Renewing Our Commitments
Our union needs to recapture the energy, the spirit, and the commitment that enabled the labor movement to play a key role in shaping our country; in giving dignity and respect to workers through advancing working conditions, wages, and benefits; and bringing a better quality of life to families.
Our work is education. Most of us entered community college teaching and academic support because we are passionate about the mission of improving lives through education…one student at a time. Quality public education is something people had to fight to win, and our unions (MCCC/MTA/NEA) have been and continue to be central to that fight to provide the learning and working conditions needed for student success and to provide the schools our communities deserve
Members=Power. As a union of members, we need to renew our commitment to democracy, to civility, and to working together for the common good. This past year, we have been caught in a cycle of recrimination among a small inner circle within the Board focused on attacks. Most members want an end to the squabbling and want the leadership at all levels president, vice-president, secretary, Board of Directors, chapter presidents to focus on union solidarity and on advancing our work as education professionals.
After 38 years of full time teaching, I ran for statewide MCCC President because I wanted members’ voices to be heard, because I wanted us to advance equality for adjuncts, and because I value openness and transparency. And, despite the political distractions within leadership, we have succeeded in accomplishing many of these goals this past year:
- New, previously unengaged members have become involved and are now serving on statewide committees and many were first-time attendees at the MCCC, MTA, and NEA Delegate Assemblies.
- Our DCE bargaining team is strong in its commitment to achieve a contract that respects the work and contributions of our adjunct faculty. Our bargaining process is more transparent; members, for the first time ever, have been invited to observe negotiations!
- A DCE bargaining support team was created to work with Chapter Presidents to provide ongoing member support for contract negotiations.
- The Day contract was finally signed and printed well past ratification, and the Day contract Salary Grid was brought to a successful ratification vote despite almost impossible timeline constraints.
- Resources were expended to develop and strengthen chapters weak in member involvement, to provide stipends to members to attend conferences and workshops, and to support leadership training forums for local chapter presidents and for members seeking greater involvement in their union.
- A new and improved MCCC website was launched, providing ease of use and the ability to be viewed on multiple devices from computers to smartphones.
- We entered into social media with the creation and launching of an MCCC Facebook Page.
- A Fall Conference open to all unit members at no cost is scheduled for October 26. Workshops of interest to members are being planned.
- The Bylaws and Rules Committee brought forward 13 new bylaw proposals to the Delegate Assembly in April despite the proposals not being acted upon.
- The Nominations and Elections Committee took over the statewide elections process and heard an appeal on a Spring 2017 chapter election that failed to provide absentee ballots; the Committee’s decision was that a new chapter election be held in Fall 2017.
- A Blue Ribbon Ad Hoc Committee was formed to review our MCCC policies on reassigned time/stipends given to Board members and others (currently valued at $3,423 each) to ensure that member dues are being used responsibly and that there are accountability measures in place; a report is due to be presented to the Board in August or September.
Renewed commitments are needed not just for the MCCC but for all public sector unions as we are about to face an unprecedented attack on our very existence. It is almost certain that the Trump Supreme Court (in the Janus case) will issue a decision that will abolish agency fee provisions for all public sector unions nationwide in an attempt to destroy unions by requiring unions to provide many of the benefits of the contract but without requiring non-members (agency fee payers) to pay anything for the services they receive.
If we are to survive the attacks, we need to renew our commitment to the core value of unionism: to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our nation. Our power as a union is in our MEMBERS collectively standing together in solidarity to advance respect for our profession and to advocate for our students; it does not reside in top-down leadership.
We need to come together, talk with each other, and democratically decide what matters to us. As individuals, power resides with management. As a union of engaged members, we hold shared power and have to be taken seriously. We have seen this past year, through the work of MTA, that “when we fight, we win.”
MTA is launching an “All In: Building Union Power” campaign: “Public education is under assault. The threat of privatization is real. Public educators must speak out. We must use the power of our collective voices to promote and protect the ideals that are vital to helping students learn and succeed.”
The campaign requires grassroots member organizing through member-to- ing. For example, we worked with the MTA to develop House Bill 639, called the “Faculty Restoration and Equity Fund,” which is now before the Joint Committee on Higher Education. H639 calls for pay parity, access to health care and a state pension, a state contribution to the Smart Plan, and priority hiring for adjuncts.
In recent bargaining sessions, some of the issues on the table have been:
Sick Leave: we have improved the conditions for using sick leave, but language has not been finalized. Lab instructors do not get equal treatment for their lab-hour, sick-time computation. The good news is that management has dropped its insistence that only deceased members can cash out their unused sick leave. Now you can get it upon retirement – while you’re still breathing.
Job Postings: The union had been asking for preference in full-time job openings, but management was adamantly opposed. The union continues to demand more timely assigning of courses for adjuncts to give them adequate time for preparation.
DCE MACER improvement: A number of college presidents do not participate in Management Association Committee for Employee Relations (MACER) meetings. The union has asked for stronger language covering MACER with a train- member conversations. For MCCC, with our vast s y s t e m o f 15 community colleges spread across the state and with our diversity of students and over 7,000 members, the challenge is to develop member communication networks on each of our college campuses with a cadre of trained members willing to pledge to talk with twenty other members.
I will be visiting chapters this year and working with chapter presidents in developing this network. If we can do this, we will be a far stronger union – for enforcing our contracts, for winning better contract terms, and for putting our issues on the political map. I am willing to travel across the state to meet with members to discuss shared values and how we can build power to bring about better contracts (currently negotiating DCE but Day negotiations will soon begin), to achieve equity through legislation (HB.639), and to get financial resources for our colleges through the Fair Share Amendment. Members interested in greater union engagement may also contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 508.947.5822. I want to meet you; your voice matters!
Diana Yohe, MCCC President