Members of the Faculty Collective Bargaining Unit,

The following is a report from Prof. Lorna Veraldi, the union’s Chief Negotiator, on the administration’s collective bargaining proposal, and on the administration team’s performance at the bargaining table.

A meeting to discuss this report and how to respond to the administration's attacks on the faculty will be held Wednesday, November 17, 12:30 pm, in PC-214. Faculty who think we deserve better than what the administration is offering should attend the

Board of Trustees Meeting Graham Center Ballroom Monday, November 22 9:00 - 9:30am.


Bargaining the UFF-FIU Contract

Where Things Stand

November 2004

It took a very long time long time for the administration’s Chief Negotiator to get his proposals written. He finally gave us what he said was the complete package on Monday, November 8. (Actually, he titled his proposals the “Collective Bargaining Agreement, 2004-2007,” as if UFF had agreed to them before they had even been put on the table. We think it’s just sloppy drafting on his part. Or maybe wishful thinking. But it will be a cold day in hell before your union will agree to anything close to the drastic changes in your rights the administration is proposing.)

The administration wants to gut the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, eliminating many important faculty rights altogether and moving others to “policies” subject to unilateral change at the whim of the administration--not subject to bargaining or enforceable through the grievance process. What used to be 32 Articles in the Collective Bargaining Agreement would shrink to 12. Most of the rights and protections won for faculty and librarians in almost three decades of statewide bargaining would be wiped out at FIU in our first local bargaining cycle.

What’s missing?

What’s missing from the administration’s proposed contract? Almost everything we value. Here is the worst of the bad news.

--There would be absolutely no contract protection against discrimination based on race, gender, religion, color, or national origin. UFF has proposed expanding the contract protection to add “sexual orientation” to the list, but the administration wants all protection against discrimination out of the contract. We wonder why.

--The administration has proposed no contract rights to leaves of any kind. UFF has proposed adding paid parental leave to a long list of benefits protected under previous contracts, but the administration proposes to remove from the contract language providing not just parental leave, but all leave—including sick leave and sabbatical leave. UFF proposed to increase the number of sabbatical leaves, but the administration, rather than respond, has simply proposed no leave benefits at all.

--The administration proposes to remove from the contract articles that protect employee rights in the areas of Appointment (including Summer Appointment), Assignment of Responsibilities, Employee Performance Evaluations, Evaluation File, Nonreappointment, Promotion Procedure, Disciplinary Action and Job Abandonment, Conflict of Interest/Outside Activity, Benefits (including benefits for retired employees, Optional Retirement System and Phased Retirement), Maintenance of Benefits, or Other Employment Rights (covering such things as the rights of faculty to attend professional meetings, to have office space and to be assured safe working conditions).

--The administration has made no proposal at all to protect faculty intellectual property rights.

--There will be no workable grievance procedure, if the administration has its way. An employee would have only 7 days to file a grievance (not the 30 days which has long been the standard in previous contracts). Employees would have no right to grieve disciplinary action taken over alleged misconduct. Only tenured faculty would have the right to grieve if they were being fired. What would replace due process for the rest of faculty? A policy the administration calls “Fast and Impartial Resolution (FAIR) Process.” Just how “fair” is it? As far as we can see, employees with a complaint are encouraged to meet with the same supervisors who have just screwed them to have a chat about why they got screwed. To be fair to the drafters of this gem, they got it half right. It sure sounds fast.

--In a way, it’s lucky the administration wants to do away with a meaningful grievance procedure, because they propose to strip UFF of any meaningful ability to do its job. Under the new regime, there would be no course releases or facilities to perform union work, even though local bargaining and contract enforcement have significantly increased the amount of time necessary for union members to perform their duties. Such UFF rights and privileges were a constant feature of past statewide contracts and have been agreed to at the two universities that have so far reached contract agreement: FAU and USF. But UFF will have no rights at FIU, if the administration has its way.

--There would be no UFF right to consultation with the President or Provost, nor any right for UFF to speak at meetings of the Board of Trustees. Instead, UFF would be required to meet with somebody called “FIU’s designated labor management representative(s).” (Hope that’s not the same guy who drafted the “FAIR” procedure.)

--Meanwhile, the administration would reserve to itself a long new list of “management rights.” The language proposed would give the Board the “exclusive right” to determine curriculum, programs, degrees and instructional materials, areas previously determined by collegial governance or faculty protected by academic freedom.

