UFF-UF fights for faculty rights, files unfair labor practice charge over prize money

GatorWings research team. Photo by John Shea

Your union is representing two UFF-UF members in an unfair labor practice, and is defending all its members’ right to keep the prizes you earn.

As reported in the Gainesville Sun and the Alligator, the University of Florida is preventing a research team comprised of UFF-UF members Professors John Shea and Tan Wong, along with two Ph.D. students and two undergraduate researchers, from receiving a  $2 million cash prize they won in a competition sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Our extraordinary faculty and the students they advise sometimes earn cash prizes. Such prizes are usually retained by the people who win them, when they are not earmarked for a university-related purpose. In fact, under our current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), such prizes need not even be reported to the university. In particular, Article 26.4(a)(2) states that “accepting scholarly or artistic prizes” is one of several professional activities that “do not need to be reported.”

After Professors Shea and Wong and their team had previously won an earlier cash prize from DARPA (this one for $750,000), UF administrators hastily confected a policy requiring faculty to report cash prizes and asserting UF’s ownership over such prizes if any university time or resources were used. The university did not notify UFF before implementing this policy.

Under Florida labor law, the university generally cannot create policies that impact faculty without first notifying UFF and bargaining with the union over the change. The university’s unilaterally implemented prize policy thus violated state labor law and our CBA. As a result, UFF filed a charge of unfair labor practice with the state labor commission, and we are asking the commission to order UF to rescind its new prize policy and to release the cash prize earned by Professors Shea and Wong and their team.

We hope to receive a decision from the state commission in the next few months. In the meantime, if you encounter any issues regarding cash prizes, please write to our Grievance Committee at grievances@uff-uf.org.

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