I am sorry to have to report that the administration bargaining team's position on faculty rights and protections is the same as it was last fall: they insist that those rights and protections, which formerly could be enforced by the grievance and arbitration procedure, be removed from the collective bargaining agreement. Instead they promise (although they haven't written them yet) to put them in University Policy, though they admit that policies can be changed unilaterally without bargaining with UFF. Moreover, it is clear that there is no way to guarantee that the university will follow its own policies, and no way to get redress if they don't. In appointing Dr. Judy Blucker as their negotiator, they changed their messenger, but not the message.
The FIU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, in its Chapter Meeting on Thursday, February 24, voted unanimously to call on the faculty to attend the
Board of Trustees Meeting
9:00 a.m., Monday, March 7
Graham Center Ballroom
I have asked for the ability to address the Board, and have been granted three to four minutes in the first half hour of the meeting. I intend to explain that their position constitutes a serious attack on the faculty, that the faculty would never accept such an agreement, and that to continue to pursue such an agenda may lead to a state of open conflict between the board of trustees and the administration on the one hand and the faculty on the other. Such a conflict could only be disastrous for FIU, as it has been for other institutions of higher education.
Before I explain the details of everything the administration wants to take away, let me describe what the administration's strategy is, and lay out what we must do to counter it. The administration thinks that if they bargain a contract with an article protecting tenure, one affirming academic freedom, and a package with modest salary increases, the faculty will be satisfied. They think that most faculty don't understand the rights and protections guaranteed by grievance and arbitration in the expired contract. They think you will not be willing to fight for those rights and protections, especially if it means postponing your raise.
To preserve the rights and protections we have had for 27 years, we must be able to demonstrate that we DO understand what's at stake, and that we are not willing to give up items of long-term value for short-run gains. To do that we must show up in large numbers for the Board of Trustees meeting on March 7.
At the bargaining table on Friday, February 25, the administration presented the last of their non-economic proposals, which both sides had agreed would be bargained first. They were able to do this easily, since most of their proposals are empty--blank pieces of paper except for the number and title of the article they intend to do away with crossed out, leaving only one word: "Vacant". The administration team proposes leaving "Vacant" 16 of the 32 articles in the expired agreement.
The articles they propose to eliminate are the heart of the previous agreement. For example, they propose leaving "Vacant" Article 8: Appointment. But section 8.4 (b) specifies "An employee shall receive approximately the same total salary for teaching a course during a supplemental summer appointment as the employee received for teaching the same course...during the academic year." So to leave Article 8 out of the agreement would remove the right of equal pay for equal courses in the summer--a right which keeps many faculty out of serious financial distress, given their meager nine-month salary.
We saw what the administration intends to do with summer pay the past two summers when they wrongly believed they were not bound by the previous collective bargaining agreement, a belief recently overturned by the District Court of Appeals. The College of Education offered only $4,000 for the second summer course, glorified adjunct pay. The College of Business this summer wants to require three courses to earn two-ninths of your nine-month salary, rather than the two courses mandated by the previous agreement. Such a move is illegal for now because it violates past practice and we have filed the paperwork to block it, but if the administration has its way there will be no barrier to such a change. The administration's intentions are clear: They will solve their budget crises by taking it out of our summer pay if we let them.
Other articles they propose removing are Article 17: Leaves, and Article 22: Sabbaticals. (You may access the previous collective bargaining agreement at http://www.uff-fiu.org/nindex.php/uff.bargain.html.) If you review those articles you will see that they have been carefully crafted over the decades as a compromise with the Board of Regents to establish rights of faculty and to make sure they can be enforced. What the administration proposes is to remove them from the contract and put them in university policy instead. Then they say "Trust us", since they have the ability to change policy unilaterally, and since there is no way to force them to follow their policies or to get redress if they don't.
In earlier bargaining reports I had erroneously suggested that a faculty member would have to hire an attorney and sue the university if they violated their own policy. I was overly optimistic. I'm told now that such a suit is almost never successful. Without rights and protections spelled out in the bargaining agreement, enforceable by the grievance and arbitration process, we would have no recourse even if the university violated its own policies.
