Taking Action *Now* to Prepare for Bargaining
At last week’s general membership meeting, we held a discussion about preparing for both Academic Student Employee (ASE) and Postdoc 2020-2021 contract campaigns starting now. We decided that, in the next month, area organizers and stewards will be reaching out to co-workers and holding area meetings in their departments to continue these conversations. To learn more or get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Over the past several years, we’ve been operating in an era of increased anti-unionism and austerity from University administration — from stall tactics during Postdoc unionization and bargaining, to intransigence & misinformation during ASE bargaining in 2018, and more. Indeed, this is part of a pattern across the country — as increasing numbers of academic workers are forming unions and building our increasingly powerful movement, University administrators are doing more and more to push back. For instance, after 20,000 TAs and RAs at private universities won the right to unionize in 2016, universities have interfered with their elections, hired expensive union-busing lawyers, and stalled during bargaining — actions that are more consistent with the Trump-administrations’ recent NLRB proposed rule change than they are with the progressive values administrators regularly extol.
Ultimately, these anti-union tactics are more about power than they are about anything else. As unionized academic workers, we’ve made major wins to create a stronger, more inclusive higher education system, including: improving protections against sexual harassment, eliminating discriminatory international student fees, increasing all-gender restroom access, reducing out-of-pocket student fees, increasing wages, expanding and improving health coverage, and more. Meanwhile, entrenched administrators have pushed back every step of the way. And given the era we’re in, we know that we can’t expect to keep making the kinds of gains we’ve made in the past if we stick to business as usual — we must increase our collective power.
The good news is, we know that we can build even more power to win through: Stronger and broader membership involvement, well-developed communication networks across campus, active engagement in politics (including pushing for more funding to higher education and less to tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy), and willingness of more and more members to engage in collective direct action creates a stronger voice for all of us. And the kind of membership engagement it will take to make gains in 2020-2021 negotiation is ambitious but achievable: 90% membership, active leadership in every department, and increased membership contributions to our collective political fund.
These goals are only achievable with everyone putting in their part to help. There are a number of things you can do to chip in in the next month:
- Help sign up others in your department for membership! Email email@example.com to be connected with an organizer and find out who in your department you can talk to about joining.
- Contribute to our collective political fund (VCAP)! If you’re eligible to vote in the US, consider contributing $1, $2, or $5 a month. [what VCAP has helped with in the past].
- Become a union steward in your department! Department leadership is critical to ensuring that our union represents all members’ interests and that we’re able to communicate quickly and effectively with each other. If your department doesn’t already have its full allocation of stewards, you can run anytime by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Both ASE and Postdoc units have steward positions open!
- Hold an area meeting in your department to start these discussions now! Email email@example.com to be connected with an organizer who can help work through the template presentation discussed at last week’s membership meeting, so you can continue the conversation with folks in your department.
- Join a working group! Our working groups are a great way to take action on an issue that’s important to you. You can find a full list of our current workgroups here.
- Engage in local politics! Ballots for the 2019 elections are being sent out this week. You can read up on our union’s endorsements here. Additionally we are turning out members to canvass for Shaun Scott from 5:30 to 8 pm on Thursday Oct 17th.. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend. If you are interested in helping with the endorsement process anyone else welcome to join by emailing the working group. In particular the working group is looking for a new captain and nominations are open.
- Plan to attend the next monthly membership meeting on 11/14 at 5:30! We’ll be continuing these conversations and building our organizing every month at membership meetings, which are open to all members in both ASE and Postdoc units. More information about the location and agenda will go out in November.
Monica Cortés Viharo