When Professionals Rise Up, More Than Money Is at Stake

The teacher uprising that began in West Virginia
has exposed a trend among white-collar workers:
a feeling that their credentials are being devalued.

New York Times


When 20,000 West Virginia teachers staged a rare statewide walkout, questions of pay and benefits dominated the headlines. But those concerns could not fully account for the teachers’ ferocious resolve. After all, stagnant wages and receding benefits have been an issue for workers for decades.

The missing variable appears to have been anxiety about their status as professionals.

Fred Albert, a math teacher and local union official in the Charleston area, said many felt that the Legislature had devalued their training and certification by proposing to let people teach a subject they hadn’t studied and had no experience in.

“If someone really wants to be a teacher, if they feel the call to be in the classroom with students, they need to go through the same programs we went through,” he said.

In that sense, Mr. Albert and his colleagues were in the mainstream of recent labor history. From doctors and nurses to government workers and journalists, some of the most aggressive and successful labor actions in recent years have erupted when professionals felt their judgment, expertise and autonomy were under assault.

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Happy Hour and Recruitment Drive

Two weeks ago, SB 7055 passed, which will decertify any K-12 teachers’ union chapter under 50% membership; because FAU’s union includes both university faculty and K-12 teachers, our status is unclear and in potential peril. 

We need to have over 50% membership by December 2018. We will provide brief pointers at the Happy Hour on how to recruit. Also, please bring a non-member with you  to happy hour. Both you and the non-member will receive a free t-shirt as gratitude. 

We will be meeting at the Irishmen (1745 Boca Raton Blvd) at 4:30-7:30 PM, March 23.



Annual Membership Meeting and Election of Officers

The Annual Meeting and Election of UFF-FAU Officers is this Friday, March 16th, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. in the Majestic Palm Room on the Boca Campus.
We’re providing lunch. Come early!
Vote. Eat. Talk to a Union officer. Life is good.

The nominees are:

Deandre Poole President
Meredith Mountford 1st VP
Bob Zoeller 2nd VP
Shane Eason Treasurer
Kathleen Moorhead Secretary
Daniela Nikolova Senator Carman Gill Senator
James Kumi-Diaka Senator Doug McGetchin Senator
Bassem Alhalabi Senator Ali Farazmand Senator
Meredith Mountford Senator Chris Robe Senator
Deandre Poole Senator Debra Vance Noelk Senator
Shane Eason Senator Ramona Rendon Senator
Kathleen Moorhead Senator Eric Dumbaugh Senator
Bob Zoeller Senator Warren McGovern Senator
Justin Waldron Senator

* Senator is not to be confused with University Faculty Senate. This a Union position.

We look forward to seeing you there!
Meredith Mountford
UFF-FAU Chapter President

Stop the Florida Legislature’s Sneak Attack on Public Schools

Dear Colleague –

While Florida parents and teachers are comforting our students and trying to understand how to best keep our children safe, the Florida Legislature is trying to pull a fast one to further harm public education, our students, and our teachers.

Please take action today by contacting your Senator to oppose SB 7055.

SB 7055 is the education ‘train’ bill where over 40 terrible education ideas are lumped into one bill.

This bill is trying to sneak through an expansion of the tax credit scholarship, which will send more and more tax dollars to private, often religious, schools with zero accountability.

And just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, this week Senators added an amendment to SB 7055 that will de-certify our teacher’s union.

That’s right. Less than two weeks after praising the Stoneman Douglas teachers as heroes, the leadership in the Senate thinks it’s a good idea to try to attack our teachers and take away their voice.

While we’re in mourning, they are trying to drain more public education resources and stop the one organized voice our teachers have. It’s time for us to step up.

Here are some easy things you can do:

  1.     Write your Senator to vote against SB 7055. We make it easy.  Just click here.
  2.     Call your Senator – let your voice be heard. You can find your Senator’s number here.
  3.     Follow Fund Education Now, a Florida grassroots group, for more information.
  4.     Share this message with friends, teachers, and all those who care about our schools

Here is a link to this email that you can share:


Thank you for all that you do.

