UFF-UCF at the NEA RA 2019, Houston, Texas

UFF-UCF at the NEA RA 2019, Houston, Texas

The Representative Assembly of the National Educational Association in Houston, Texas 2019 is now behind us. In addition to the everyday work of supporting educators in this country, many state delegates brought incredibly important social justice issues to the floor as New Business Items (NBIs). The NEA is well organized and we learned a lot watching our NEA president, Lily Eskelsen García manage a delegation of approximately 8,700 individuals from all fifty states.

UFF-UCF cares about the issues affecting K-12 teachers because their students are our students. It matters to us that half of the NBIs presented on the floor face the challenges and struggles of our students. Our K-12 teachers are on the front lines of understanding social-cultural issues adversely affecting student learning, including opioid addicted parents, poverty, gang violence, and depression. Among the issues, our K-12 Florida delegates explained how charter schools hurt them, students, and ultimately, all of us.

In Florida, income inequality and poverty are  pervasive. At least half of Florida’s public schools qualify for Title 1, the largest federally funded educational program that provides supplemental funds to school districts to assist with the highest student concentrations of poverty to meet educational goals. This percentage is likely skewed. The minimum federal requirements for receiving Title 1 is that 40 percent of the students must be in one of the special needs or poverty categories. But in Florida the need is so high that Florida state requires that 60 to 62 percent of the students must be in a special needs or a poverty category to qualify for the program.

Close to home, under promise of anonymity, a Florida educator said that a local middle school is at 58 percent, hoping it reaches 60 percent, so that the school can best address issues affecting student learning, such as malnourishment. This educator said, “it’s a weird thing to wish for but it’s the reality of the Florida education system.” They need federal aid because state funding has continuously declined since 2008.

Also, at the RA, ten presidential candidates came to share their positions and plans about education. As the largest labor union in the nation with 3 million members, we have power and are ready to face this election season with strength and determination!

Your 2019 NEA RA delegates from UCF are Jennifer Sandoval, Yovanna Pineda, Michael Armato, and Scott Launier.

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Statistics and basic information about this year’s Florida participation by Florida Education Association Vice President, Andrew Spar:

At the #NEARA19, the gavel went down at 18:18 Central time on Sunday, July 7, 2019. We dealt with a record 160 New Business Items, the budget, resolutions, the legislative program and the mission and vision statement. We also heard from ten presidential candidates, the Educational Support Professional of the year, the Higher Ed Professional of the year and the Teacher of the year. The 227 Florida delegates were at the microphone for more than ever, three delegates successfully moved four NBI’s, we exceeded our PAC goal and did it in record time, and we had a blast at the first Florida Night in years. Thanks to our Florida Education Association (FEA) delegates. You represented Florida exceptionally! Next year is Atlanta! Let’s keep moving forward! #FundOurFutureFL

Meet UFF-UCF Secretary and Sociology Lecturer Dr. Michael Armato

Meet UFF-UCF Secretary and Sociology Lecturer Dr. Michael Armato

Family ties and a strong faculty union brought the ‘92 UCF graduate back home to teach

Growing up in Altamonte Springs, Dr. Michael Armato never expected to become an academic or an advocate for human society.

A Lake Mary High School student, Armato graduated from UCF in 1992 with a B.S. in Marketing. His sights were set on the corporate world, but after a 2-year stint in sales-related work, he discovered sociology. The subject fascinated him and motivated him to seek ways to improve people’s lives.

Armato departed for Gainesville in 1995 for his master’s in Sociology. He graduated with his Ph.D. in Sociology from New York University in 2006, just blocks from the Madison Avenue advertising firms he once studied at UCF. Armato was active in his union at UF (UFF-Graduate Assistants United) and became a founding member of GSOC-UAW during its historic unionizing campaign at NYU.

Armato began his faculty career as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Northeastern Illinois University in the fall of 2006, becoming an Associate Professor five years later and achieving tenure in the fall of 2012. He became one of the core faculty members of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at NEIU. His main areas of study were gender inequalities and perceptions of masculinity, subjects he continues to research at UCF.

During his time at NEIU, he earned multiple accolades, including an NEIU Research Community Grant in the 2007-2008 academic year, a Faculty Excellence Award for teaching in 2009, a Student Choice Award in the 2012-2013 academic year, and the Martha Thompson Outstanding Faculty Award in the 2015-2016 academic year. Throughout his time at NEIU, Armato was an active union member with the University Professionals of Illinois-Local 4100, holding multiple elected positions.

