I picked this month’s title from one of my favorite books, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If you’ve read it, I hope you get my joke. If not … well, I’m suggesting you should add this fantastic read to the list of books you might finally get to as you continue to social distance through the months to come.
In this, my last article as President of the Glendale College Guild, I need to take the time to thank all of Guild Exec. for the support and counsel they have given me over the last three years. I can’t imagine trying to do this job without having a team that is so dedicated and capable. The variety of perspectives, insights and sensibilities that coalesced into the current group was indeed a blessing. And not only am I going to be stepping down from my role as President, there are several other members of your Exec. that are attending to their final duties. So let me briefly thank each one of them.
First, there is the 1st Vice President Troy Davis. He has been at the ready to stand in for me at any event where I was unable to attend. Knowing that all I had to do was pick up the phone and recognize he would have my back was a huge burden off my mind.
Then there is our Secretary, Patti Sternau. Over the last 2 years Patti has become increasingly familiar with the processes and working of Guild Exec., and her ability to keep up with the intense discussions to generate insightful and concise minutes for both Guild Exec. and the Membership meetings has allowed your Guild to keep current in its responsibilities and able to monitor progress that is made from week to week and month to month in the seemingly endless tasks that the Guild must undertake.
The work of Wendy Fonarow over the last two years as Public Information Officer has helped transform the relationship between the Guild and the Board of Trustees for years to come. Her dedication to making contacts in the community in an effort to find the right candidates, as well as her work as a conduit between your faculty union and the community cannot be overstated. It was through the foundations created in this work that the Guild was able to support two winning candidates for Board of Trustees, as well as endorse three victorious candidates running for City Council. The role of PIO has been changed forever.
Lastly, I want to thank Paul Vera for his tireless effort as Grievance Officer. In his six years in this position he has devoutly served the Guild and its membership. I can never fully thank him for his unequaled ability to work with the District while representing the interests of our union to produce fair results without resorting to costly legal challenges. His work in this area will be truly missed despite the fact that his labors remain virtually invisible by the virtue of his informal process and the trust the District places in his opinion and approach. An invisible Grievance Officer is an effective one! The Grievance officer and the President have to work very closely, and over the last three years Paul has become a very close personal friend (he was a groomsman at my wedding last August, in fact). While the Guild will miss him, I now have a friend for life.
Brian Reff, Krista Raimondo, Emily Haraldson
Before I go on to show gratitude to those who will continue in their roles on Guild Exec., I also want to acknowledge the work done by members of Exec. who are running for new offices. The 2nd Vice President Brian Reff, our current Garfield Steward Krista Raimondo, and our Division Liaison Coordinator Emily Haraldson, are all giving up these positions to seek new responsibilities in your Guild. It is the sign of a good union when leaders feel both a desire and the passion to seek greater involvement in the work we do.
And then there is Moe Taghdis, the long-time Guild budget representative. He is looking to simplify his life, and has given notice that he will be stepping down from his Guild-Exec. appointed position. His service in this role (as well as on the negotiating team) has provided stability and institutional knowledge that is truly invaluable. His input will be sorely missed. But have no fear, for our very own Mike Scott has been selected by Exec. to take on this duty in the upcoming year, so I think this part of your Exec. will continue to function without missing a beat.
Now I have to thank the last two members of Guild Exec., and the only two who are remaining in their current positions, David Hassett and Caroline DePiro. All our members need to acknowledge the skilled professionalism exhibited by these two long-standing members of the Executive Committee, so let me discuss each in turn.
I don’t know if you have noticed how stable and well-run the Guild’s finances are. During my five years serving on Exec., there has never been a mention of raising dues, and this is despite the nation-wide attacks on public unions that have forced both CFT and AFT to reduce budgets and increase funding from locals. You need to thank David Hassett for this miracle. He is a responsible steward of your contributions, creating realistic budgets and constantly advising your Guild leadership of the financial implications of decisions that are discussed. Add this to his unique sense of humor – and all of you have seen his “know your contract” presentations have a taste of this – David will continue to watch over the financial stability of the Guild.
And, lastly, there is your Chief Negotiator Caroline DePiro. There is not enough acclaim I can give for her work on your behalf over my three years as President. I have seen her turn potential unnecessary confrontations with the District into collaborative efforts structured to solve shared problems that neither side understood before she reshaped the dialogue. Unassuming and seemingly quiet, Caroline has a laser-like focus that helps to keep negotiations on track, and all participants talking. Because of her the Guild and the District have fully embraced interest-based negotiations – and it is only through the trust created in this process that we have been able to receive ongoing raises and revisions to our contract that have benefited virtually every faculty member on campus. I can’t fully express how much I will miss working with Caroline.
Now I write the final words you will read from me as your President. The adventure of these last three years will be part of who I am going forward. While I long for a life without the stress and drama that comes with being President of the Guild, I have to admit that working in your union has been both rewarding and fulfilling. I feel proud of my work representing each and every Guild member, and can honestly walk away feeling that our union has grown stronger – in numbers, in its sense of social responsibility, and in its political power in the City of Glendale – during my three years. I can only hope that this growth is, at least in small part, because of my work as President. We face the current challenge of a global pandemic both unified and supportive. Your union has weathered storms in the past, and I have confidence that our current turbulence will only serve to make us stronger.
Roger Bowerman, President of the Glendale College Guild, AFT local 2276