For this election, the MSCF Elections Committee sent out a questionnaire with five questions. I’m pleased to share my responses to these questions throughout this week!
Question # 3. What are your priorities in terms of contract negotiations?
Anyone can provide a list of things they wish could happen in contract negotiations – and you can count on me to be a fierce advocate for our membership and our profession. The bigger question is how we translate what we want into actual results.
I believe our contract belongs to all members, and all members should have a role in shaping, negotiating, and defending this document. When we have done the necessary work to understand what we need, built effective networks of communication about progress to involve and engage large numbers of members, and given our members opportunities to support ongoing negotiations, we can achieve our values in our contract. Being out on many campuses over the past few years, I've heard many people talk about values they feel are not yet fully realized in our contract, values like having your accumulated experience recognized in increased compensation, measures to ensure part-time and adjunct faculty are treated with respect as professionals, and equal pay for equal work. My priority is to ensure the priorities of our membership guide our contract negotiations.
Unfortunately, we are in a time where a scarcity mindset often defines the people we negotiate with. We have to remember that the ability to change management's answer from "no" to "yes" is dependent on things that happen outside of the negotiation room. In other words, my priority is to build the structures and relationships that lead to successful negotiation outcomes that reflect the needs and values of our membership.
On a practical level, this work aligns with building the type of union I described in the first question. As we increase the level of involvement members experience, it becomes possible to have better avenues of discussion over what we want to prioritize in contract negotiations. Further, as members experience increased involvement in the negotiation process and as our priorities at the negotiation table aligns with the priorities they experience in their daily work, it becomes possible to create greater support for our needs in our communities and in the political realm—all of which allows us to push for better settlements with the contract.
We will know we’ve succeeded when we can enter contract negotiations and expand the quality of our working conditions without having to concede any of the core values we’ve always fought for—a permanent, professional faculty that controls an academically rigorous curriculum that is focused on true education and not short-sided fads.