Colleen Wood, NPE Action VP & Florida parent

Carol Burris, NPE Action Executive Director

The Misguided Drive to Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’

From The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2018

By Molly Worthen

I teach at a big state university, and I often receive emails from software companies offering to help me do a basic part of my job: figuring out what my students have learned.

If you thought this task required only low-tech materials like a pile of final exams and a red pen, you’re stuck in the 20th century. In 2018, more and more university administrators want campuswide, quantifiable data that reveal what skills students are learning. Their desire has fed a bureaucratic behemoth known as learning outcomes assessment. This elaborate, expensive, supposedly data-driven analysis seeks to translate the subtleties of the classroom into PowerPoint slides packed with statistics — in the hope of deflecting the charge that students pay too much for degrees that mean too little.

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Happy Hour

To help you get your mind right for the new semester, UFF-FAU invites you to our Happy Hour, Friday Feb. 9th at The Irishmen in Boca (1745 NW Boca Raton Blvd). Starts at 4:30 PM. happy-hour

Come and make new friends or catch up with old ones.

We encourage you to bring a non-union member to join– particularly in light of the recent anti-union legislation circulating in Tallahassee.


Meredith Mountford

UFF-FAU Chapter President

Reshuffling the Deck at the Department

[Preface: Frank Brogan served as President of Florida Atlantic University in the early 2000s as well as chancellor of the State University System of Florida from 2009 to 2013. He then became chancellor of the Pennsylvania State University System, causing faculty at the 14 state universities to go on strike for the first time ever. Now he enters the federal government with deeply problematic assumptions that do no reflect faculty interests]

From Inside Higher Ed, Feb. 1, 2018

By Andrew Kreighbaum

The Education Department on Wednesday announced a reshuffling of key employees involved in federal higher education policy making.

The staffing moves are part of a retooling of leadership at the Office of Federal Student Aid, which oversees the government’s $1.4 trillion student loan portfolio, but they also reflect the Trump administration’s slow progress installing permanent leaders on postsecondary issues.

Kathleen Smith, who has served as acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education since June, was named deputy chief operating officer at the Federal Student Aid office. Replacing her, also on an acting basis, is Frank Brogan, who retired last year as chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

The White House nominated Brogan in December as assistant secretary for K-12 at the department. But the Senate education committee has yet to vote on his nomination, so the department in the meantime has decided to put him to work on postsecondary issues. Rules governing the executive branch allow a political appointee awaiting confirmation to fill unrelated roles at an agency, and Brogan has an extensive résumé in both K-12 and higher ed policy.

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Florida House Passes Anti-Union HB 25

(If you were thinking about joining the Union or referring a friend, please do so quickly. It is easy to see below why your membership is crucial to our survival. Click on the “join uff-fau” link above to receive a membership form, which is easy to fill out and submit to president@uff-fau.org )

The House passed HB 25 on January 25. The substance of the bill requires public employee unions to decertify if their membership falls below 50% at the time for recertification. The bill passed by a vote of 65-41 mostly on a party-line vote with a single Republican no vote. That despite the fact we are a union of members who choose to participate – no one can be forced to join our union. Florida is a right-to- work state where union membership or payment of union dues cannot be compelled. The Florida Constitution gives employees the right to join a union to give them a strong voice regarding wages and working conditions. This measure would take away that right. The bill is also potentially unconstitutional as it exempts first responder unions and is a direct attack on UFF and FEA unions and displays strong gender bias since 75% of FEA members are women.

The Senate companion, SB 1036, by Senator Greg Steube is referred to three Senate committees and has not had a hearing. While that news is optimistic, contacts to your senator are critical now that HB 25 has passed the House. Call (855)235-2469 and enter your zip code to find your senator.

AAUP’s Support of Non-Tenure Track Employees to Unionize

UFF-FAU Preface: The American Association of University Professors is a relatively small, century-old association of university professors, which in recent years has become more progressive, including through collective bargaining, and often allies itself with UFF’s large national affiliate unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Here the Association focuses on the growth of non-tenure track faculty, a problem directly addressed by the Service Employees International Union, whose Faculty Forward campaign is currently organizing adjunct faculty at Broward College and other Florida colleges.

