Monday, October 15, 2018

Pasco-Hernando State College faculty seeks to unionize

Caitlin Gille grew up in a union household in Wisconsin, where her mom was a long-time teacher in the small city of Wauwatosa, just west of Milwaukee.

She was accustomed to seeing educators advocating for their working conditions and pay, having a seat at the table to discuss issues affecting their livelihoods.

So when Gille arrived at Pasco-Hernando Community College (now State College) a decade ago to begin her first full-time teaching job, she was surprised to learn the faculty had no union at all. Still, she took it in stride, teaching her biology classes and becoming more enamored with the college she now viewed as part of her life.

Over time, though, Gille and others saw what voice they had fading.

"It's not something really specific," she explained. "It was mostly a gradual thing."

If there was a straw that broke the camel's back, prompting the 140-member full time teaching staff to consider unionizing, it was this: The college at one point told professors they would get an annual raise if they earned a doctorate.

"They changed it to a one-time payment, which is a pretty big difference," said Gille, one of the organizers seeking to join United Faculty of Florida, which is connected to the Florida Education Association.

This week, 60 percent of the faculty submitted petition cards asking the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission for a union election. They're part of a growing push in higher education looking for greater workplace protections amid limited resources, a push to performance funding and a trend away from tenure and long-term contracts.

Adjunct professors at the University of South Florida are among the groups seeking unionization, too. Graduate students at the University of Florida also have organized to press for better wages.

PHSC officials did not return calls seeking comment on their faculty union drive. Gille said the school's official stance to them has been "it's not in our best interest" to unionize.

She, for one, does not agree.

The faculty do not have a collectively bargained contract. Each gets a separate agreement that offers few details beyond duty days and salary. The faculty senate is advisory only.

"All policies that govern how things are handled are unilaterally decided by the administration," Gille said.

She saw what happened in Wisconsin, where she grew up, when Gov. Scott Walker pushed through the elimination of teacher collective bargaining. The change "actually caused [her mom] to retire early, because of the way they were treated," Gille said.

PHSC faculty deserve better than that, she suggested. So in this, the college's 50th year since its founding, the faculty decided to look to the union label.

If they get a majority vote, whenever the election takes place, the effort will win. The college's union organizing committee has already begun talking with United Faculty of Florida leaders at the state's 12 universities and 15 colleges where it already operates, for ideas.

Gille looks forward to the opportunities: "We want a say in the policies that affect our employment."

Comments
Florida Education Association elects new leadership

Florida Education Association elects new leadership

Frustrated by three years of failed attempts to fight legislative actions deemed unfriendly to teachers, Florida Education Association members on Friday ousted the group's leadership team in favor of challengers who pledged to "rebuild our power...
Published: 10/13/18
ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Oct. 7, 2018

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Oct. 7, 2018

With elections less than a month off, Floridians have focused attention on who will be the people setting education policy for the next two or four years. They’re homing in on policy positions such as teacher pay, tax rates and school safety, a...
Published: 10/13/18
It’s been a tough few years for Florida teachers. Will a new union leader shake things up?

It’s been a tough few years for Florida teachers. Will a new union leader shake things up?

Top education leaders have spent years pleading, lobbying and rallying at the state capitol, but Tallahassee lawmakers keep making life harder and harder for Florida's public school teachers.The Florida Education Association advocates for the state's...
Published: 10/12/18
Class size concerns rise in Pasco County schools

Class size concerns rise in Pasco County schools

Reacting to cramped and crowded classrooms, a Fivay High School student created a 5-minute video depicting the situation and urging Pasco County communities to "take action."The video, which aired in the school news report and is posted on the school...
Published: 10/12/18
Florida education news: Teacher pay, school security, storm damage and more

Florida education news: Teacher pay, school security, storm damage and more

TEACHER PAY: State Sen. Kevin Rader says he will refile his bill to set Florida minimum teacher pay at $50,000. It's a key piece of Democrat Andrew Gillum's education platform in his campaign for governor. Rader predicts if Gillum wins, the meas...
Published: 10/12/18
Gradebook podcast: Active shooter drills and class size – when Florida law confuses

Gradebook podcast: Active shooter drills and class size – when Florida law confuses

It's a quarter of the way through Florida's school year, and some schools continue to grapple with implementation of two key requirements, one new and one old.Leaders remain uncertain of exactly how often to run active shooter drills, required by the...
Published: 10/11/18
Hillsborough school district will sell more land

Hillsborough school district will sell more land

The Hillsborough County School District stands to raise close to $3 million by selling off surplus land in a series of transactions that will come before the School Board on Tuesday.The board already approved a $575,000 deal on an office building in ...
Published: 10/11/18
Records show nearly spotless record for Pinellas school resource officer accused of sexual harassment

Records show nearly spotless record for Pinellas school resource officer accused of sexual harassment

The personnel file for a Carwise Middle School resource officer who retired amid sexual harassment allegations this week shows a nearly spotless 20-year history with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.Deputy Bernard D'Agostino, 52, was hired b...
Published: 10/11/18
Senator plans to refile minimum teacher pay proposal: ‘If Gillum wins, this bill passes.’

Senator plans to refile minimum teacher pay proposal: ‘If Gillum wins, this bill passes.’

Florida Sen. Kevin Rader is hopeful that 2019 will be the year his "Florida Teacher Fair Pay Act" passes.The Boca Raton Democrat said he plans to file the bill to increase teachers' minimum salaries to $50,000 for the fourth consecutive time. And he ...
Published: 10/11/18
Florida education news: Teacher pay, tax rates, charter schools and more

Florida education news: Teacher pay, tax rates, charter schools and more

TEACHER PAY: In the race for Florida governor, Democrat Andrew Gillum proposes lifting teachers' starting pay to $50,000. The idea gains support from people who see educators as underpaid, but raises serious questions about whether it can happen...
Published: 10/11/18