Please join us for the first FUSA Council meeting of the 2021-22 term on Friday, August 27, via Zoom at 9:00 a.m. Guests are invited to attend. Check your email for the Zoom meeting invite from FUSA president, Elizabeth Key-Raimer.
Florida politicians who don’t believe in science are putting politics before public safety. Instead of keeping our most vulnerable communities safe and healthy, Florida’s Governor is trying to prohibit mask mandates and threatening to defund schools implementing protective measures in the classroom. At UFF we believe that the power of collective action is what makes us strong, so on August 16th, we encourage you to express your power by joining with your union siblings around the state to demand action from state leaders. If we adopt common sense measures like masking and encouraging vaccinations, we can and will bring joy back to our campuses.
Join our Higher Ed Day of Action on Monday, August 16th to urge our Governor to follow the CDC guidelines, help keep our campus communities safe this fall, and implement universal masking indoors.
1. CALL THE GOVERNOR (850) 717-9337
“Hello, My name is ___________. I am a Florida resident and I’m calling to urge Governor DeSantis to implement CDC recommendations, including masking indoors, at Florida’s College and University campuses. The health and safety of our students, faculty, and campus communities are vital to our states’ future.”
In addition to taking collective action, we have released a statement to the press and sent a letter directly to Governor DeSantis, the Board of Governors, and the Board of Education on this subject. Don’t lose hope! Make your voices heard! By joining in this Day of Action, you, our members, can use your power to sway public policy and ensure that your friends, family, colleagues, and students remain safe as, together, we weather this next wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Gothard, UFF President Caitlin Gille, UFF First Vice President
As many of you are aware, HB 233, known as the “Viewpoint Diversity” bill, was signed into law by Governor DeSantis on June 22nd. Key provisions in this bill that affect higher education in Florida are—
It mandates annual intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity surveys for higher ed faculty and students. We do not yet know how these surveys will be structured, nor is there any clear indication of how the survey data will be used.
It allows students to record classroom lectures without a requirement for prior notice and without the faculty member’s consent, with specific limitations on where and how those recordings can be used.
It provides “anti-shielding” measures that forbid institutions from restricting the kinds of views and statements that students can have access to or observe on higher education campuses.
Various legal avenues are being explored by FEA Legal and UFF Staff; as the surveys, rules, and policies are developed in response to these provisions, we will continue to monitor the legal implications. The mandated surveys (see #1 above) are currently under development by the State University and Florida College systems, and UFF’s officers are meeting with both governing bodies to share our concerns and hopefully influence the design of these surveys. More specific guidance will be shared on these fronts later in July. We will also be sharing guidance on how to respond in contract enforcement, collective bargaining, and campus organizing scenarios. That said, UFF recommends the following preliminary measures for our members who are teaching this summer:
Classroom Instructors should consider recording all of their lectures on their own devices and should maintain their records for several semesters. Such recordings can be made as long as students are given proper notice, which can be accomplished by adding language to a course syllabus stating that the faculty member makes recordings of lectures. Having verifiable records could be helpful in defending against false accusations or sound bites taken out of context.
Remember that “a recorded lecture may not be published without the consent of the lecturer,” and it may be employed only— a. “for a student’s own personal educational use” b. “in connection with a complaint to the public institution of higher education where the recording was made” c. “as evidence in, or in preparation for, a criminal or civil proceeding” Recorded lectures used for other purposes may allow the faculty member to seek “damages plus court costs and reasonable attorney fees, with the total recovery not to exceed $200,000.”
You may not forbid or discourage students from recording your classes. Additionally, be sure to follow all campus policies regarding recording of classes. Remember that in most instances, it is better to comply now, then grieve later.
During your lectures, remember that this law amends Florida’s interpretation of rights to free speech expressive activities protected under the First Amendment to include “faculty research, lectures, writings, and commentary, whether published or unpublished” and that “A Florida College System institution or state university may not shield students, faculty, or staff from expressive activities.” Defamatory speech is not a protected form of expressive activity.
The text of HB 233 is attached to this message, and we encourage all members to read it before entering the classroom this summer. Members who encounter any scenarios not covered in our above guidance should reach out to their local UFF chapter leadership with all questions and concerns.
We recognize that this bill has made many of us feel uncomfortable, but a number of its parameters remain uncertain and those that are already clear can be managed. As a union, we stand strongest when we stand together; rest assured that the members of UFF will not be left to weather this storm alone.
Andrew Gothard, UFF President Caitlin Gille, UFF First Vice President
We will be posting updates regarding the current grievance process initiated by FUSA here on the website. Relevant documents will be posted and archived under the “Documents & Resources” page of the website. Please see the FUSA letter to Admin and the Admin response below:
“Today was an extraordinary close to an extraordinary session. While UFF normally has 5-7 bills which pertain to us, this year there were over 30. They kept being cut and re-cut, and jumped from Committee to Committee, so it was a very challenging session.
THANK YOU to our members who emailed and/or called your elected officials, or who shared our messages out on social media. Without your activism, and the activism of our union allies around the state (see attachment), things could’ve gone very badly for us. We narrowly avoided having our institutions’ Presidents hired in secret, and we were able to stop both the end of payroll dues deduction and the 50% membership decertification bills. And the Higher Ed budgets ended up being much better than expected.”
Pardon duplication from email but we are in the last week and we need to keep the pressure on our legislators! Read the UFF update from this weekend & join UFF on social media for updates. ( Facebook / Twitter )
What Can We Do Right Now?