Universities have become increasingly corporatized, and the significant expansion of university administration has seriously eroded faculty authority to control or make effective recommendations about university policy.

That is one of the central arguments in an amicus brief submitted by the AAUP urging the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to uphold the National Labor Relation Board’s determination that non-tenure-track faculty at the University of Southern California are not managerial employees and are therefore eligible to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act.

This case arose when Service Employees International Union filed a petition to represent non-tenure-track full-time and part-time faculty in the USC Roski School of Art and Design.

The administration objected to the petition, arguing that the faculty were managers according to the precedent of the US Supreme Court’s 1980 ruling in NLRB v. Yeshiva University. But the labor relations board concluded that USC had not proven that the non-tenure-track faculty actually exercise control or make effective recommendations about policies that affect the university as a whole. After the faculty voted for the union, the NLRB ordered USC to collectively bargain. USC appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Institutional changes over the past few decades have led to increased top-down management of the university by the growing ranks of administrators, as well as the rapid expansion of non-tenure track faculty positions. The result has been a system wherein rather than relying on faculty expertise, growing ranks of administrators increasingly make unilateral decisions on university policies and programs, often influenced by considerations of external market forces and revenue generation.

Some stunning stats from the brief:

Between 1976 and 2015, the number of full-time executives and managers in higher education grew by 140 percent.

Conversely, the number of full-time and tenure-track positions has plummeted, with lower-wage non-tenure track faculty making up 70 percent of all faculty positions. This is nearly the reverse of the proportions in 1969, when 78 percent of faculty positions were tenured and tenure-track.

From 1976 to 2011, the number of full-time non-faculty professional positions increased by 366 percent overall, with growth of 558 percent in that category at private institutions.

In supporting the collective bargaining rights of non-tenure-track faculty at USC, the AAUP brief challenges the “paper authority” that universities attribute to faculty without granting them actual authority in university policy making.

Why We Didn’t Burn

By Christopher Newfield

from Remaking the University Webpage

In December I took a break from blogging about universities to write a set of overdue papers. That was interrupted by December’s Thomas Fire, which destroyed houses in Ventura County, including at least one UCSB faculty member’s, and threatened at several points to burn down Montecito and Santa Barbara as well.   Thomas wound up as the largest fire in California history, but not the most destructive or deadly.  That last part was entirely because of the powers of the public service known as fire protection.

I was traveling when the fire headed off west from Ventura County and entered Santa Barbara County.  I obsessively watched live KEYT news coverage and the daily 4 pm meetings, while at other times Facebook messaging the TV station when their burn map wasn’t updating properly or they misidentified a canyon I recognized.   My mother and youngest brother also live in the City of Santa Barbara; both were born and raised in Los Angeles; she has been through about 20 wildfires, and has been evacuated in both LA and SB at least 6 times.  At one point on December 16th (the date of the photo above), I called her to say, “the new mandatory evacuation zone boundary is your street!”  She said, “oh, that’s the other side of the street.”  “Mom!”  I replied.  “Well,” she said, “my side is voluntary. I’m fine.”  Later on a deputy who disagreed came knocking on her door, and she wound up flying north to stay with her sister for the next 10 days.

I couldn’t keep myself from comparing fire fighting and higher education during the community meetings.  Every day, at least a dozen people representing different agencies spoke in an high school auditorium to anyone who wanted to show up.  This included officials from Cal Fire, which I understood to be the lead coordinator of the many agencies involved in the effort, as well as the county sheriff, the local highway patrol captain, the US forestry service, county health, county air quality, animal rescue, city and county schools, the county fire battalion chief, various spokespeople from one or more of the many fire agencies from outside the county, and someone just back from emergency work in Puerto Rico.  Each afternoon they described the efforts of what became 8100 firefighters working out of at least 2 base camps, hundreds of engine units, dozens of helicopters, a Boeing and an Airbus bombing the inaccessible slopes with retardant, and the invisible logistics, communication and management personnel along with the folks staffing the evacuation center at UCSB.

