Friday, May 3, 2013

Teachers Review Options for Changing Union Representation: BFT Responds

VIERA, Florida - About 50 Brevard teachers met on Thursday with a Daytona Beach-based labor union to explore the possibility of changing contract negotiating representation away from the Brevard Federation of Teachers. 

According to its brochure, the Coastal Florida Public Employees Association is “an aggressive, politically active labor union that represents public employees in negotiations for ages, benefits, and terms of their employment.”
Currently CFPEA represents about 40 agencies in Florida, including entities in the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and the Brevard County Tax Collector’s office.  The vast majority of the agencies currently represented by CFPEA are related to law enforcement. 

While CPFEA does not presently represent any teachers groups, they have begun to accept “new memberships from public school teachers in Brevard County,” according to their website.
CFPEA President Vince Champion told the group that if about 2,000 teachers signed “blue cards” (Authorization For Representation cards) then – after approval by the Public Employees Relations Commission – all teachers would have the opportunity to vote to retain BFT, choose CFPEA, or even vote for no union representation.

 “If you choose us, we know how to negotiate contracts.  That’s what we do,” Champion said.

BFT Vice-President Dan Bennett responded to a media request from Brevard Times about the meeting. We are surprised and disappointed that a local chapter of another group has expressed their intentions to organize our members.  BFT is a teachers’ union, with local officers trained in negotiation, arbitration, grievances, and member representation by both state and local teacher union leadership. Our state legal department is the only legal group in the state solely dedicated to defending teachers. Both BFT and the other group are affiliated with state and national organizations. We have shown that local unions typically find success working together for common goals.”

Space Coast Junior/Senior High School teacher Kim Hunt is one of the leaders of the teachers who have been researching options.  She said her advocacy was prompted by recent changes to the teachers’ contract that will have secondary teachers reduced to one planning period each day.

“I feel strongly we need someone new to negotiate for us.  It is about money and working conditions.  I tried to work within the union and felt I wasn’t being listened to,” Hunt said.

Bennett said of recent negotiations, "Unfortunately, many teachers were left understandably unsatisfied with the recent contract vote. After the district’s failed half penny referendum, the Superintendent turned to all employees, and even parents, for concessions. In the toughest of economic times, we still negotiated both a bonus and raise for teachers. Although we had to concede a common supplement that our secondary teachers earned, our state FEA lobbyists secured a significant raise that will allow most of those teachers to still come out ahead on salary. “

CFPEA has “nearly two million members” and is affiliated with the National Association of Government Employees.  It is a sister union with the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Its brochure also notes, “A solid political action program that is both feared and respected by politicians across Florida backs up our collective bargaining team.  The CFPEA has a well-deserved reputation for effectiveness in electing friends of working people and to defeat anti-employee politicians.  We invest heavily in political campaigns including direct mail, radio and television advocacy that ensures your vote is heard, loud and clear, in the political arena.”
BFT though said that their approach is different.  Bennett added, We have shown that local unions typically find success working together for common goals. We have recently gained much by working together, and could have much to lose by reigniting the union raids of the past.  The leadership of BFT is confident we will continue to proudly represent Brevard’s teachers. As always, we continue to work hard to improve our profession.”

A representative from Brevard Public Schools said that this issue is beyond the purview of the district.


  1. The BFT budget needs to be reviewed by an outside entity. That will explain why teachers are leaving in droves. Also the lack of respect, lack of service and downright unprofessional behavior is unacceptable to dues paying members.

  2. Enough is enough. We have tried to be a part of the solution and have been ignored. It's time to make a change. I like that CFPEA have professional negotiators and attorneys negotiate contracts rather than a teacher on leave who will be returning to the classroom.

  3. Two things...

    We all failed in getting the sales tax passed. I know I can say this, because I believe that this is our school district. You have to take ownership first. Nobody told me I could or could not take ownership....I just did it. This is way of thinking.

    Now for whoever stated the comment stated that this issue is beyond the purview of the district, I understand why you state this comment. But I respectfully disagree. This might just seem a union issue, but this is about a growing number of teachers who want respect.
    A couple of examples...if your school has earned an "A" then how is it possible that you do not have at least 90 % of your teachers being highly effective. Maybe that number is to high, but I believe you understand the comparison of the two numbers. In other words, we should not have an "A" school that has less then 30% highly effective teachers. The second example is that a number of teachers feel that their discretionary time was taken away from them because our district did not trust our teachers with this discretionary time. When I have talked to some of my fellow teachers about this issue. They ask why does "the district" not trust us? Are they ashamed of us? And yet these are the same teachers who stay at work in order to get the paperwork done, create their lesson plans, make those phone calls, and etc. in order to develop their students into highly effective members of society.

    To the four who started this...I say to you,"way to take ownership." This is what we call democracy.....

    We can...We will...We did...


  4. I totally agree with the Anonymous comment! I am for BFT...why whenever I call them they are ALWAYS there supporting me! If we have teachers who want to change I will not stay with the union! Like my grandmother use to say to me when I was a child..."You NEVER" let your right hand know what your left hand is doing!" Yes I totally understand that there are some serious issues going on in Brevard County School system. However; I praise our President Richard Smith and our two Vice President...Dan Bennett and Jennifer Stokes! They are AWESOME represenative for us because they all have been there done that!

    1. Been where and done what? Obviously there are thousands of students that saw their highly effective schools close their doors for the last time, and what about the nearly 200 teachers that taught in this Nationally recognized district what did Your beloved BFT do for them? I will enlighten you, they negotiated a bad contract. Sad thing is Dan Bennett stated in writing that he would do it again, I do not know about you, but I want someone giving 101% just like we do everyday in the classroom!

  5. Teaching is not what it used to be. I have seen the authority taken away from the teacher in how best to teach the children. The policies these lawmakers are making is what is killing education and most never taught a day in their lives.

    It would be nice to get any union to address these issues because what good is teaching if you have your hands tied with ridiculous ineffective mandates that makes your job a living hell? I think this is a major reason why teachers leave the profession. Most good teachers want to be effective and respected enough to give them back the authority to teach how they need to. This country became great because of good teachers who were able to teach the way that was appropriate.

    Now the majority of education is becoming no more than babysitting.

    1. Dean - while I wrote this story as an objective observer, I am a teacher. My hands are not tied, my job is not a living hell, and I do much more than babysit. I'm not sure where you get your information, but your generalizations are astounding...

  6. It is time for both BFT and 1010 to go. There needs to be an outside agency that is not afraid of the school board. I hope this catches on. People will leave these 2 unions in droves.

  7. I think an outside group needs to come in and go over every aspect of the Brevard Public School system. Something stinks in Viera and if the teachers think they have it bad talk to some of the support staff. The food service workers only recieved a $0.15 raise in 2 years and before that went 4 years without a raise at all and support staff doesnt recieve raises for years of service so new employees that come in are making the same wages as an employee that has 10 plus years.