OK folks. After however many years I’ve known what a blog was, and however many of those years I’ve resisted doing one because I recognize how addicting it is. here we go. If I begin ignoring my job or my marriage or my dog or my friends, blame Kevin Mahoney of Kutztown U, who convinced me to work with him on a collaborative blog on academic labor (more on that later). Of course, his encouragement consisted of exactly one e-mail, asking “Do you want to do this?” That’s what makes him such a good arm-twister.
Our union, APSCUF (Association of PA State College and University Faculty) is at a complex moment in its 40-ish year history. Two things seem to be happening at once. First, the generation of faculty who founded and organized the union are phasing out, while a younger generation of people, many of whom have union and/or other activist experience, are phasing in. Second, and this is my very idiosyncratic read, it seems like the union has maxed out its capability to organize and function on the kind of amateur (or more positively grassroots) basis it’s been on since its birth. That happens with movements–there comes a time when people who aren’t professional (or trained, really, at all) organizers have gotten the movement or organization as far as they can, and have to turn to outside help to move the effort along. I strongly believe APSCUF is at that point.
We have started to do this. At our September 2007 statewide Legislative Assembly, we resolved to hire an outside labor consultant to help us debrief from the last contract negotiation and recommend structural, strategic, and tactical changes to the way we do business. His report is due in April 2008. Likewise, our friend and comrade Allen Howell has been working hard and pushing on some really substantial revisions to our bylaws. We’ve also resolved to investigate the process (and cost) of hiring professional negotiators and/or negotiations trainers before our next contract negotiations begin.
All of that’s to say that we seem to be moving, or at least willing to move, in the right direction. I’m optimistic that if the leadership of our organization is as committed to fixing our problems as they say they are, we can make these changes work for our membership. At the same time, there’s resistance to change in the organization (some based on the weight of our history, some based on political/philosophical differences of opinion over what unions do, some resulting from the fact that we all have full-time jobs already and can’t spend all our time working on this).
So we’ll see. April should be interesting on several APSCUF fronts.