The first days laid out the underlying conditions–seven years of drought was now coupled with record low humidity to make the hillsides ready to burn even when the wind dropped, which it did not do reliably.   Every day’s meeting updated the public on the evolving strategy, which in a sentence was to use bulldozed fire breaks and water drops and hand crews to push the fire towards the previous burns that Santa Barbara County has in abundance.  New fuels don’t burn as well as old fuels–battalion chiefs apparently don’t see trees and brush, just variations of fuels.  There were maps and plenty of repetition, especially from the police who wanted people to be patient with the blocked access and crowd control in the evacuated areas.  The updates seemed to me to be relatively unvarnished.  The tone at least was far removed from the PR messaging that has taken over public communications these days. It stayed rooted in a common problem that the fire agencies were trying to solve with the community.   If the first round description of the day’s strategy was a bit too technical, the details were unfolded in questions and answers that went on as long as the audience was willing to stay via direct access to the officials in the room.

These fire meetings were a model of public engagement that I wish universities would use.  The problems we address have a more distant horizon, but that’s the only difference.

There’s another issue raised by fire protection.  Markets and fees were not involved.  What was not happening was the allocation of this public service according to ability to pay.  Protection was available to everyone equally on the basis of general provision through taxation.  This was true even though private property was at stake–our excuse for charging tuition–such that every homeowner experienced a private market gain (a non-loss) when her house didn’t burn down.

You don’t have to imagine how the critique of “free firefighting” would sound– you hear it all the time with universities.  “Fire protection does have some benefit to the national forest, but most of the benefit is to private property owners. Because public fire funding is expensive and lacks market discipline, we are cutting the funding and the basic service, so you are eligible for one free fire department call to your house every three years.  If you need more fire service, we have many plans to fit every budget.  Those with large private property benefits should buy Premier-level privatized firefighting–our ‘Ivy League Plan’ offers the fire protection equivalent of moving you from the bottom income quintile to the top one percent.  For those who need more service but cannot afford it, the state has set up a Fire Aid Program to consider your application on a case by case basis, where you will submit your family financial and fire need information via our 12-page FASFA form (Free Application for Fire Supplemental Aid) . .  .”

Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can allocate a public good through market mechanisms–the past four decades of public policy have shown this. The questions are why we would want to, and what we lose when we do.  Education and fire protection are public goods and yet, contrary to a truism of economics, they are “rivalous” (the engine at my house is therefore not at your house), and “excludable” (full quality fire protection may cost more than your community can pay).  Full quality firefighting depended on pulling dozens of crews from all over California and at least nine other states, on the strictly non-market basis of emergency service mutual aid.

Society has tended to treat higher ed as a private good because it can, because it saves wealthy, powerful people money, and also because it has not grasped the cost.  The cost is clear in a fire: private fire protection would have

  1. a vast bureaucracy for internalizing returns by matching payments and services, which would have undermined Cal Fire-type managerial efficiencies;
  2. increased overall fire danger by overprotecting wealthy and under-protecting poorer home owners, whose losses would be not only a greater relative catastrophe but would also send embers onto richer roofs;
  3. prevented the massive general public firefighting effort on which the private firefighting is entirely parasitic;
  4. destroyed the wall-to-wall public support for an effort that was trying to help absolutely everybody at the same time.

The silver lining in the giant Thomas smoke cloud was the public good that isn’t clotted with private interests.    We want our towns not to burn down because of global warming.  We want our kids to be smarter than we are, since that is our only hope.  In such cases, we finally don’t want to use price signals to allocate according to individual ability to pay rather than to get the broadest allocation of the best possible quality for maximized general benefit.

The glory of civilization is not the market signal but almost its opposite–the intelligence that emerges in general collaboration as people figure things out together for the immediate and the long term.  The University of California, Cal State Channel Islands, Santa Barbara City College–not to mention Hollywood High Schoo–are all more like Cal Fire than they are like Genentech.  We need a rebuilt public funding model that reflects that basic fact.

Today the helicopters are back, this time chasing floods. Many thanks to all the public personnel who saved (most of) our bacon last year–including the state prisoners on the fire’s front lines.  Welcome to 2018, and please keep your eyes wide open.