Educators Look to Unions to Lock in Paid Family Leave

[Preface: Paid family leave was won by UFF-FAU in 2013 after the union organized a task force of faculty to study the issue. After the task force completed its research and synthesized its findings with the executive committee of the union, paid family leave was bargained with the administration. Many of the members of the task force helped bargain this issue. Task forces are one of the primary ways UFF-FAU can assist addressing faculty concerns. Through them we also bargained instructor promotions and partner benefits. If there are specific issues you want bargained, contact us and let us know. If enough faculty are concerned around the same issue, we will constitute a task force so faculty can help create the change they want to see. Contact us at: president@uff-fau.org ]

By Mary Ellen Flannery

from NEA Today

When University of Central Florida (UCF) associate professor Yovanna Pineda learned she was pregnant, she did what comes naturally to her: lots of research. At UCF, she learned, there was no such thing as paid family leave for educators. “I talked to a lot of people and realized, we had a terrible situation,” she recalls.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Fran Zumwalt, then-president of the Grossmont Education Association near San Diego, also was concerned with what she considered to be a social justice issue among her K-12 members. “A lack of paid maternity leave is absolutely the thing that keeps women earning less than men!” says Zumwalt.

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Report: Florida’s College Students Face Deep Education Cuts

From Public News Service

August 31. 2016

A decline in education funding means college students in Florida are facing higher tuition costs. (jzlomek/morguefile)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Over the last eight years, Florida has reduced its spending per student in higher education by about 22 percent.

And a new report from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says these kinds of cuts are having an impact on students’ potential for success.

In addition to cutting services, public universities in the state are raising tuition.

Michael Mitchell, senior policy analyst at the Center, says the high cost of college is putting a lid on what graduates can achieve post-college.

“High levels of debt, even with a diploma, can prohibit newly-graduated individuals from starting their own businesses and becoming entrepreneurs, which of course has implications not only for their own lives, but for the communities that they live in that would have benefited from having an additional entrepreneur,” he points out.

Overall, Florida’s reduction in state funding adds up to nearly $2,100 less each year per student, when adjusted for inflation.

Mitchell says while the funding increase in the last budget cycle helped, Florida’s public colleges are still left to figure out how to address the needs of their students, with fewer dollars.

“As states have made these cuts to higher education, schools have had to make decisions about increasing tuition, or they’ve had to cut their own campus budgets, which means that they’re providing fewer services, there are fewer extracurricular activities, class sizes may get larger,” he explains.

The report says nationwide, funding for two and four-year colleges is still $10 billion below what it was just prior to the recession, which forced many schools to raise tuition and cut faculty to find extra dollars.

In Florida, public college tuition has increased by nearly 65 percent in the last eight years – the fourth highest increase in the nation.

St. Petersburg College faculty petitions for union certification

From Saint Peters Blog

By Anne Lindberg

The United Faculty of Florida delivered more than 180 signed cards from faculty members at the St. Petersburg College to the Florida Public Employees Relations Committee, calling for certification of a faculty collective bargaining unit at the college.

In accordance with state law, the faculty must submit a petition accompanied by 30 percent signed statements indicating the faculty’s “desire to be represented for purposes of collective bargaining by the petitioning employee organization.” The signed cards from SPC represent about 50 percent of the proposed bargaining unit. This action follows a recent union certification vote at Tallahassee Community College, where faculty voted for representation by UFF by a 139-22 vote.

“I believe that if there is to be true shared governance at SPC, then faculty needs a collective bargaining unit in order to have a shared and collective voice at the college,” said George M. Greenlee, economics professor at the Clearwater campus. “Real shared governance will allow our students to reach their highest potential.”

Juan Flores, communications professor at the Tarpon Springs campus, said, “In essence, our voice — our experienced and hands-on concerns — are not being heard by the Legislature or even the governor. This is why we seek greater, more organized representation. This is why we seek to establish a union at SPC. Democracy teaches us to do that.”

David Manson, music professor at the Gibbs campus, said, “These are challenging times for higher education as forces seek to transform public colleges into diploma mills. The faculty at St. Petersburg believe that collective bargaining will give greater voice to those who teach and will serve our students better.”

Dr. Jennifer Proffitt, president of the United Faculty of Florida and communications professor at Florida State University, said, “SPC is the only public higher education institution in the greater Tampa Bay area that does not have a collective bargaining agreement for its faculty. This faculty deserves to be treated equitably by SPC administration and its board of trustees and has decided that a collective voice will enhance the college’s mission and growth.”

Graduate Students Clear Hurdle in Effort to Form Union

from The New York TImes

Punctuating a string of Obama-era moves to shore up labor rights and expand protections for workers, the National Labor Relations Boardruled Tuesday that students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities have a federally backed right to unionize.

The case arose from a petition filed by a group of graduate students atColumbia University, who are seeking to win recognition for a union that will allow them a say over such issues as the quality of their health insurance and the timeliness of stipend payments.

Echoing longstanding complaints from blue-collar workers that they have become replaceable cogs in a globalized economic machine, the effort reflects a growing view among more highly educated employees in recent decades that they, too, are at the mercy of faceless organizations and are not being treated like professionals and aspiring professionals whose opinions are worthy of respect.

