Editorials

State College of Florida faculty union would challenge trustees

State College of Florida Board members Rick Hager, Craig Triqueiroa and Carlos Beruff listen to public comments before voting on a final draft to end tenure policies at the college despite objections from the school's faculty. 
 GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald
State College of Florida Board members Rick Hager, Craig Triqueiroa and Carlos Beruff listen to public comments before voting on a final draft to end tenure policies at the college despite objections from the school's faculty. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald gjefferies@bradenton.com

The beatdown that the State College of Florida Board of Trustees administered to the faculty by eliminating tenure brought a swift backlash, and deservedly so.

On Jan. 26, the board voted 8-0 to quit offering continuing contracts to qualifed faculty beginning in 2016. Tenure is not automatic after so many years of service, but must be earned through a rigorous and comprehensive process.

On Feb. 3, the faculty fought back with a majority petitioning the state to allow the formation of a union, a collective bargaining unit. More than 80 out of 120 faculty members signed unionization cards, well above the state's threshold for such a request. A certified union would force college trustees and administrators to negotiate the terms of college employment.

Thus, trustees would not be able to run roughshod over faculty as happened with a tenure decision that ignored critics. With a union, the board would be compelled to negotiate in good faith and not dictate terms.

Under Florida's Constitution, state employees have the right to bargain collectively. Though forbidden from striking, unionized workers can pressure trustees and the administration and file grievances should circumstances allow. A state arbitrator would rule on the matter.

Over the last few years, respect for faculty declined and morale suffered greatly, one professor told the Herald's Matt M. Johnson in his report on the unionization bid.

This long simmering faculty-trustees dispute boiled over in November when 118 faculty members signed onto a vote of "no confidence" in the board.

Trustees certainly opened a can of worms with its tenure vote and will lose some authority over faculty should unionization be granted.

That should level out the playing field considerably.

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