Good day fellow faculty, and welcome back for the 2018-19 academic year. When the theme for this issue of Chaparral was discussed last spring, I was excited by the prospect of sharing the crucial role that art plays in union activism. While I was tempted to approach this article with an historian’s eye (that is, after all, my discipline) to explore art in the labor movement since the late 19th century, I realized that I need go no further than recent history of our own Guild to make the point more elegantly.
It is through images that our Guild leadership has found the means to express very complex ideas and objectives to our members. While the written word can articulate these issues precisely, those words also require time and focus that is not always available or achievable. As I write these words, I know – for a fact – that the first thing you did once you opened the link was look at the images that are included. We can’t help ourselves. Our understanding of the earliest humans is gained through the images they created – art. The ability to directly confront an observer with an image devoid of “linguistic” restrictions allows people all over the world to communicate with one another.
The Guild is fortunate to have a talented and dedicated artist who is willing to work with us to develop images that truly are worth a thousand words. David Attyah has graciously volunteered his time and considerable skills to help our union achieve important communication. The following two examples will illustrate just how vital art is for union strength.
The first visual campaign emerged three years ago when the California Federation of Teacher’s (CFT) chose Glendale College to be part of their Building Power campaign. At that time we had barely 65% membership in the Guild, and knew that we needed to recruit, recruit, and recruit some more. But we also understood that we needed to provide a method to identify our goal to members and non-members alike. High membership rates translate to power at the table, greater respect from the District, and the ability to settle without conflict because the District will clearly understand the unity of the faculty Guild. We needed to create a “super majority” of at least 85% as a means of assuring a strong a stable union.
A key element of this recruitment campaign was to create a visual statement of what we were trying to achieve. We needed all faculty to understand that through united action, we could achieve our goals. They had to express that joining the union was essential for the future as educators at GCC. It was essential for there to be a sense of growing volunteerism and activism, and that all faculty share a vision of our role as educators. We knew that we were completely unified by our love of instruction. That, coupled with increased solidarity, could create a powerful force to make sure the District took us and our needs seriously. But how do we achieve all of this?
Following on the heels of that successful campaign, the Guild leadership sought to broaden the goals of our Union beyond the bread and butter issues of negotiating and enforcing our Contract. We learned from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) that over half of all union members joined their locals out of a sense of social justice. This reality brought about a desire for a new image, a new way of visually representing our mission.
The Guild Executive Committee tasked David Attyah with a seemingly impossible objective: to find a way to communicate the idea of service to the community directly to the many nationalities that live in Glendale. We knew that our members are active in the community, so we sought to let that varied community know we embraced their diversity. Our Guild wanted to show that we were part of that wide-ranging community, that we were – in fact – part of the community.
The slogan for this campaign: brought to you by. We asked David to develop an image that incorporated the 9 major languages spoken in the broader Glendale area. While David has requested we NEVER ask him to incorporate nine languages into a single message ever again, he undertook this colossal task and accepted the importance of this new message.
The chevron successfully expresses the message we desired. Once again, your Guild can unify around an important visual depiction of our current mission, to become a more integral part of our city and its diverse population. We hope our members go online and purchase garments displaying this graphic, and then wear them as they do their important work throughout the city. An understanding of who we are can spread to those who don’t know or understand us. Once again, it is an image that carries the burden of messaging.
Without art like the pieces discussed here, I am not clear how our Guild could continue to grow in strength and numbers. It is the power of art – brought to us by our own talented art faculty – which makes me feel secure in our future.
|Glendale College Guild