When this administration locked us out, we learned that they believed they could run a university without faculty. We won the lockout battle and showed them it wasn’t true. But the war continued and continues. As management shrinks the campus, cutting courses and credits without consultation with us, we see them attempting to run a university without classes. These actions mean that our colleagues are losing their jobs: NTTA contracts are not renewed, long-time committed part time faculty are cleared from the rolls, and anyone without tenure is at risk.
As a union, our job is to push back against administration, to organize ourselves and our power to resist the attacks on us, our working conditions, our lives and families, and our students.
I have learned a lot in my ten years as a member of the LIUFF. I was on strike with this faculty in 2011 and watched us go back to work with few gains. I was locked out with this faculty in 2016 and watched us go back to work with few gains. We must reverse this process. I am committed to doing that work with you. We need a plan to win by 2021 when we return to the bargaining table, one of the few things we were able to secure with the latest contract. This will require all of us, working together, building power with and through each other so that next time we sit across from management, we will have the numbers necessary to contest them.
Here’s what I see as necessary for us right now:
- We must build a transparent and democratic union that includes all of our interests. I don’t mean simply representation on the executive committee or on the bargaining team. I mean that all of us need to be talking to each other about what’s happening in our individual units on campus so that we can share problems and find solutions together. When we find out that nursing faculty taught during breaks last year so that students could pass their program, we need to know that physical therapy faculty did that too. We need to be clearer with ourselves and with administration about the scope of the problems we face, and that means getting more of us in the room together to decide what comes next in the fight.
- We must aggressively enforce the contract through the grievance process. I know that many of us are frustrated with the contract we ratified. It includes massive cuts to adjunct wages and benefits, and work rules that affect everyone, like the elimination of negotiated course caps. But we do still have protections. We must pursue those protections collectively by filing grievances and following up with loud, public, collective actions that continue to push administration to honor our rights. Right now, I know a lot of us are worried about underloads in the fall. We must aggressively and collectively pursue contract language that protects us. The grievance process won us a memorandum of understanding that allows departments to assign higher credit loads to part time faculty, but we are still struggling to get management to honor that agreement. We must push harder, together.
- We must begin organizing for a new contract today. We learned a lot from the lockout and the contract campaign that came after about the limits of the power we had built. We were fractured and split from each other and unprepared to stand together as a single faculty against administration’s demands. The lockout produced a solidarity among us unlike anything I had experienced before. It was powerful, and it made management bend. When we are together, we know we can win. But it takes work to get there and stay there, work that I am committed to doing with you. We have three years. During these three years we need to get to know ourselves, each other, the contract, and conditions that prevail across the campus so that we know when union leadership asks all of us to wear a t-shirt, we all show up. So that when union leadership asks us all to march into the VPAA’s office, we all show up. So that when union leadership asks us to refuse a bad contract, we all show up. We will only all show up if we know we can win. We have three years to get there, and we need to start moving forward now.
We have too long been a union that hopes that contract language and a handful of engaged members can solve our problems while the rest of us stick to our classrooms and offices. That won’t work any more. We need an organizing union that builds power by working together and by winning. We need administration to know that we have built enough power that we can all stand together. That is hard power to build, we have a long way to go, but it’s possible. We see that power in the West Virginia teachers, and we saw it in ourselves last September. We have three years to get it back. I am asking for your vote for president of the Long Island University Faculty Federation so that I can help us do that together.