This past year we have talked a lot about how we can adapt, rise up, and face the challenges ahead: the long shadow of the Janus ruling, the potential loss of subsidized release, the continuing disinvestment from public education, and the educational reform agendas that never really seem to go away.
However, in this Green Sheet – my first as your President-elect – I want to talk about something different. I want to share with you what I believe MSCF will be like for members in the future. Simply: MSCF will no longer be something that a select group of people do. MSCF will be who we are. All of us.
When I think about what it will mean to be an engaged member, I’m not talking about serving on committees or workgroups. . . as important and necessary as those can be. Rather, what I envision are your interests, concerns, and values, combined with those of your colleagues, forming the foundation of what drives our collective activity as a union.
Imagine a workplace where you feel connected to other faculty, where you spend time engaged in meaningful conversations about teaching, about your life outside of work, about your family, about the state of our communities and our country.
Imagine a world in which your concerns are heard and taken seriously by people you interact with on a daily basis, by people who understand your perspective because they do similar work.
Imagine going to work with a sense that no matter what challenges you may face, you and your colleagues can do something about it by working together.
Most importantly, imagine everything I have just described as the role MSCF plays in every member’s life.
Getting here will not be easy, but it will be worth it. We will have to develop the processes and organizational structures that make the engagement I described above the foundation of our union. And that’s the easy part. We also have to change the way we think about MSCF, its role, purpose, and place in our world. . . especially because our world doesn’t work like it used to.
For many of these things, history is a useful guide, as is seeing how other unions have accomplished big things. But much of the work ahead is defined by questions that have no answer yet. I am excited by this work, and if you feel the same, I want to work with you to find a place in our union.
Finally, I want to close with a direct response to some of the feedback I’ve heard while sharing this vision of our future. I have seen a few eye rolls and heard a few scoffs — What does any of this touchy-feely kumbaya relationship stuff have anything to do with being a strong union?
Everything. At its core, what I am talking about is people standing with each other for each other. In other words, solidarity. Given the challenges ahead, meaningful engagement with 100% of our membership must be our goal.
The ability of any member to stand strong in the face of an adverse situation is built on the unflinching belief that others will stand beside them, without question, for as long as it takes. But if we don’t know each other, understand each other, and care for each other, there is no way any of us will have faith in others to stand with us should that time come. Throughout the history of labor, we have learned one lesson over and over again: the success of any action — big or small — is a direct reflection of the strength of people’s relationships with one another.
Forty years ago, in 1979, community college faculty in Minnesota engaged in a successful strike action. At that time, it was a historic moment in higher education. Now, in 2019, our colleagues in other states are being called to action, to put their solidarity to the ultimate test. I believe in the future we will have to test our own solidarity. Now is the time to rediscover our strength in each other and build an MSCF that can make history again.