When 250 of you attended the Board of Trustees meeting in November, the union asked for two things: a change in the administration"s bargaining team and a change in the administration's contract proposals.
As you probably know, over the holidays President Maidique announced that former Executive Vice Provost Judith Blucker would become the new chief negotiator for the administration. Dr. Blucker brings many years of experience at FIU, including experience with faculty collective bargaining and the grievance process. We welcome Dr. Blucker's appointment as a very positive step.
The first bargaining session under this new leadership is scheduled for Friday, January 21st, from 9 to 1, in ZEB 325, University Park. After that session, we should have a better idea of whether the change in leadership also means a substantive change in the contract proposals the administration will put on the table. While neither the UFF nor the former Board of Regents was ever completely satisfied with the compromises reflected in previous collective bargaining agreements, both sides understood the need for realistic compromises and restraint.
The radical approach taken so far by the FIU administration has done little to reassure the faculty that their rights or academic traditions will be respected during this period of transition from statewide bargaining to local bargaining. The united efforts of UFF members, and of the Faculty Senate and its Steering Committee, have helped to convince the administration that FIU faculty support strong faculty governance and collective bargaining. When the faculty is united and willing to demonstrate it, the administration listens.
You probably saw President Maidique's email of January 10 announcing salary raises for FIU employees not in a bargaining unit--i.e., A&P employees, associate and assistant deans, directors, chairs, etc, but not deans and executive level administrators. Maidique pledged at a Town hall meeting in June that deans and executives would not receive raises until bargaining unit members receive theirs, and we presume he is sticking to his pledge. The email announced raises of 4% of the current salary pool, with 1% to be given across the board, and the other 3% to be given at the discretion of supervisors. The UFF welcomes raises for our fellow workers. We also welcome the principle of across the board raises, a principle that has been absent from administration initiatives since the UFF won a 2.5% across the board raise in the last statewide bargaining in 2002.
We note, however, that an employeee who receives a 4% raise (and under the proposal, most non-bargaining unit employees will not even get that), will be falling behind inflation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the latest Consumer Price Index figures today, and they show that in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale prices have gone up by 6% since December, 2002, the last time that faculty had an across the board increase in salary. That means that any employee getting less than a 6% raise will find their real income has declined--that what their salary will buy in terms of goods and services will be less for the coming year, not more, even after the raise. Further, a raise of only 4% of the current salary pool not only does not keep up with inflation, but leaves nothing for rewarding the increased effort that nearly all university employees have been exerting.
On the other hand, as President Maidique's memo correctly points out, "For those employees represented through collective bargaining, salary inccreases will be addressed through the bargaining process." We will see the 4% raise pool for employees not represented by a union as a floor from which to begin bargaining for faculty, not a ceiling. And how the resulting raises will be distributed--how much for cost of living, how much for productivity increases, how much for compression and inversion, how much for merit, etc.--will be decided at the bargaining table.
Finally, UFF members should mark their calendars on Thursday, February 24, from noon to 2pm, for the spring membership lunch and annual election (location on campus to be announced later). We elect officers and state senators every spring, and February 24 will be the day it happens this year. You will hear the call for nominations from the Nominating Committee in the near future. We are a proudly democatic organization and I hope you all take the process of electing our leadership very seriously.
I am convinced that we have been able to hold our own during these threatening times of devolution to local bargaining--without a contract--because of the strong slate of officers and senators that the chapter elected over the last couple of years and that has functioned as the Executive Council of the chapter. The policies that the EC arrived at, month after month, after thorough and democratic discussion, have served this chapter well. With your participation, we can make that democratic process even stronger.
If you have not been able to participate because you are not yet a member of the United Faculty of Florida, we have a quick and easy remedy: Just download the membership form from http://www.uff-fiu.org/nindex.php/uff.form.html.
The Consumer Price Index data for Miami-Ft. Lauderdale can be found at Consumer Price Index
Previous bargaining reports are archived at Bargaining Reports
Alan Gummerson President, FIU Chapter United Faculty of Florida