The hearing regarding UF engineering team GatorWing’s charges against UF administration for claiming the team’s $2 million award has been pushed back more than a month.
The UF Board of Trustees motioned to reschedule the hearing originally scheduled for Dec. 4 to mid-January after United Faculty of Florida, a UF faculty union, filed a charge on Oct. 24, said Eric Lindstrom, the lawyer representing GatorWings and the union.
The motion to postpone was received and granted on Nov. 6 by the Public Employees Relations Commission, a Florida committee that hears cases under the Public Employees Relations Act, according to a motion submitted to the commission. Lindstrom said he suspects UF wanted to postpone the hearing to have more time to prepare.
GatorWings and Graduate Assistants United representatives say UF violated the Public Employees Relations Act. The United Faculty of Florida first filed an unfair labor practice charge on June 13 to challenge UF’s claim to $750,000 won in 2018, according to the official charge against the employer.
UF spokesperson Steve Orlando said he couldn’t comment because the case involves active litigation.
At a Tuesday rally, Graduate Assistants United and GatorWings team members protested UF administration to raise awareness to passersby on 13th Street and administration in Tigert Hall.
Twelve people gathered for the rally holding signs that read “Students take loans, UF takes prizes,” and chanting, “Down with Gator greed.”
The university will hold depositions on Dec. 4, Lindstrom said.
Professors John Shea and Tan Wong and university lawyers will present their sides. Students were not invited.
Florida state labor statutes say a public employer, such as UF, cannot change policies without notifying the union so it can bargain over the change. When this is violated, it is considered an unfair labor practice and basis for ordering UF to revoke the prize money rule.
The charges are based on the basis of this violation, Lindstrom said, although UF also violated terms in the 2017-2019 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The agreement between UF’s Board of Trustees and the United Faculty of Florida outlines faculty terms and conditions of employment, according to the document.
There is no collective bargaining agreement for students, Greene said, which is why only Shea and Wong can complain about violations.
Accepting scholarly prizes doesn’t have to be reported to UF as long as the activity is legal, according to the agreement. GatorWings didn’t need to report the prize money, said Wong, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering.
Wong said he and Shea are concerned about how to compensate team members who do not earn a salary at UF.
“We put in all our hard work and we put the university’s name out there, and I do not think that our efforts are appreciated,” Wong said.
Bobby Mermer, a 32-year-old political science doctoral student and co-president of Graduate Assistants United, leads a chant Tuesday afternoon during the GatorWings Support Rally. The rally was held outside of Tigert Hall with 12 people in attendance.
Liz Ibarrola, a 27-year-old anthropology graduate student and member of Graduate Assistants United, waves a sign Tuesday afternoon during the GatorWings Support Rally.