Bargaining Update – July 1, 2020

The FSU Board of Trustees (BOT) team and the UFF-FSU team, along with 20 faculty visitors, met on Wednesday for a discussion that centered on the BOT’s response to our counterproposal on Layoff and Recall. Because of multiple markups from two teams, it is a bit hard to read, but the yellow highlights identify what the BOT team has newly added.

The BOT introduced their proposal by reiterating their stance that they did not open the Layoff article because they intended to act on it.  We want to believe.

The good news is that the BOT accepted some elements of the UFF’s counterproposal, namely restoring original language that stipulated two years as the recall period and as the period during which a faculty member is eligible for retraining and also restoring original language about notifying the UFF when a layoff involves an Affirmative Action Program.

The bad news is the rest of their proposal.

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Statement from FSU Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Advisory Board

This is the statement written by the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) Advisory Board in response to the university’s Remote Work policy and Repopulation plan. Though the university at first told the Board that they had to take their statement down from their own website, it has approved this revised version and now it also appears on their website.

Statement from Members of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Advisory Board on Remote Working, Caring and Equity. 

COVID-19 has laid bare existing social, economic and racial inequities and injustices in the United States, and in our institutions of Higher Education. Grave gender disparities in the average distribution of caregiving work have been documented, while job security and the right to work remotely, ensuring safety and convenience, are opportunities afforded only to the most privileged. FSU’s recent announcement that “effective August 7, 2020, the University will return to normal policy and no longer allow employees to care for children while working remotely” presents a threat to the physical, emotional and job security of the university’s employees. This threat is felt most urgently by the lowest-paid members of staff, who are disproportionately female-identifying and/or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). 

We acknowledge that an HR Town Hall on Wednesday July 1 and an announcement Thursday July 2 apologized for the timing of the initial announcement, which coincided with an on-going surge in Coronavirus cases locally and state-wide, and for any confusion and distress arising as a result of that. At the Town Hall Kyle Clark clarified that if Leon County schools do not reopen physically or open later than the planned start date of August 10, then the remote working whilst caring for children policy will continue until they do reopen. The July 2 announcement stated that “We want to be clear – our policy does allow employees to work from home while caring for children;” however, the policy itself is problematic and iniquitous. 

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Bargaining Update – June 24 2020

The teams met on Wednesday for a discussion we had hoped would include the BOT’s response to our counter-proposal on Layoff and Recall (UFF’s Counter-proposal on Article 13).  Alas, that response was not forthcoming, which disappointed us as well as the 15 faculty visitors.  

Instead, we mostly discussed the BOT’s Counter-proposal on Tapered Employment. The UFF team had proposed the program as a new section in the Benefits article that would allow a faculty member heading towards retirement to reduce work hours (with a corresponding pay cut) without losing the employer contribution to health-insurance. The BOT’s counter-proposal included no wording on health-care benefits, added the requirement of a dean’s annual approval, and specified a maximum of three years. In short, it offers no incentive for faculty uptake.  Indeed, its provisions are hardly different from what is currently in place, as described in Article 8.5(a)4  and in the Department of Management Services guidelines (kindly provided by the BOT team and stipulating that someone working 75% or higher is eligible for the full state contribution).

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Bargaining Update – June 17, 2020

The FSU Board of Trustees (BOT) team and the UFF-FSU team met on Wednesday for a discussion that centered on the UFF’s Counterproposal on Article 13 (Layoff and Recall). This Zoom public meeting drew about 25 faculty observers. 

The UFF-FSU Counterproposal begins by stating that layoffs should be a last resort and proceeds to enumerate a finite list of reasons for pursuing them.  We reintroduced the term “layoff unit” and defined it by authority structure rather than by type of unit (e.g, an “area” or “program,” or the like).  We believe it is important to have clearly established units so administrators cannot designate individuals for layoff. Hence, a “layoff unit” must be an established and functionally separate entity that has a separate budget and a director with the authority to evaluate faculty and assign their AORs.  And membership in this unit must be on the faculty member’s employment contract. The teams discussed what such a designation might mean in various organizational units.

