the employer or petition to PERC for recertification upon submission of call for union representation election cards from at least 30% of the full bargaining unit. If sufficient cards are submitted to PERC, then an election would be held to re-establish or decertify the union. Note: The application for recertification must occur within one month of the initial date of application for annual renewal.
As was stated by FEA in 2011, “Florida law permits public employees to obtain an election to decertify an exclusive bargaining representative. Any employee or group of employees which no longer desires to be represented by the certified bargaining agent may file with the commission a petition to revoke certification. FEA believes legislative proposals that target unions representing public employees by requiring recertification of unions with membership below 50 percent of the employees is unconstitutional. These measures are simply to make life more difficult in as many ways as they can so in the end member unions go away.”
If we have no power, why this legislation? Because we are in many cases the last impediment opposing anti-worker and anti-public school legislation. If we are silenced then their goals are more easily accomplished. Stand with UFF and fight this anti-worker and anti-higher education agenda! Ask your fellow colleagues to join UFF and strengthen our union in this important fight for Florida’s future and the guaranteed right to organize under Article I, Section 6, of Florida’s Constitution!
Senate Higher Education Package Headed for Floor Vote
In a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee on February 23rd, SB 2 and SB 4 were combined as SB 2 and passed by a 16-0 committee vote. The bill saw a number of amendments which improved the bill but did not address all UFF concerns. The bill, as amended, does the following:
- Increases student financial aid and tuition assistance for Florida Bright Futures Academic Scholars in fall and spring terms and adds support to these students in the summer term.
- Revises the state-to-private match requirements for contributions to the First Generation Matching Grant Program from 1:1 to 2:1.
- Requires state university boards of trustees to adopt a student block tuition policy for adoption in the fall 2018 semester.
- Strengthens “2+2” articulation by establishing the “2+2” targeted pathway program.
- Requires school districts to provide notification to students and parents about applying acceleration mechanism credit to a postsecondary degree.
- Creates a scholarship program for students from farmworker families.
- Adds the funding elements from SB 4, namely funding pools for hiring and retaining top-level faculty and rewarding outstanding graduate programs.
However, there are elements of the bill for which UFF has concerns. Specifically, we believe that changes to the performance funding metrics dealing with graduation rates, excess hours provisions, and changes to the percent-of-normal-time completion rate may limit access to higher education for lower-income, minority and non-traditional students. The provision for colleges dealing with on time graduation rates was amended based on suggestions from college presidents and was supported by the Association of Florida Colleges. That provision would give the State Board of Education greater flexibility in defining the cohort of “full-time” students included under the metric and setting the higher standard for only those colleges designated “distinguished” institutions.
UFF has serious concerns about the university performance metric dealing with 4-year graduation rate. The reduction of time for graduation will force universities to accept only those students who can complete the program in four years. This “cherry picking” will adversely impact the goal of increased access for diverse populations. Students at urban and regional universities tend to take longer to graduate due to family concerns, the need to work to pay for their education, and a host of other reasons. The scarcity of need based financial aid needs to be address in the funding of SB 2 to guarantee all Florida students have equal access and just not those of financial means.
UNIVERSITY EMPLOYEES’ HEALTH INSURANCE
The House Health and Human Services Committee passed a proposed committee bill, later renumbered HB 7007, which authorizes the State Group Insurance Program to include additional benefits and to establish the implementation of benefit levels as described in the staff analysis of the bill.
“Beginning in the 2020 plan year, the bill provides that state employees will have health plan choices at four different benefit levels. These levels are:
- Platinum Level (at least 90% AV)
- Gold Level (at least 80% AV)
- Silver Level (at least 70% AV)
- Bronze Level (at least 60% AV)”
Note: AV is the “actuarial value”.
This is to encourage younger and healthier employees to select a lower coverage where they might be able to keep the difference in the cost of the “base” plan versus a lower tier level of health care. The “base” plan is not defined and no premiums are mentioned in this legislation. Both Rich Templin of AFL-CIO and UFF warned against this cost shifting concept and the fact that most state employees have seen little or no raise in years. At least, the state has covered the increased insurance costs. The state plan was described as “benefits rich” but they left out the other important fact that state employees are “salary poor.” Note: The real issue is the inflationary cost of medical services and prescription drugs.
SOME LEGISLATIVE BRIEFS
SB 374, dubbed the “College Competitiveness Act”
SB 374 deemphasizes four-year programs at current state colleges. The bill would remove state colleges from the oversight of the State Board of Education and put them under a new State Board of Community Colleges. The bill will make 4-year baccalaureate degree programs a “secondary” mission of the colleges. The bill reinstates a statewide coordinating board for the Florida Community College System and removes them from the purview of the State Board of Education. The bill has passed the Senate Education Committee. The 254-page bill does not yet have a House companion bill
SB 622 by Senator Greg Steube, GUNS ON CAMPUS
Senator Steube has broken down his overall guns legislation into multiple bills. SB 622 is legislation to allow carrying of concealed weapons on college and university campuses. The bill is deceptively titled and at first glance appears to only impact athletic events. But it removes college and university facilities from the list where guns are not permitted. The bill has not been scheduled for a committee hearing at this time.
FEE WAIVERS FOR GRADUATE ASSISTANTS
Partial fee waivers for graduate assistants are scheduled to be part of Governor Scott’s college tuition/fees package. UFF will be seeking to address specific fees for waiver.
PUBLIC RECORDS PROPOSALS
HB 351 Pub. Rec. and Meetings/Postsecondary Education Executive Search: Provides exemption from public records requirements for personal identifying information of applicant for president, provost, or dean of state university or FCS institution; provides exemption from public meeting requirements for meeting held for specified purposes relating to postsecondary executive search; provides for future legislative review & repeal; provides statement of public necessity.
UFF strongly oppose this bill and it’s Senate companion SB 478 by Senator Passidomo (R-Collier, Hendry and Lee)
SB 80: Public Records Requiring a complainant to timely provide certain written notice in order to be entitled to attorney fees in certain civil actions for enforcement of Ch. 119, F.S., etc.
Public records should remain just that, public and accessible to all Floridians who file requests. There is no enforcement mechanism protecting this right, only the filing of a civil suit. SB 80, by Senator Steube, would change current law so that if a citizen successfully sues a government agency or official for unlawfully being denied a public records request, they would not be guaranteed reasonable attorneys’ fees. This action would deter attorneys from advising in these cases leaving citizens without legal representation and essentially killing our constitutional right.
This was the last week of Interim Committee meetings. Legislators and their aides are at home next week. That provides a great opportunity to go by their office or call them about important issues included in this update! The 2017 Legislative Session convenes on Tuesday, March 7th.
WATCH FOR UFF LEGISLATIVE ACTION ALERTS!!