Deciding to leave NEIU was a difficult decision for Armato. “My work at NEIU was incredibly rewarding, but my partner, Amanda, had just had a baby, and with our daughter, who is now six and getting bigger, we just decided it was time to come back,” says Armato.

Relinquishing Tenure to Come Home to Central Florida

“UCF is such a diverse university, and it’s a university with high numbers of first-time-in-college students, which was a draw for me.”

The new position, however, posed a significant dilemma: After ten years of teaching in Chicago, Illinois, why would a tenured professor move to Florida for a non-tenured lecturer position?

“I liked that we had a faculty union,” says Armato. “Lecturers have a promotion process, but it is not a tenured position. I knew I was giving up security, especially moving back to a state with hurdles to union membership. But having UFF-UCF here gave me the confidence to make the jump.”

Now a Lecturer in the Sociology Department – and the Coordinator of the Social Sciences BS program since 2018, Armato will take on yet another role in the fall of 2019, when he becomes the Coordinator of the Sociology Undergraduate program.

“I was hired with the goal of taking this role on,” Armato says. “If anything needs to happen in terms of the curriculum I am involved. I was hired with that as the intent.”

Since joining UCF, Armato has been a reviewer on the College of Sciences Program Assessment Committee, as well as a member of both the Sociology Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and the PRIDE Faculty and Staff Association. After three short years, he’s contributed a fair amount of service to work to the college.

Armato has authored and co-authored journal articles including “Gendered Violence and Interruptions to Education,” “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: Men’s Enlightened Sexism & Hegemonic Masculinity in Academia,” and “Pedagogical Engagements: Feminist Resistance to the Militarization of Education.”

He is also a fan of scooters, and owns two of them. One he got for free on Craigslist and restored to working condition on his own.

UFF-UCF Leadership

Some of Armato’s most important work is supporting and providing leadership for UFF-UCF, the faculty union that facilitated his move back to UCF.

“If it were up to a fair number of administrators and politicians, there would be no unions. There would be a corporate environment where, semester by semester, we would just teach, no breaks,” says Armato. “There are a lot of threats on the horizon, including whether unions will exist. My own goal is to protect UFF from the most nefarious aspects of our political climate.”

Armato sees a growing UFF-UCF attracting even more talented new faculty members for years to come. “One of the ways to know our university faculty members are thriving is if we attract highly qualified members of academia.”

Meet the Professor Who Negotiates Your Raises

Meet the Professor Who Negotiates Your Raises

UFF-UCF’s Chief Negotiator, Dr. Jennifer Sandoval, explores how identity impacts communication in complex contexts.

On March 21, UFF-UCF Chief Negotiator Dr. Jennifer Sandoval signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the UCF Board of Trustees locking in our faculty bonus and raises, weeks before the rest of our contract will be finalized.

This MOU strategy – and the first multi-year faculty contract it will be part of – have never before been achieved from the UCF Board of Trustees. UCF’s Associate General Counsel and Associate Provost, Sherry Andrews, had to defend the agreement later before the BOT, citing the tone of recent negotiations as a reason to acquiesce to bargaining demands for faculty raises.

“There is something to be said for rewarding good behavior,” Andrews told the BOT. “I do think we have achieved most – not all but the vast majority – of our strategic objectives in this negotiation.”

So who is Dr. Jennifer Sandoval, and how did her negotiating tactics and “good behavior” lead to unprecedented progress for our faculty?

In the Shadow of the Law

It should come as little surprise that Sandoval is Associate Professor and Program Coordinator for Communication and Conflict in the Nicholson School of Communication and Media.

Born in Deer Park, California, Sandoval graduated cum laude from Pepperdine University with a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication, before earning her Masters Degree of Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine School of Law, and then her Ph.D. in Communication and Culture from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Before joining the UCF faculty in August 2011, Sandoval worked as a mediator, trainer, instructor, and consultant. Her career was building toward a law degree before a teaching job changed her professional trajectory.

“I performed a lot of small consulting firm work for years, where a lot of my contributions were about conflict,” says Sandoval. “It was interesting and I liked it fine, but I ended up teaching as an adjunct and loved that much more. I got my Ph.D. in culture and communication, instead of attending law school, in order to teach.”

Sandoval describes her master’s education at Pepperdine Law as being outside of the legal field, but “in the shadow of the law.” Her early work in labor and employment revealed how completely different California law is, compared to “right to work” states like Florida.

In California – where faculty members are automatically enrolled in their union – much of the energy and effort goes toward bargaining and contracts, and big issue campaigns, rather than recruitment and retention. Sandoval’s focus has been on building faculty bargaining strength through consistent, professional negotiations.