“What we’re fundamentally concerned about isn’t really money,” said Paul R. Katz, one of the Columbia graduate students involved in the organizing efforts. “It’s a question of power and democracy in a space in the academy that’s increasingly corporatized, hierarchical. That’s what we’re most concerned about.”
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More Faculty Diversity, Not on Tenure Track

From Inside Higher Ed.

August 22, 2016

Diversifying the professoriate has long been a priority on many campuses, and such goals have only grown more urgent in light of recent national and local discussions about race. Yet college and university faculties have become just slightly more diverse in the last 20 years, according to a new study from the TIAA Institute. Most importantly, as faculty jobs have become more stratified with the growth of non-tenure-track positions over the same period, most gains for underrepresented minority groups have been in the most precarious positions. That is, not on the tenure track.

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Geo Group Stock Plummets as Government to End Use of Private Prisons

By Eileen Sullivan – Associated Press

Updated: 3:21 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016  |  Posted: 2:05 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016


Shares in GEO Group Inc. in Boca Raton plummeted Thursday after the Obama administration said it will phase out its contracts with private prisons, affecting thousands of federal inmates.

As of shortly after 3 p.m., Geo Global shares were down $12.54, or 38 percent, to $19.75. The shares were down as much as 42.7 percent after the announcement.

The private prisons are operated by three private companies — Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, and Management and Training Corp. Shares of Corrections Corp. stock also plunged, and were down $10.02, or 36 percent, to $17.15 in late afternoon trading.

Both companies get about half their revenue from the federal government.

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UFF Members Represent at the 2016 NEA Representative Assembly

By Jennifer Proffitt, UFF President

The 154th National Education Association Representative Assembly (NEA RA) kicked off on Monday, July 4 and ended Thursday, July 7, 2016. The RA was also a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the historic merger between NEA and the American Teachers Association (ATA), the union that represented Black teachers in segregated schools. The Assembly provides a forum for NEA members to shape the policies, activities, legislative agenda, and future of our union and is characterized by long hours of debates and decision-making punctuated by periods of inspiration and solidarity!  Some highlights from the NEA RA include:

  • Elizabeth Davenport, UFF Vice President and President of the UFF-FAMU Chapter, was elected NEA Director At-Large Higher Education! Congratulations!
  • The Assembly kicked off with an emotional tribute to those affected by the tragedy at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The entire Florida Education Association Delegation wore #OrlandoUnited shirts in solidarity with our friends and family in Orlando. The Assembly voted to support a new business item that directs NEA to “implement an action plan to prevent acts of discrimination and violence targeted at people who are perceived or identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ).”

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What If They Gave a Higher Ed Summit and the Faculty Weren’t Invited?

By Jennifer Proffitt, UFF President

On May 5, 2016, Governor Scott announced that he was convening an invitation-only summit regarding higher education in Florida titled, Degrees to Jobs Summit, held at the swank Loews Portofino Bay Resort at Universal Studios May 25-26. The purpose of the event, according to the Governor, was to discuss “how we can better prepare students to get a great education for a high-skill, high-wage job and graduate with a great career in the Sunshine State.” Most of us would agree that higher education is about much more than getting a job in Florida, but even if we were to accept this job training model of our colleges and universities, it is important to note that not one faculty member was invited to speak. At least as far as we can tell from media reports and the Governor’s office’s response to our statement below, no faculty were even invited to attend. We called the Governor’s office several times to see if we could score an invitation, but our calls were not returned. Despite the fact that Scott said that the panel with three football coaches and the attendance of a few administrators demonstrated that there were “plenty of faculty” at the summit, I think it is safe to say that the lack of faculty representation at a summit about higher education is extremely problematic and incredibly shortsighted.

But it became crystal clear why faculty were not invited when we heard State College of Florida Board of Trustee member Eric Robinson (who is running for Sarasota County School Board) encourage other colleges to get rid of continuing contracts for new faculty as the Trustees did at State College of Florida, saying, “I think it’s the right thing to do…We’re the first ones to do this and people are still applying to come to our college. Our college has not closed down. The doom and gloom hasn’t happened.” (Important safety note: the decision to eliminate contracts for new faculty was only rammed through in January of this year). To make matters worse, another excellent speaker featured on this panel was Allen Norton & Blue shareholder Mike Mattimore, chief negotiator for management at several of our institutions, who advocated for advancing management priorities through the use of the impasse process (see http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/52516-governors-degrees-jobs-summit-part-2/ around 1:14; Eric Robinson was on the same panel around 1:05). It’s not clear how anti-union and anti-faculty policies help students get jobs; instead, this panel demonstrates how disingenuous the summit really was.

What is clear from this summit and recent press accounts is that higher education is in the crosshairs of the Governor’s office and the Florida Legislature.  This new focus brings with it many challenges and perhaps many opportunities, and with your help, the United Faculty of Florida will be able to navigate these potentially treacherous political waters for the betterment of our institutions.

What If Everything You Thought You Knew About Teachers Unions Turned Out to be Wrong?

EDUSHYSTER

An economist finds that teachers unions raise teacher quality and increase kids’ educational attainment… 

EduShyster: It’s a well-known true fact that teachers unions make it much harder to get rid of bad teachers. But you conducted a study for the National Bureau of Economic Research that purports to find the opposite. In fact, you titled your study The Myth of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers. Tell us about what you found.

Eunice Han: What I found is that the facts are the opposite of what people

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