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Education

Broward College Union Files Unfair Labor Practice Complaint Against College

BrowardCollege.jpg
JOHN O'CONNOR
/
STATE IMPACT FLORIDA
The union representing 14 former Broward College faculty counselors, the United Faculty of Florida, has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the college.

The union representing 14 former Broward College faculty counselors has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the college.

The United Faculty of Florida argues that the sudden layoffs of the employees on April 15 is part of the college’s plan to hire less-experienced, non-unionized employees for lower pay.

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The college claims the employees were fired because of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to attorney Eric Lindstrom, who is representing the union, the complaint filed on Friday states that Broward College “violated the state statute providing collective bargaining rights by converting bargaining unit members to an out-of-bargaining unit job, paying them less but not actually changing their job duties at all.”

“When they did that, when the administration was telling the board of trustees about their plan, the college basically admitted that that’s what they were doing.” said Lindstrom.

In an interview with WLRN Sundial last month, Broward College’s president Gregory Haile said the layoffs will allow for 30 academic advisors to be hired and that former counselors will be able to apply for those positions.

He also said phasing out the faculty college counselors had been planned and underway for years.

A petition asking for Broward College to reinstate the 14 faculty counselors, which was started by the union last month, has circled around and gained more than 4,000 signatures.

Former faculty counselor Denise Rodriguez says on April 15 she received an email near the end of her stay-at-home work day for a mandatory virtual emergency meeting with Broward College leadership.

Rodriguez said it was there that they were informed the faculty counselors were no longer employees.

“Access to students and the [Broward College] systems were immediately terminated,” said Rodrigiez in a press conference on June 25. “This situation was very difficult for all 14 of us.”

President of the union Teresa Hodge says the termination of the employees was untimely, especially during a pandemic.

She also said 11 of the 14 faculty are people of color.

“It was simply egregious, inhumane and most of all an act of union busting against a represented class of union members,” said Hodge.

Robert Bullard has worked at Broward College for 28 years and is one of the former faculty counselors.

He says the college claims they needed a "reduction of force," but in order to do that the program would need to not have enough students enrolled.

“How can the administration call for a reduction of force when each of the faculty counselors had a caseload of over 1,500 students,” said Bullard. "And at the same time ask for non-unionized staff to replace those counselors?"

According to Lindstrom, he expects the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) to set a hearing in the next 60 to 90 days.

“We’re pretty confident that we’re going to prevail eventually,” said Lindstrom. “PERC will order the college to reinstate the counselors and pay them any back pay and benefits.”