“My master’s in dispute resolution is a professional master’s degree in the law school, but it is often a stepping stone on the way to a law degree,” says Sandoval. “My experiences in California and as our previous Grievance Chair prepared me to be able to see the holes in the UFF-UCF contract.”

Life and Death Communication

Sandoval’s academic emphasis has grown to focus more on communicating differences in the context of sexual and reproductive health, a subject seemingly far away from conflict resolution. Sandoval currently teaches courses in interpersonal, intercultural, and gender communication. Her research focuses on the communication of the intersection of identity, bodily autonomy, and health policy.

She also works on community-based participatory research projects focusing on health in underserved and underrepresented populations.

“Health is ripe for conflict, so I kept coming back to this,” she says. “Even though my research is no longer about conflict, I still teach and manage communication and conflict because of this, and I began a greater degree of emphasis in the context of health.”

Sandoval says there is a distinct need for training and education and work to address communication needs in healthcare, where misunderstandings and cultural differences can often be a matter of life and death. She says working in complex contexts prepared her for the long process of negotiating, where patience, diligence, and persistence pay off.

“Some conflicts are more difficult. When we are in a high-stress conflict, we can’t always be the best version of ourselves. Now imagine being sick, having the stress of the healthcare context, and having to advocate for yourself while remaining calm and focused.”

No stranger to a fight, Sandoval’s experience makes her uniquely qualified to represent our faculty union at the bargaining table.

“In negotiations, people are intimidated by the process and the high stakes,” she says. “What works well for me is I’m used to that. That has been really helpful. I’ve been in this context frequently, so sometimes I’m stressed out about it, but most of the time I am confident in my ability to articulate the needs of our membership.”

Dr. Jennifer Sandoval will not be attending our UFF-UCF Contract and Cocktails Party on April 30 because she will be in Albuquerque, helping to unionize the University of New Mexico faculty. Learn more about Dr. Sandoval and the UFF-UCF Bargaining Team here.

Learn how to join your UCF faculty union

Fall 2018 Consultation with the Provost

December 5, 2018
1:00 – 2:30 pm
Millican Hall 395

UFF-UCF 2018 Fall Consultation Agenda

  • PDL applications should not be held up waiting for a dean’s signature
  • Faculty need a paper-based option for evaluations when serving on committees such as promotions, awards and tenure. There is much research that increased screen-reading time negatively impacts eye health. Also, faculty should receive all applications at one time, not one at a time as they come in.
  • Office space expectations and problems related to moving downtown
  • How are students in the summer ACCESS program being placed into courses? Is it true that students are randomly enrolled in classes based on alphabetical order of last names? Is it true that students in the ACCESS program do not get to choose the courses in which they enroll? What is the process by which students enroll in summer courses when they are in the ACCESS program, and is this a process that can or should improve?
  • HR should align language and practices with the CBA. For example—paid parental should not be a memo of understanding nor indicate it requires dean’s approval
  • Departments being grossly overcharged for alterations to labs, etc.
  • Update: Making UCF a more diverse and inclusive campus—how are we doing and what are next steps?
  • Culture of toxic work environments in pockets across the university:
    • management harassment; gender discrimination; micro-aggression; paternalism; cultural miscommunication
    • employee mistreatment; retaliation/fear of retaliation for using or standing up for contract rights
LLI Graduates Johanna Lopez and Maribel Cordero Both Win

LLI Graduates Johanna Lopez and Maribel Cordero Both Win

Two graduates of Latino Leadership Institute’s Electoral Activism and Leadership Academy, Maribel Cordero for Orange County Commission District 4, and Johanna Lopez for Orange County School Board District 2 have made history and won their perspective races.

Johanna Lopez, a long-time teacher and mentor, received over 60% of the vote for a decisive victory over David Grimm. Johanna campaigned on accountability for for-profit charter schools, less testing in schools, and equatable representation of students in a District that is over 40% Latinx. The installation ceremony is Monday, November 26, 2018 at 4:30 PM – 7:30 PM at 445 W Amelia St, Orlando, Florida 32801.

Maribel Cordero narrowly defeated Susan Makowski, long-time aide of County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson. On November 12th Makowski notified the Supervisor of Elections to discontinue the recount, solidifying Cordero’s win. Cordero campaigned on smart growth, public safety, jobs, and support for seniors.  

Latino Leadership Institute’s Electoral Activism and Leadership Academy is series of workshops and seminars for Latinx leaders interested in running for office. Students learn about campaign management, fundraising, branding, and more. Applications for the spring are opening soon.