October 13, 2017
Posed to: John White, President, UNF – United Faculty of Florida
On October 3rd, you emailed all faculty claiming that “Among the 11 established State University System schools in Florida, UNF ranks last in average faculty salary.” Shouldn’t UNF’s faculty take this as a sign that our union has done a poor job negotiating salary increases?
I trust that as an integral part of their professional training, most faculty members have been taught to examine the evidence and to understand the relevant contexts before drawing conclusions. Faculty doing so in this case (as many have) would find that there are four major factors affecting their current pay and their union’s ability to negotiate raises. First, they would learn that Florida is a “right to work” state, meaning that faculty and its union leadership are legally prohibited from even threatening to go on strike. Without the ability to strike and thus affect production, a union loses its strongest bargaining tool. Second, faculty would see that raises are reliant upon funding and that funding is completely controlled by university administration, the state legislature, and the Board of Governors. With no ability to threaten a walkout or a slowdown, the union has nothing to leverage or trade for raises (with the possible exception of demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice some faculty and staff to layoffs so that others can get a raise—a tactic that we vehemently oppose). Our success at the bargaining table is reliant upon bringing ongoing inequities to light, having a large and active union membership, and upon university administration prioritizing faculty needs. Third, by examining pay issues longitudinally, faculty will see that UNF’s low faculty pay is directly related to an earlier era when contracts were negotiated statewide and the highest salaries went to the faculty at the preeminent and larger universities. Our chapter inherited the problem but has nonetheless made major strides in addressing the issue. Finally, just a year and a half ago our chapter negotiated the largest faculty raises in over a decade—raises that included 4% across the board, over $1 million for C & I adjustments, a higher base for beginning and junior tenure-line professors, and the first-ever promotion/raise system for our many Instructors and Lecturers. I believe that once faculty members have examined these issues, they cannot logically conclude that their union “has done a poor job negotiating salary increases.” And while faculty members are free to draw a different conclusion about their union’s effectiveness, they should take into account how their pay, their academic freedom, their promotions and tenure, and their overall job security might have been affected were there no organized group (aka their union) lobbying on their behalf.