Members of the Faculty Bargaining Unit,
remember that in early April the FIU administration declared “impasse” in the negotiations with the
UFF. That began a process that they
thought would end with the Board of Trustees unilaterally imposing a
bargaining agreement on the faculty, one with all of the rights
and protections of the previous agreement removed to university
policy only, where they
could not be enforced by the grievance
and arbitration procedure.
UFF filed an Unfair Labor Practice
charge against FIU, on the grounds that by forcing the impasse they
deprived us of our right to bargain the rights and protections in the
articles of the previous agreement that they intend to leave “vacant”.
time we filed a Motion to Stay the
Impasse. We argued to the Public
Employees Relations Commission (PERC) that there was no point in going
with the impasse proceedings, because if we won the Unfair Labor
would order both sides back to the bargaining table and instruct the
administration to bargain those rights and protections.
Wednesday, June 15, PERC granted our Motion
to Stay the Impasse. The effect of
this is two-fold. First, the
impasse process will now be on hold until PERC can rule
on the Unfair Labor Practice charge. Our
attorneys think that the arguments will not be heard until probably
July, and that a decision will probably not come down until September
October at the earliest.
the decision then, the status quo
based on the previous bargaining agreement will
now be in place well into the middle of the fall semester, and
longer. This will prevent the Board of Trustees
from imposing their extreme solution for a non-existent problem for a
unlikely event we lose the Unfair Labor Practice, the impasse procedure
begin again, probably in mid-fall, with a public hearing at which both
present their arguments. Then the
Special Master will offer his suggested agreement in a public meeting. Then the Board of Trustees would propose an
agreement that must be submitted to the bargaining unit for a
vote. Once it is rejected—and if it is
anything like the current proposal it will be rejected
could impose an agreement on us, but only for that fiscal year, with
beginning again for the next year. This
process will probably put us well into
the second semester, perhaps later.
Second, however, our attorneys believe
that the Motion to Stay the Impasse would not have been approved unless
that our Unfair Labor Practice charge had merit. So
while we should not break out the bubbly
just yet, we are optimistic that PERC will follow the law and its own
precedents and rule that the strategy the administration has been
illegal, as we have argued from the beginning.
Both sides would then return to
the table, with the administration charged to abandon its previous
and to bargain in good faith.
The time is ripe for the administration to
come to its senses, start with the previous state-wide bargaining
that worked well for 27 years, change the handful of things that need
to be changed,
and reach agreement with the faculty. (USF,
FAU, UCF, FGCU, and New College
have already done this. No other
administration is still following the FIU approach.) We
could finish by the end of the
summer. Then FIU could return to normal
and we could all get on with the business of educating students and
administration could continue this unnecessary attack on its own
continue to demoralize the university, and continue to drive away many
case the administration chooses to continue down its destructive path, we have plans to build our strength so
that we will be in a position to ultimately prevail, no matter how long
takes. First, that means continuing
to build up the membership of UFF so that no one can doubt that UFF
for the faculty and so we can bring to bear the resources needed to win. We are very close to having a majority of the
bargaining unit as members, so we will be campaigning to go over the
top. If you have not yet joined UFF, a
form may be downloaded at http://www.uff-fiu.org/nindex.php/uff.form.html
Second, we will build our strength by reaching
out to our natural allies. Some of them are
on campus, like our co-workers in USPS (secretarial
maintenance workers, etc) who are represented by AFSCME, nurses
SEIU, and the police represented by PBA, who are facing the same
we are—that they give up their rights and protections that have been
enforceable by grievance and arbitration.
I will have more to report about this below.
allies on campus include the students.
They have an interest in keeping the best
faculty and researchers from being driven away by attacks from the
administration. The articles in the
Beacon, Herald, and Sun-Sentinel have motivated many students to
faculty about what is going on here. We
will continue to encourage such inquisitiveness—outside of the
course. (It is illegal in this state to
use class time to build support for a faculty union.)
natural allies are off campus, and we are beginning to reach out to
alumni have an interest in keeping the best faculty here, and we
confident many will respond to a call to save FIU—and the value of
degrees—from the extremists who would impose a corporate model on the
university. Many of us in the faculty
keep in touch with former students, and some have already asked how
help us. We will help them come together
to aid us in our efforts.
organizations with which UFF is
affiliated—the American Federation of Teachers (AFT),
the National Education Association (NEA), and the
Florida Education Association (FEA)—are already
following our efforts closely and supporting
them. We are not the only university
confronted with outsiders trying to impose a corporate model of
rather than the collegial governance model we have been used to. Because the leaderships of these broad
organizations like the way we have stood up to the attacks on us, they
us know that they are eager to step up their support in any way they
can. We will be happy to accept their increased
in the local community who have a strong interest in restoring a
FIU. The UFF has worked with many labor
and community organizations over
the years, as well as with local political leaders, and many
will respond to a
call to save FIU from those who have an ideological agenda to pursue. We are reaching out to them and look forward
to the creative ways we know they will come up with to aid our efforts.
now to the attack on our secretaries and
other USPS workers on campus. You
may have seen the email sent out by Vice President Vivian Sanchez, the
of Human Resources. In it she outlined
the salary offer the administration has put on the bargaining table in
negotiations with AFSCME, which represents USPS workers.
The offer is a $750 raise or 2%, whichever is
greater, plus 1% merit pay.
is better than it appears since most USPS employees are paid so little
$750 is 3%, or 4%, or even more of their current salaries.
$750 is 3% of $25,000 for example; it is 4%
of $18,750, and many USPS employees make less than that.
Can you imagine trying to live in South Florida
on that? It is
shameful. To its credit, AFSCME demanded
that most of the increase be a fixed amount across the board to address
needs of their least-paid workers.
Sanchez did not address in her email, is the
rest of the story. The
administration has taken the same approach to the rights
and protections enforced by grievance and arbitration in the
previous AFSCME bargaining agreement that they have taken with UFF—we
will put it in
university policy and you can trust us to be fair. Naturally,
the AFSCME bargaining team has no
intention of accepting.
the administration’s proposal would change
the status of USPS employees to “at will”.
The AFSCME bargaining agreement allows the university to
employees only for “just cause”—misconduct and incompetence—enforced by
grievance procedure which can end before a neutral, third-party
arbitrator. Now the university wants the right
terminate “without cause”, to have the employees serve at the will of
supervisors. The administration calls
this a 21st Century Human Resources approach.
Apparently they are looking forward to the 21st
century being a lot like the 19th century of the robber
the administration’s offer is take-it-or-leave-it: To get the $750, AFSCME has to agree to waive
their rights and protections, their grievance and arbitration process,
their right to termination only if the administration can prove just
else the administration will remove the salary offer after June 30. The administration figured that USPS workers
are so impoverished that they will demand the money and give up the
have had for years.
leadership called a meeting last Thursday so that the bargaining team
guidance from the bargaining unit. The
room was packed with the biggest turnout anyone could remember, with
participating by teleconferencing on the BBC campus. After
full discussion a straw vote was taken
and the vote was unanimous against
accepting the administration’s offer.
Several USPS employees saw the importance of a strong union and
AFSCME at the meeting.
our brothers and sisters in USPS for their courage and intelligence. All of
us at FIU are under the same attack. We are
natural allies and we will defend
ourselves together. Anything the UFF can
do to assist AFSCME, we will do. Faculty
can help this process along by encouraging our coworkers to join their
and to support their bargaining team.
Previous bargaining reports are archived at the
President, FIU Chapter
United Faculty of Florida