Article 18: Inventions and Works would disappear if they have their way. Also worked out as a compromise in bargaining with the Board of Regents, this article guaranteed that if something of potential value were created by a faculty member, that the university and the individual would negotiate an agreement on how the proceeds would be divided. In other words the individual was protected because the university could not lay claim to an invention without coming to an agreement with the individual. Now however, this would only be covered by "policy", whose terms could be changed unilaterally by the university.
Even worse, they showed us a draft copy of the new policy they have crafted, and in it "the University acquires and retains title to all Inventions made within the scope of University employment or research, or created with University Support or made in the field or discipline in which the Inventor is employed by the University." Guess who decides if the invention was made with university support; no role for an independent arbitrator here. No talk of reaching an agreement with the inventor here. The University asserts its right to everything, even those things NOT made with university support, if it is in the field or discipline of the employee! Not only is such a naked grab for the money reprehensible, but think of what it will do to our ability to hire talented researchers who might come up with something valuable. Do you think any would want to come to FIU?
They propose to remove Article 14: Promotion Procedure. In that article UFF and the Board of Regents carefully set out the due process that must be followed on promotion decisions. When due process was violated in the past--say, when material was put in an employee's file without notifying the employee--the employee could file a grievance that might ultimately end up before an arbitrator. Such a procedure is necessary to preserve an equitable and transparent process, and to prevent supervisors from rewarding friends and punishing enemies through the promotion process.
Similar provisions prevent inequitable treatment in articles dealing with Nondiscrimination, Assignment of Responsibilities, Performance Evaluations, Evaluation File, Nonreappointment, Conflict of Interest, etc. All of these articles found their way into the previous agreement because abuses occurred and faculty and the Board of Regents found that they needed protection from arbitrary behavior by chairs, dean, or administrators. All of them will be taken away if the administration has its way.
Even Article 16: Disciplinary Action would be removed, so that no longer could faculty file a grievance to prevent arbitrary, inequitable, or unjust discipline being imposed on them. Faculty who have good relationships with their chair or dean may find it hard to imagine ever needing these protections. But the academic world is changing rapidly, and at FIU plans for "reorganization" are widespread, with newly-appointed "Directors" taking over duties formerly handled by our colleagues as chairs. Our supervisors soon may not be our colleagues. At the very time when these rights and protections are most needed, the administration proposes to take them away. If they get away with it, FIU will not be the same place that this faculty has built over the past 30 years.
I could go on with more examples, but I think you get the point. We are faced with an all-out attack on the role of faculty as we have known it for the last 30 years. There is no conception here of the faculty being the university, or even the heart of the university. There is only the conception of the faculty being hired hands, taking directions from the administration, and having no recourse if those directions are arbitrary, inequitable, or unjust. Where these ideas come from--The President? The General Counsel? The Board itself?--is irrelevant. We have to stand up to them now or they will be imposed on us.
If they continue to proceed down this road, we have to be willing to expose their behavior to the world, even if it means FIU's reputation will suffer. They must understand that the international academic community will put FIU into pariah status, as it has other institutions of higher learning where trustees or administrators went to war with their own faculty. Remember when Miami-Dade Community College was known as the best community college in the country? Now it is known as the place where the president attacked the faculty because they dared form a union.
We are not trying to form a union. We have had a union for nearly 30 years. They are not trying to prevent us from getting rights. They are trying to take away rights and protections we have had for nearly 30 years. They have the idea that we are employees who should follow orders and be quiet. We have the notion that we are professionals who need the freedom to create new ideas, to think out loud, to pursue ideas wherever they lead, since that is what a university does. Fundamentally, they do not share our concept of a university.
Either we educate them about our concept quickly, or our concept will disappear at FIU. We need to make it clear to them that talented faculty will leave FIU if their concept of a university wins, and that talented faculty will not come to FIU if it gets the reputation of attacking its own faculty.
Board of Trustees Meeting
9:00 a.m., Monday, March 7
Graham Center Ballroom
Spread the word to your colleagues. I have attached a flyer you could print out to help get them to the meeting. A membership form may be downloaded at http://www.uff-fiu.org/nindex.php/uff.form.html.