We eliminated the BOT-added phrase that allowed a tenured faculty member in a layoff unit to be laid off while non-tenured faculty members remain, as we consider that to be a step towards eliminating tenure.  We also reinserted language requiring the BOT to notify the union in various instances.

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Bargaining Update June 9, 2020

The BOT and the UFF-FSU teams met on Tuesday, and the discussion centered on changes the BOT team seeks in Article 13 (Layoff and Recall)(visible in Track Changes).  This Zoom public meeting drew 15-20 faculty observers.

Many of the proposed changes are worrisome, and the UFF team was seriously concerned about two, in particular. Section 13.2 specifies that a tenured faculty member in an organizational unit cannot be laid off while non-tenured faculty members remain. Yet, the BOT team proposes adding this phrase: “unless those faculty members without tenure possesses [sic] specific qualifications that better meet the academic needs of the University.” How, we asked, is the new phrase not tantamount to abandoning tenure? And how are “the academic needs of the University” determined? The answer was that in rare instances, a non-tenured individual with particular expertise that is clearly needed and is shared by no one else in the organizational unit would be retained over a tenured individual who lacked that expertise. They offered the example of someone who is the only one able to operate a piece of scientific equipment. A scientist on the UFF team pointed out that equipment is designed to be learned; it would be worth little if it lacked that property.  A UFF professor in the humanities pointed out that the definition of “academic need” can change, as happens routinely when the curriculum is redesigned.  Another team member pointed out that it is common to have a PhD in one discipline and a departmental home in another; would that person lack the “qualification” that would allow them to retain their job?  This proposed wording, we concluded, allows the Administration to define “qualifications” and “academic need” so as to draw a narrow circle around one non-tenured person as the obvious person to remain while tenured faculty are laid off.

The other big issue is the definition of a layoff unit. This definition matters because it is a unit that is laid off, and without a clear definition of “unit,” the administration can be free to cherry-pick individuals.  Hence, any changes have to be carefully thought through, and the teams will work towards writing clear language on what constitutes a layoff unit.

Other important issues we discussed centered on (a) how much notice the BOT must give before a layoff, which the BOT proposal shortens; (b) the BOT’s proposal to no longer notify the UFF when they replace laid-off tenured faculty with adjuncts; (c) the BOT’s proposals to no longer help laid-off faculty find alternative University employment and to reduce from two years to one the period during which a laid-off faculty member can be recalled or can be offered retraining; and (d) the BOT’s proposal to eliminate provisions of the layoff article for Specialized Faculty who have been non-renewed, even if they have years left on their contracts.

We noted that many of the BOT proposals center on changing contract language that worked against them in the arbitrator’s determination that in a round of 2008 layoffs the BOT had violated the contract and must reinstate tenured faculty members. The BOT team denied that the arbitrator’s decision informed their proposal.  

Above is the Tallahassee Democrat front page.  Full coverage can be found here: https://login.proxy.lib.fsu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy.lib.fsu.edu/docview/762720202?accountid=4840

At the end of the meeting we turned briefly to BOT questions about an article the UFF had opened at the last meeting, and the teams then discussed plans for the next bargaining session. 

Bargaining sessions are open to all faculty, and if you would like to attend the next one (Wednesday, June 17, 2:00-4:00), please respond to this message and we will send you the link when we receive it.  The UFF is also hosting a forum to answer members’ questions about the Layoff article this Friday, June 12, at 5:00; UFF-FSU President Matthew Lata has sent the link to that Friday meeting; members who need a reminder are free to write us.

Regular updates can be found at our webpage:  http://uff-fsu.org/

The key to a strong Collective Bargaining Agreement is a strong membership base, so if you are not a member, please join! There has never been a more important time for us to stand together.  http://uff-fsu.org/wp/join/

All best,
Irene Padavic and Scott Hannahs, Co-Chief Negotiators, UFF-FSU