This is my FAREWELL note.
I’m stepping down from my position as Garfield steward, and this is my farewell note. I’m not leaving because I’m fed up (although that’s happened at times) or because people are fed up with me (that , too, is frequent). I’m not going to advance my career, and I’m not really retiring, although that certainly is in the equation. I just think it’s time for change. I was the first, but I’m sure no one intended that I’d be the last, too.
It all started one day after I shot my mouth off at some meeting, and was encouraged to do it again at another meeting of higher ups, when one, now retired, ESL instructor who had been on the negotiating team, came up to me and said that they have decided to have a Garfield representative on the Guild Executive team, and she thought I should apply.
I certainly had union sentiments, and was of the generation where activism was a given at U.C. Berkeley, but… to tell the truth, I had never been to a Guild meeting at Glendale, nor at Southwest College in the L.A. District where I also taught. I had a fairly good reason though, I was in the classroom teaching at lunchtime.
So I wasn’t picked automatically, and I don’t know what Gordon Alexandre and Mike Allen really thought about me, but about four months later, they decided I would do, and I suddenly had a new title, a small stipend and a ‘to do” list. I was not on the Guild Exec, I didn’t get a salary, I didn’t have voting rights, but I could and did organize meetings. The first one was quite a shocker, to others and me. Then rallies which were great fun; even our students helped out.
It was after a few years that my position was given a seat on the Guild Exec. Now, not only could I be heard, but I had a vote. As my involvement in the Guild grew, the overriding impression I had was how much I, and my Garfield counterparts, didn’t know about the college as a whole. We went to departmental meetings, and that was about it for participation in the college. We didn’t know anyone in administration. We didn’t know what the policies were towards adjunct, towards non-credit, other than that we seemed to be the last on most lists for improvement. “Down here” there was an overriding impression among those that did know, that we were looked down upon. Despite the fact that we had the same degrees, or higher, our work wasn’t perceived as important. After all, our students didn’t bring the college the same money. Visits to our dilapidated bungalows or to the church didn’t help. Now when people come down, they are ushered into an modern, high-tech, green building with lots of computer rooms and other conveniences. It is hard to look down on the physical plant, but we still have a long ways to go in other areas of equality.
We had our share of fights. Three years ago, an edict to more or less cut out our ability to sub created a sudden loss of income to many and an administrative nightmare. We fought back to restore substitute teaching to the norms that had existed. We had to persuade the Administration that subbing did not bring on a Peralta violation according to the State code of education. There is a sweetness in victory, however it has put other constraints on what we can do in this area.
Another type of memorable victory was working on “Yes on Prop 30” campaign. The voter registration we did on campus - many of the new voters were either new citizens or young people - provided Garfield students the opportunity to give their voice at the ballot. Then, there was the rally with GCC’s student representatives coming down to speak in many languages. We also canvassed neighborhoods where I had the pleasure of working with people from movie electrical technicians union. We belief that we just had to win, or the whole already badly fractured educational system of California would go from bad to dysfunctional, pushed an all-out effort from everyone: faculty, students, staff, administration. That feeling after the victory was great.
On the human side, being a part of Guild Exec was an experience that entirely changed my relationship to GCC. I was now a representative in the “big picture.” People on Guild Exec are some of the brightest, most committed people I’ve ever worked with. They also are the most contentious, and each one is looking out to get the most for their group, myself included. That’s a large part of what I was voted in to do. Representing a pool of now over 130 adjunct from non-credit, I often stood with Phyllis Eckler, 2nd V.P. for adjunct, a phenomenal person, who never stopped fighting for the betterment of adjuncts. Representing non-credit, we had to fight for those with the highest teaching loads and huge numbers of projects to administer. As I write this, I think we have succeeded in doing that. But since we do not bring in as much money from the state, we are often at the bottom of the barrel.
I think there are many areas I should have done more, and I’ll be telling your new representative, Cheryl Johnson, to work on these areas. As usual, more communication is needed between the Guild and departments and between the rep and faculty members, especially at outlying branches who seldom get to any meetings (even department meetings). Adjuncts still badly need increases in steps. We have to see the numbers before we know whether our fights for summer/winter pay actually help many.
It ‘s been my pleasure to serve Garfield faculty. It’s a big responsibility, and I’m sure it can be done better. Your new rep, Cheryl Johnson, has been on the negotiating team for years. She is not new to the big picture, as I was. Her skills as a lawyer will surely be helpful. Her commitment to the betterment of the worker runs in her blood and has for generations.
With Caroline dePiro as our new Non-credit adjunct rep to the negotiating team, I’m certain we’ll have another strong voice in that area, too.
On the part of the adjunct faculty, I say, you must get involved in more than just your class. For those of you who have the time, you should be on governance committees, run for an office, be involved. Your voice is needed. We still have a long way to go.
So, adieu, farewell, shalom. Old reps never die. They just wander the halls giving advice that no one is listening to any more, and probably isn’t relevant anyway.
That’s exactly the reason I’ll find a new way to direct my passions.
It’s been great….
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