Help Stop SB 220: Sunshine Law Exemption for University/College Presidential Searches
This bill would exempt the hiring process for new college and university presidents from Florida Sunshine Laws. These transparent processes allow for public and stakeholder overview of our public institutions; this change would be catastrophic for the independence of our 40 public institutions of higher education in Florida, and the vote count is close. This has passed the House, and may be up for a vote in the Senate as early as Tuesday. To learn more, read the Florida AFL-CIO’s talking points on the companion bill from the House.
CALL legislative offices, SEND emails, WRITE letters to the editor or Editorials, keeping in line with our strategic talking points for this legislative session. You can review our talking points and positions in our Legislative Toolkit: http://bit.ly/UFFLegislativeToolkit
Take to social media! RECORD a video of yourself and tag Senators and Reps, or TWEET at them to let them know how strongly you want them to vote NO on these bills! Please see the attached handout that was shared with testifiers this week, which includes the Twitter handles of all the Senators on the Rules Committee, some sample Twitter Scripts, and additional info you may find useful as you continue to activate and spread the message – we do NOT want these bills to pass!
Join FEA’s Daily Action Hour:
Every day FEA will be hosting an Action Hour from 5 PM to 6 PM EDT and from 11 AM to 12 PM EDT on Saturday and Sunday. During the Action Hour, people who join on the Zoom meeting are asked to contact certain legislators on the issue of the day. Not all of these are Higher Ed related, but we want to act in solidarity with our K-12 colleagues, just as they do for us. Here is the Zoom Link for this statewide meeting: https://feaweb.org/dailyaction
Higher Education Budget:
Less details are available on this budget, but we do know the worst of the cuts were avoided. Lawmakers originally planned cuts upwards of a half a billion dollars and that did not happen in the end.
Lawmakers did cut the Bright Futures textbook grants, meaning students who receive the Bright Future Scholarships will now have to foot the bill for all their textbooks.
Once the final numbers and accompanying language are released, we [FEA/UFF] will provide more details.
Tomorrow 4/20, SB 1014 is being heard in its FINAL committee. ALL UFF and public employee chapters across the state are in jeopardy and this could be our LAST CHANCE to stop this bill. Call your legislator TODAY and urge them to Vote NO on SB 1014: http://bit.ly/VoteNOSB1014. Can we count on you?
We are approaching the final moments we have to try to defeat HB 835 and SB 1014, the bills that would deal the roughest blow to our union and to our labor brothers and sisters across the state. Earlier this week, HB835 passed its final committee, despite having a packed room and a very robust public comment where our members and other labor allies turned up to speak in opposition to the bill.
NOW IS THE TIME: IT WILL TAKE ALL OF US TO STOP THIS!
On Tuesday, 4/20, the Senate Rules Committee will hear the anti-freedom, anti-union bill SB 1014, in its final committee stop, and it has already been put on the special order calendar for 4/21 “if received” – this means they are anticipating passing the bill Tuesday and bringing it for a floor vote ASAP. Your Presence is needed NOW, more than ever!!
Here’s how you can get involved:
COME TO TALLAHASSEE
If you can bring your work with you and camp out in the legislature with us, we can get you a hotel room for Monday and Tuesday evening (4/19-4/20) and cover your mileage and expenses. You may not get to testify, but we NEED to pack the room and ensure our legislators know that educators and public employees across the state stand against this bill! If you are able to travel to Tallahassee Mon-Wed, please fill out this form so we can organize your hotel: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FX9JJ5M
CALL THIS TARGETED LIST OF LEGISLATORS
This is the primary list of legislative targets to contact to voice our opposition to this bill and urge them to vote NO – please call, email, and try to set up a meeting with them – they need to keep a record of every contact received, so it is time to ensure our voices are heard loud and clear:
We need Tallahassee to hear our voices. The time to organize is now. The time to speak is now. Don’t delay any longer. Stand together and speak your truth today!
Additional Legislative Update Regarding two more bills important to UFF:
SB 220 – re: President Searches was not heard in Senate Rules. About a dozen UFF members waited for five hours to speak on it and against SB 1014, Sen. Baxley’s anti-freedom/anti-union bill, along with about 100 other union members, but it the clock ran out. It is on the agenda for Tuesday, so tune in at 9:00.
HB 7017 — the bill related to foreign influence naming “countries of concern” was heard at second reading today, April 13. The bill requires the Board of Governors and State Board of Education to provide guidelines for research and hiring of foreign-born researchers and restricts activity with any “countries of concern”. An amendment related to whistleblower rights was added and the bill was rolled onward to third reading and possible final passage.
HB 997- by Rep. Garrison (R-Orange Park) is the bill exempting executive searches for college and university presidents from public records and public meetings until finalists are selected. The bill was heard on Second reading. Good Questions came from Democrat Representatives Guillermo-Smith, Diamond, Geller, Thompson, Hardy, and Eskamani. There was an amendment by Garrison which aligned it with the Senate bill (SB 220) and set a deadline when secrecy ends but does not even define how many finalists are allowed. Unfortunately, Representative Alexander (D-Tallahassee) supported the amendment and announced support for the Bill when it came to Third Reading, on April 14. Thanks to Reps. Geller and Guillermo-Smith for their debate against the bill.
Action item #2 Whether you are in your first year of teaching, in DROP, or somewhere in between, your long-term future depends on a healthy Florida Retirement System. Senate Bill 84 would close the pension system to new education hires as of July 1, 2022, effectively destabilizing and threatening the health of the system. This isn’t a new concept. Lawmakers have been chipping away at your retirement for years. This bill could be heard as soon as Wednesday, so make sure you send your message as soon as possible. Don’t let lawmakers take away your hard-earned retirement. Tell them to VOTE NO on SB 84!
Please make your voices heard and pass this on to your colleagues and friends.