To begin, let me report on two actions the UFF has taken that we hope will make the holidays brighter for at least some members of the bargaining unit.
First, we have urged the administration to raise the salaries of faculty and librarians who were granted promotions in the spring, effective retroactively to the beginning of this academic year. The now expired state-wide bargaining agreement mandates 9% raises for promotions, and that agreement still defines the “status quo” until replaced by a new agreement. Should the new agreement increase promotion raises—and we have proposed higher promotion raises in our latest salary proposal—those raises could be retroactive as well.
Second, we have given the administration the authority to distribute the Faculty Senate awards to faculty for teaching, research, service, and librarianship announced during Convocation in October. Since these are discretionary bonuses to salary, they cannot be distributed without the UFF’s OK. We hope both of these stocking-stuffers can be distributed before Christmas.
Now, let me bring you up to date on progress in collective bargaining. You may remember that the Board of Trustee’s bargaining team declared impasse in bargaining last April. Then they asked if we would like to continue bargaining salaries (go figure). We bargained a Memorandum of Understanding that all faculty evaluated as satisfactory would receive a 4% across-the-board raise. Within a few weeks the legislature also voted faculty a 3.6% across-the-board raise.
Soon after the declaration of impasse, we filed an Unfair Labor Practice charging that the Board of Trustee’s team was illegally trying to deny us our right to bargain important subjects, by refusing to bargain articles which they wanted to remove to university policy. When we filed our Unfair Labor Practice charge, we also requested a stay of impasse proceedings until our charge could be decided. The Public Employees Relations Commission granted the stay.
As our Unfair Labor Practice charge was about to go to a hearing on July 26, the UFF and the Board agreed to hold both the ULP and the impasse in abeyance and to return to the bargaining table. Under the agreement, we would try to convert about half the articles in the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement into "policies." However, such policies would be collectively bargained and could not be changed unilaterally by the administraton without further bargaining with UFF. Morever, these bargained policies would then become status quo when it came time to bargain the next Agreement.
An important component of this compromise was our commitment to try to bargain a neutral, internal procedure for resolving disputes over application of the new policies. This procedure is to complement the grievance and arbitration process, which would still be the procedure for resolving disputes over rights provided by the collective bargaining agreement.
Why did UFF agree to call the bargained articles “policies”? Frankly, we don’t care what they are called, as long as they are negotiated according to collective bargaining law, and enforced by a procedure that ends in neutral review rather than by a member of the administration.
The UFF and BOT bargaining teams have met repeatedly since July, and both sides agreed to extend the initial 90-day period during which we would try to reach agreement under these terms to January 1. Six new policies have been tentatively agreed to by both sides, but many more articles and policies remain to be negotiated—including the procedures for resolving disputes over both contract and policy violations.
The teams have spent the last two Fridays at the table, trying to reach agreement on the neutral, internal dispute resolution mechanism. UFF’s goal is to arrive at a neutral, internal procedure for resolving policy disputes that will complement the grievance and arbitration procedure that has served us for 27 years. We will not agree to a process unless we are convinced that it is fair and workable. We are not there yet, but we remain hopeful that we will be able to arrive at procedures that both sides believe are fair.
Your UFF bargaining team has also agreed to spend a good chunk of the break between semesters at the bargaining table, attempting (against rather long odds, I suspect) to finish bargaining all of the many remaining issues by January 1.
Your bargaining team—Joan Baker, Paul Warren, and Chief Negotiator Lorna Veraldi—have devoted much of their personal time for more than two years now to bargain a first local contract. They have done this while carrying full teaching loads, since the administration for more than two years illegally refused to grant UFF released time due under the previous collective bargaining agreement. We owe these team members an enormous debt of gratitude for their sacrifices and for their staunch defense of faculty interests.
Look for a progress report when you return from your holiday break. UFF will make every effort to resolve the important issues that remain to be settled and to send our bargaining unit a first local collective bargaining agreement that merits ratification. We are eager to conclude negotiations. But we have no intention of giving up important rights just for the sake of reaching agreement. We will not accept a substandard contract that gives FIU faculty fewer rights and protections than have been agreed to at the seven other universities that have already concluded their first bargaining cycle and ratified new, local UFF agreements: FAU, USF, FSU, UCF, UWF, New College and Florida Gulf Coast. Surely, faculty at FIU deserve rights, benefits and salaries at least as good as those already bargained at all these universities.
Finally, let me switch gears and let you know that our chapter has again reserved two tables at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast which will be held from 8 to 11 am on Friday, January 13. If you are a UFF member and would like to attend, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. First come, first served, so don’t put it off.
If you are not a member, it is high time you joined. A membership form may be downloaded at http://www.uff-fiu.org/nindex.php/uff.form.html