Union Solidarity – “An Injury to One Is An Injury to All”
Since the announcement of my election as MCCC President in March 2016 and before I even took ofﬁce on June 1, 2016, I have been, and I remain, a polarizing ﬁgure in the MCCC, my every move distrusted, with the worst of motives ascribed to me. So let me be clear: I am not a candidate for re-election as president of the MCCC. It is my hope that fresh voices will be elected to give the MCCC a chance to start a new, and I offer a few thoughts on that.
At least three issues need to be addressed: (1) the level of venom directed at people trying to do what they think is best for the members, (2) the attempts to block new initiatives and involvement by new people, and (3) the information blockages that make it hard for people to know what is going on. Let me brieﬂy address each of those points, and suggest in the broadest terms what I think is needed to move forward what the members deserve.
First, we need to address the tone inside the MCCC. When I proposed to Board members that we drive together to an MCCC meeting, one person, whom I had thought of as my friend, wrote to me (before I’d been on the job a month) that “I don’t want you in my car or anywhere close to me, ever.” A chapter president said he would call security if I attended a chapter meeting, explaining that “It is not a veiled threat, and it is meant to intimidate you.” Moving forward, MCCC leaders need to agree to provide space for alternative views and to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.
Second, our aim should be to welcome those who want to engage with union activity. We need to ﬁnd ways to incorporate people who do not already have years of experience. They bring new perspectives, networks, and energy. When a new generation wants to engage, and gets rebuffed or ill-treated, that sends the message that the existing MCCC leadership is a closed club. Too often, that is true: seven of our Directors are receiving the equivalent of a 3-credit Step 2 DCE course (currently valued at $3,423; e.g. $1,141 per credit x 3 credits) for one reason or another, and many have served for years and years. We should implement a term limit on MCCC board members – just as our parent organizations, the MTA and the NEA, have done.
Third, it is a crazy situation to elect a President and then tell her that she can’t communicate directly with the members (except once a month through this column). In the MCCC, and only in the MCCC, the President’s messages are to be sent to chapter presidents, who then decide whether or not to pass on the news to chapter members.
Leading the MCCC would be a huge challenge in the best of circumstances. Public education is under attack every-where, as are public sector unions. Community colleges are the poor step-children of the system, with lower pay, higher teaching loads, and fewer resources than the state universities or UMass. Full-time faculty are being replaced by adjuncts, who are paid and treated disgracefully. In our system, “Equal Pay for Equal Work” becomes a radical demand, when it should be the most basic starting point that all can accept. Our efforts to build a strong DCE bargaining team and campaign have repeatedly been thwarted.
The MCCC has more agency fee payers than all K-12 locals combined. In June, when the Supreme Court is expected to issue its Janus decision abolishing agency fee, the MCCC will lose more members than any segment of the MTA. Keeping our DCE members would be a huge challenge if MCCC leadership had the best will in the world, with a union that was working together, with a shared commitment to making adjunct issues a priority. I was elected in signiﬁcant part to try to address adjunct issues; I have to confess that (so far) I have failed – and the MCCC has failed with me. It would be hard for anyone in the MCCC to argue, with a straight face, that we have made equal pay for adjuncts a priority for all our members.
My term ends on May 31; new ofﬁcers will be seated in June. Whatever the out-come of statewide and local chapter elections, it is clear to me that if we continue in the old way, with rancor and pettiness, with efforts to keep all union positions within the hands of those who have been involved for years, with information ﬂows blocked, with adjunct issues neglected – then we will have a rocky future. It’s time for the MCCC to turn over a new leaf, to bring in new leadership at every level, to open up the process, to set a new tone, and to address issues that for too long have been swept under the rug. If you are still reading, I urge you to get involved, to put yourself forward as a candidate, to elect new chapter leaders, new board members, and to think about new ways for the MCCC to operate. The MCCC can be a tremendous force for good; with your participation, it can realize its potential.