Education in the News

Teachers Review Options for Changing Union Representation: BFT Responds

teachers-fistVIERA, 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.

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