I am afraid this email may be a little lengthy, as it has been a while, and a million things have changed, and it’s the end of the semester and more things are changing, and I’m not exactly sure how many actual functioning brain cells are left in my head. I do want to say Congratulations on making it through day 389 of March 2020! It has been a long semester, a long year, and I know you all are deserving of putting up the “DO NOT DISTURB” sign and taking some time to rest rest rest. I will be doing that once my grades are in. I will start with the easiest items and work my way through. A pre-thank you for reading everything.
Spring Chapter Meeting Higlights
First up, we had a successful chapter meeting on April 2nd and elected our slate of officers and senators. I am afraid you are stuck with me for another year. Your new officers and senators will be on the website as soon as we can get things organized. I am looking forward to working with the new and returning folx. Let’s give them all a round of applause!
Additionally, at the chapter meeting, we announced the UFF-FIU mini-grant program beginning in Fall 2021. Dues-paying faculty who are conducting research in labor, justice, and/or union work are eligible to apply for small grants from the union. There is a faculty-sponsored student application option as well. Stay tuned to the website for the guidelines and process.
UFF Statewide Elections
Next, the state UFF officers have also been elected. We have a new UFF president, Andrew Gothard from FAU who will begin his term July 1. He is working very closely with Heather Blatt on our membership drive to help counter the awful anti-union legislation (see below for more details). I have gotten to know Andrew over the past year through our leadership meetings, and I am excited for the direction he would like to take the union.
Annual Evaluations & Assignments
May 11th is the last day of 9-month faculty contracts. Chair evaluations are due June 25th and Faculty Assignments are due July 1st. You have until July 25th to address any issues with your evaluation or assignment. The new contract for 9-month faculty will begin August 12th. Please be mindful of these dates. I know it is wonderful to disconnect from FIU over the summer months (if possible), but the timing of responses and queries are outlined in our CBA. I will remind you of these dates in the future but do make a note or a calendar reminder to check on your evaluations and assignments.
That being said, in accordance with our MOU, faculty are to be held harmless for evaluations this year. That means that any data/information/reports that you share may not be used to award you a negative evaluation. Chairs have been reminded, but faculty need to be aware as well.
Speaking of MOUs: Many of you have reached out in the past couple of weeks, especially as news about our return to campus and scheduling options became more transparent. When we first received word in February about the return, we were dealing with a very different set of circumstances than we are right now. Vaccinations were not readily available to faculty, staff, and students, the BoT was asking for plans for fully repopulating campus, and we were learning about modalities for summer and fall. One of the questions we asked the administrative bargaining team was about another MOU. Our request was denied.
We feel strongly that the MOUs of the past year have been crucial in protecting faculty and by extension, their families and the broader community. We are confident that the protections we had are addressed in the current CBA, and those protections that were not clear are being addressed in our current Big Book negotiations. I want to thank all of you who have been reaching out and asking questions and bringing concerns to us. I also want to thank you for your patience as the leadership team works to respond to your concerns (myself included). These are overwhelming times and we are all just trying to do our best.
Let’s talk legislative session, shall we? This is a particularly ugly time for Higher Education, free thought, and the Florida legislature. What a nightmare the past couple of weeks have been for our state leaders, your fellow union compadres, and the many people who are working phones and knocking on doors of state senators and representatives. Add in a possible ugly budget cut, now is NOT the time to see who will be doing the work to make things safe for us.
In response to the questions of the HB233/SB264: the “Intellectual Diversity” bill, there aren’t a lot of answers. We are discussing potential implications and options and will keep you updated. I CAN tell you this: contact your representatives and senators. Tell them how problematic the bills are. Make your voices heard. UFF has people signed up to speak on many bills, but contacting your legislators is the way to get things to happen.
SB 1014/ HB 835 -Membership and Dues is EXTREMELY problematic. Not just for UFF-FIU, but for any public service employee in the state. IF this bill passes, the union’s ability to protect you, under normal everyday working conditions can be destroyed. If higher education and public K-12 education unions lose their voice, other unions are also at risk. Removing our ability to bargain for you, as a collective will be devastating for a list of reasons. The links above go to FEA’s website and will help connect you with your legislators. Make some calls. Send some emails. Thank you!
FEA is assisting UFF-FIU in increasing its membership density. SB1014/HB835 speaks directly to membership percentages. Faculty who are not members will be receiving phone calls from trained organizers and it would be great if you would also consider reaching out to your colleagues in your department and asking them to join UFF-FIU. We are very lucky the working relationship we have with our administrative team is collegial and we can communicate our concerns and be heard.
If you would like some talking points to share with your colleagues feel free to reach out to me or Heather Blatt, Membership Chair, and we can provide you with those. Our MOUs over the past year were shared nationally and have become a model for other unions around the country. We can only continue this if we continue to grow our membership.
Thank You UFF Leaders
I would like to take this last minute (is there time in reading a letter) to offer my sincerest heartfelt thanks to Daniel Saunders and Tania Santiago-Perez. Dan was our chief negotiator (and Vice-President and past President), and an excellent one at that, and spent many hours with me helping me navigate being a president of a faculty union in the middle of a pandemic. He is moving out of unit to become a department chair, but I am not letting him totally off the hook. I still have him on speed dial. Tania was the recording secretary for UFF-FIU and she is taking a semester off next spring to finish her Ph.D. in Recreational Therapy. I will miss her comprehensive minutes and her willingness to take on extra tasks…(she found our union shirts!). If you see either of these two virtually or in person, please say thank you to them for their tireless service to the union and for their excellent work! I am also going to miss Josh Papacek, who has been supporting UFF-FIU for the past few years in sooooo many things. He is moving onto work in his field of science and will be deeply missed. His knowledge of our contract and the secrets of all the passwords and functions of the day-to-day union stuff has been immensely helpful. If there seems to be a lag in responses here in the future, bear with us as we attempt to find a suitable replacement.
I’m sorry this one has been so wordy, but with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic, the looniness of the state budget and legislative session, the question of funding and concerns for faculty, I thought it best to wait until some things settled down a little. Please, as usual, do not hesitate to contact me with a concern (or a compliment…I take those too). I ask a little patience as it is the end of the semester and I am a faculty member first. I know I owe a few of you a response and will prioritize you this week. Thank you all for your commitment to the collective voice of faculty and to yourselves. I am most humbled by the work you all do.