Next Thursday's Chapter Meeting, originally intended to elect officers for the coming year and to set strategy for winning a decent contract, will now have to be a victory celebration as well, for the United Faculty of Florida has won a great victory. The First District State Court of Appeals has ruled that it was illegal for the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) to decide that the new Boards of Trustees could ignore the statewide collective bargaining agreement with UFF that had been in place for 27 years. PERC had ruled that the Boards of Trustees are not the "successor employers" to the former Board of Regents, and that as new employers the Boards of Trustees were not bound by the collective bargaining agreement the previous employer had with the UFF and other unions. The Appeals court, responding to a suit filed by UFF, said PERC's 2-1 decision (guess how Jeb's two appointees voted) was nonsense, and violated even PERC's own earlier precedents, not to mentioned federal and state labor law.
How does this decision affect us? The ruling means that even though the previous state-wide bargaining agreement expired in January, 2003, the FIU Board of Trustees is bound by the "status quo" that prevailed under that agreement. Any changes to that status quo have to be bargained with the union, and can not be imposed unilaterally by the administration. So any actions or changes in policy that have been taken by the administration that are in violation of the previous bargaining agreement and have not been bargained with the union are probably illegal. Our attorneys are still sorting all of this out, and the final order by the Appeals court does not take effect until March 14. But some of the changes that the administration has made in the last two years that will now have to be revisited include:
- Summer pay--the bargaining agreement specifies pay for summer courses equal to pay in the spring and fall. We will fight hard to get back pay for those who filed grievances when forced to work for less.
- The grievance procedure to enforce the bargaining agreement's provisions--which had been declared dead by the provost's office--needs to be brought back to life quickly to protect the faculty.
- The proceedures used to give salary increases given to a minority of the faculty at the discretion of deans and the provost were never bargained with the union and will have to be reexamined.
- Course releases for faculty serving on the bargaining team, or as chapter president and grievance chair to enforce the contract, have been denied for the past two years, and I personally guarantee to raise this issue.
- We are cautiously hopeful that the redefinition of the bargaining unit which excluded chairs of departments will be overturned, since that bargaining unit determination process was begun only because of PERC's ruling that there was no union recognized at FIU, a ruling now declared to have been illegal.
The Appeals court decision is a big victory for the union statewide, because an election to decide whether UFF will represent the faculty at the University of Florida will now probably not be necessary, since recognition of UFF as the bargaining agent should never have lapsed. So UFF will continue to represent the faculties at all eleven universities in the state system, and Jeb's attempt to destroy the faculty union with devolution has resulted only in stronger unions at all eleven, including FIU.
Clearly, a celebration is in order. We will probably have a clearer idea of the many implications of the victory by the time of the Chapter Meeting and Election, next Thursday, February 24, noon to 2pm, in the GC Ballroom West. The meeting is for union members only, but new members may join at the door. So celebrate we will, but the main purpose of the meeting is two-fold:
- First, to conduct a swift and efficient election of officers for the coming year.
- Second, to decide how to respond to the administration bargaining team's extreme proposals to leave "Vacant" in the new agreement all of the rights and protections that were part of the former statewide agreement.
So plan on attending the meeting Thursday. Lunch will be provided, but to reserve a lunch you must RSVP by Monday Noon by responding to Alan Gummerson. See you there.
PS A copy of the Appeals court decision is available on the UFF-FIU website at
A copy of the union membership form is available at http://www.uff-fiu.org/nindex.php/uff.form.html.