Monday, September 3, 2012

The Union Makes Us Strong

My faculty union is far from perfect. It often focuses on the wrong things. It misses crucial opportunities. It's sometimes tone-deaf. But it has managed to bind together several campuses, embrace lecturers as well as tenure-track faculty, and make us a force to be reckoned with, rather than steamrollered over.

In the roughly ten years since I have been at Grit City U., we have had two contract negotiations.  Both times, the union has had to vote to strike before we could get a serious contract.  But still, at least we could organize. We are currently ratifying a contract that doesn't include any raises at all, or really, anything to make up for the last three years of stagnation. But we're also protected against losing anything that we've gained, even though the state economy has been in serious trouble for a long time.  In this situation, no loss is very close to a win.

As we celebrate this Labor Day, I think of my friends working in Florida and other states like it -- states where somehow, state university employees have to work on the one day a year dedicated to the worker.  I think of the struggles of the twentieth century, and hope they won't be undone. And I celebrate and support workers (yes, even intellectual laborers!) everywhere. 

The fight is beginning again.  United we stand.


Historiann said...

Oh, how I long for a faculty union. I'm glad you appreciate yours.

Widgeon said...

Bravo. So happy to be in a union myself (finally). It makes a difference.

Contingent Cassandra said...

A union representing faculty of all ranks, tenured and not, would definitely be my ideal (though I suspect, based on my attempts to talk about the interests of non-tenure-track faculty with tenured faculty, it could give rise to some difficult conversations). Sadly, I'm in one of those "right to work" [for whatever employers want to pay us, apparently] states, where organizing would probably be wasted effort. I'm also close enough to a state where organizing is possible to know that it doesn't always work out well if all the faculty aren't in the same union: at one school I know of, the adjuncts at one school organized, and all of a sudden the school decided to create a lot more poorly-paid, high-teaching-load, year-by-year full-time jobs. Presumably the kind of union you describe could avoid that sort of end-run.