--But, if the administration has its way, there will no longer be any enforceable contract right to academic freedom. The administration would restrict academic freedom rights to “freedom to teach and learn” in one’s “respective areas of scholarly and professional interest and responsibility.” And even that stingy definition would be moved to a statement of philosophy in the preamble. No longer a right. Just a thought.

--Speaking of the Preamble, what used to be a statement affirming both the union’s and the administration’s support of collegial governance through a Faculty Senate has been transformed to an exhortation that the faculty “accept and execute all lawful instructions given them.”

--If you think the Preamble makes it sound like the administration has the university mixed up with some sort of paramilitary outfit, wait til you get a look at the new policy on “Promotions, Demotions, and Transfers.” No, don’t adjust your bifocals. You read it right. If the administration has its way, FIU will become one of the few organizations outside the Pentagon that has its very own “demotion” policy. Its stated purpose (we’re not making this up): “To allow hiring departments to provide employees with internal career-pathing opportunities.” We don’t exactly know what that means, but apparently it is anticipated that the FIU career path leads in a downward direction for some. The policy says, “An employee being demoted will have his/her salary adjusted in accordance with FIU’s Compensation Manual.” And there are new policies proposed for “Separations of Employment,” and “Exit Reviews,” which all employees “separating” are required to undergo. That includes filling out a “Separation Clearance Form” that verifies you have paid all your “debts” to FIU.

--The attack on tenure is baaack—with a vengeance. Tenured faculty could be fired not just for misconduct or incompetence, but also for something called “persistently uncollegial behavior.” And, under a new “Performance Development Process” policy, sustained performance evaluations would judge tenured faculty members’ “continued professional growth and development’ every five years. If “performance falls below acceptable standards” (nowhere defined in the policy), tenured faculty could be fired.

Missing, however, are long-standing contract rights to adequate advance notice of non-renewal or lay-off that would allow an employee, tenured or non-tenured, a reasonable amount of time to find another academic job.

--Other stops along the new FIU “career path”? A new policy on “Background, Fingerprinting and Reference Checks.” Another requiring employees to sign “Confidentiality Agreements.” A forced “Direct Deposit” requirement. And something called the “New Employee Experience,” which faculty members would be required to attend “on the first available session following their first day of employment.” Sounds punitive, but we are assured that its purpose is to “welcome new employees to the University.” That, and “to acclimate them to our mission, values, policies and procedures.”

--Those values, etc. are listed in excruciating detail in something called the “Performance Development Process,” another of the 17 new policies that the administration laid on the table on November 8th in lieu of the contract proposals we think good faith bargaining requires. They don’t want to bargain these policies, either. They just want UFF’s “input.”

Among the list of “FIU VALUES” set out in the policy statement is “inspiring the trust of others.” So far, the administration isn’t scoring too high on this one. In their latest contract proposal, they reneged on three Articles on which we had tentatively agreed in June. And they rewrote 24 paragraphs on grievance procedures on which we had reached tentative agreement in July, August and September. In other words, the administration has backed out of agreements already made at the table, destroying what little progress we had made in bargaining sessions over the past six months and most of what little trust we had left.

The behavior of the administration’s Chief Negotiator is appalling, and the direction the Trustees are headed is unacceptable. But we’re not finished bargaining, not by a long shot. UFF will continue to fight for the rights of faculty and librarians and the future of this institution. All faculty need to support the effort, with UFF membership and activism, or we will find ourselves disenfranchised citizens of a university we do not even recognize.

---Lorna Veraldi


A meeting to discuss how to respond to these attacks on the faculty will be held on Wednesday, November 17, 12:30 pm, in PC-214. It seems clear that we will want to present our position to the Board of Trustees at their next meeting. The effectiveness of our message will be directly proportional to the number of faculty who attend that Trustees meeting. If you care about our future at FIU, be there!

Board of Trustees Meeting Graham Center Ballroom Monday, November 22 9:00 - 9:30am.

Alan

p.s. Membership forms are available to download at
http://www.uff-fiu.org/nindex.php/uff.form.html .
Previous Collective Bargaining Reports are archived at
http://www.uff-fiu.org/nindex.php/uff.bargaining.html .

Contact Us

Chapter President Eric Dwyer
Grievance Chairperson Lauren Christos
Treasurer For information about the UFF-FIU budget, please contact Delano Gray

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[last updated: November 14 2004]