As I see it, the role of the legislative liaison is two-tiered and bi-directional. First, it is bi-directional because it entails bringing news from UMD to the legislature and, reciprocally, bringing news from the legislature to UMD.Second, it is two-tiered because it entails UEA-level advocacy (advocacy regarding faculty issues only), rare in my tenure, and UMD-level advocacy, which, in present-days context, is the main thing we are doing.
As a result, then, in my role as legislative liaison for the UEA, I coordinate three main aspects of advocacy for UMD, listed below.
1) Consult with UMD administration about current legislative issues affecting UMD or the system.
2) Generate messages within UEA and coordinate with UMD where possible.
3) Organize face-to-face interactions with legislators by UMD faculty and organize communication campaigns. (e.g., letter writing, phone calling, etc.)
One of the most important things we do is meet with legislators face-to-face, who generally really appreciate it when we do. Here is some important information for those who are unsure about getting involved in this capacity. We need you, so please read this, and get in touch with me if you'd like to get more involved.
Fellow faculty who have never met with legislators tend to think it is something that require special qualifications. To be convinced to come on a trip, they need to be reassured that 1/ legislators just value meeting real people and the only real qualification needed is being able to testify about what is going on for them at UMD and 2/ they will be briefed in the car about what has been going on at the legislature and the few specific messages we would like to slip in the conversation. Concretely, I prepare binders with:
Faculty who go to St-Paul for the first time usually really enjoy it, as legislators are usually very welcoming, especially at the beginning of the session. They feel like they want to do it again. But they also realize that it is a very tiring day, so it is a big commitment. Ideally, we should cultivate a large group a people, so that each person only goes once a year, or once every other year. We do have colleagues who want to be more engaged though, and this should also be permitted, but we want to be careful not to burn them out.
I have worked in the UEA office since October 2016. I replaced long time office staff Celeste Dallman after 20+ years. I work about 25 hours per week as an employee of both UEA and Education Minnesota. My duties include managing the membership rosters, tracking member engagement, event planning, attending UEA EC meetings and taking minutes, coordinating Representative Council and General Membership meetings, and helping make sure the union’s day to day finances are running on track. I am the first point of contact for our members via phone and email and I am working on building the UEA website.
It makes me incredibly proud to work for the faculty union at UMD because doing work that is in line with my own values matters. Helping the dedicated members of the Executive Committee do organizing work and making tremendous efforts to be accessible and available to the members means interacting with intelligent and thoughtful professionals in many fields. Learning how the grievance process exists to protect the contract for the entire bargaining unit is fascinating and I’m regularly amazed by how many contract related issues are able to be resolved before a grievance is ever filed. The strength of our union affords us a seat at the table - and it's inspiring to see in action.
In a post-Janus era it is more important than ever to be involved with your union. That may mean attending some meetings, getting involved with legislative efforts or even swinging by the office for a free cup of coffee during one of those events. Connect with other UEA members on campus and encourage the non-members in your departments and social circles to consider membership. Our power at the bargaining table is predicated on our numbers and show of solidarity. We truly are stronger together. Let me know what I can do to make your membership more meaningful - whether its some UEA swag or a list of upcoming events - I’m here to serve!
Decency. Integrity. Justice. These things matter to me. They’re the reason I agreed to serve as your UEA-D president.
When I arrived at UMD in 2005 as a newly minted Ph.D., I was naïve about the academic world I was entering. I assumed that universities were enlightened institutions where hard work was valued and the public good embraced. I soon discovered that this was not always the case. UMD, it turned out, was not unlike some of the other places I had been employed. There were many wonderful people doing admirable work. But there could also be pettiness, dishonesty, and injustice. Fairness, I learned, did not always prevail.
Fortunately, I found UEA-D not long after coming to campus. I learned that I didn’t need to navigate this new world alone. My unionized colleagues had my back. They provided crucial assistance when I unexpectedly needed it, and the collective bargaining agreement they negotiated created a framework for my success.
Today, UEA-D exists to continue making UMD a better place. It operates from a simple premise: We’re stronger and better when we join together. There is indeed power in solidarity.
We can see this in the benefits that distinguish us from many of our colleagues elsewhere. Because we’re a unionized faculty we enjoy academic freedom not as a privilege but as a legal obligation. Because we’re a unionized faculty we can file grievances against workplace injustices. Because we’re a unionized faculty we have protections against exploitive administrators. Because we’re a unionized faculty our leaves are the envy of the University system. And because we’re a unionized faculty we can speak louder, more persistently, and without fear of reprisal when things aren’t right.
As your president until 2020, I want to ensure that UMD allows you to thrive. We’re not yet fully there. I want more equitable leave policies. I want a clearer understanding of workload limits. I want better job security and more humane treatment for term faculty. And, above all, I want a workplace where we have the freedom to do what we love without interference: teach our classes, conduct our research, and serve the institution and society. Like I said, we’re not quite there. But, together, we’re working on it.
For the past four years I have served our community as a part-time state legislator and currently serve on the Legislative Higher Education Committee. I am very concerned about inadequate state funding for higher education and the general lack of support for higher education from many of my legislative colleagues. Faculty members can no longer keep their heads down focused on research and teaching. We need faculty members advocating at the Capitol. The UEA has consistently sent a team of UEA faculty members to the Capitol to share stories about their research, student success and barriers they face because of inadequate state funding. Because of this advocacy, it is now common knowledge at the Capitol that the share of state funding per student at UMD is among the lowest of all UMN and Minnesota State Colleges. Legislators from outside Duluth are now asking UMN officials why UMD is getting so little in state funds. This should put pressure on the UMN system to modify how state funds are distributed across campuses. Sharing your research and student success stories is also vital so legislators understand the value of state investment in public higher education. Faculty members need to continue engaging legislators, particularly new legislators elected in November. Advocates with powerful stories have significant influence. Please visit the Capitol during spring semester--attend or testify at Higher Education committee hearings, meet with legislators, share your stories. I know from experience your voice makes a difference.
Community is important to me here at UMD and through my work in the Twin Ports. Fostering relationships that create such community also happens to be central to my role as Membership Officer for the UEA.
As Membership officer, I would love to talk to you about the Value of Belonging in the UEA but also to listen to as you share how UEA can better serve your needs as well as those of your colleagues across campus. While we need to hear from you so we can best support all faculty, we also need you to be a member of the UEA. The higher our membership numbers, the better we can advocate and negotiate. Contact me with any membership questions you might have.
Finally, UEA, isn’t just about contracts and grievances, it is also about coming together and building lasting relationships. This fall we have a variety of events and activities scheduled that will allow members to get to know each other. Here are a few highlights: a family day at the Duluth Art Institute; weekly bike rides in Hartley Nature Center; a group outing to a Volleyball game; a UEA night at the DSSO; and a UEA float in the UMD Homecoming Parade.
I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming event as well as on campus.