Board to recognize UCF faculty union


Published: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 11:00 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - The University of Central Florida board of trustees is likely to voluntarily recognize its faculty union at its next meeting and end on its campus a standoff that's going on at all Florida's public universities.
"They have a huge percentage of signatures among our faculty," UCF President John Hitt said, referring to signature cards the United Faculty of Florida has been collecting from faculty at all campuses.
The cards, which authorize UFF to bargain a contract for the faculty, are a preliminary step to getting Florida's Public Employee Relations Commission to authorize a vote of the faculty. The vote would determine whether the faculty wants to be represented by a union, and if so, by whom.
The University of Florida's board of trustees intends to force a vote on its campus for every union, President Charles Young said. He said just because people sign a card it doesn't mean they want a union.
"If you look at the history of these matters," Young said, "the percentage (of people who vote yes) is invariably lower in an election."
Young also informed the presidents that UF will discontinue collecting union dues from professors' paychecks at the end of January, unless they explicitly ask for the deductions to continue.
Several presidents indicated they plan to do the same; other say they'll do the reverse, and continue collecting them unless told otherwise.
"They've got something like 70 percent of the faculty signed up," Hitt said. "It's the feeling of our board that they are going to be representing the faculty and we would prefer to get on with negotiating a contract."
According to UF professor and UFF chapter President Jon Reiskind, 1,227 out of the 1,800 professors in the bargaining unit - 67 percent of the faculty at UF - have signed the cards, which read, in part:
"I hereby authorize the UFF to be my exclusive representative for the purposes of collective bargaining, with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment."
He said a majority of the professors on all 11 campuses have also signed up.
"I think it's fantastic news," Reiskind said of Hitt's announcement. "There's lots of really good reasons to behave rationally in this situation and recognize 26 years of representation."
The faculty contract negotiated by the union expired Jan. 7, along with the contracts of several other unions with UF employees as members.
Once UCF renegotiates a contract with its professors, Reiskind said, "they will be at an advantage for attracting faculty over the other universities in the state without one."
UCF's move may break a logjam of trustees who want to negotiate with employees, but didn't want to go first, he said.
If the UF board continues to insist on an election, Reiskind said, UFF wants one "as soon as possible - certainly before the end of the semester."
"We look forward to negotiating a new contract with the board of trustees."
Carrie Miller can be reached at 338-3103 or Carrie.miller@gainesvillesun.com.

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