By Kay Emmert
Fall 2017 has been a busy semester for NTFC! While we always have high turn-over in the Fall, this year our bargaining unit increased to over 500 people, making this the largest number of people NTFC has ever represented. We also hired our first staff person, a Part-Time Office Manager named Leslie Thomas. She’s taken so much of the work off the hands of NTTs who volunteer their time, that it has left us freer to focus on the things that strengthen a union the most: organizing and community building. Our Stewards Council has been working diligently to make sure we reach out to all those new people, inform them of their rights, and see how we can make sure NTFC represents everyone’s interests better. So even though this isn’t a bargaining year, we’ve had lots to do with talking to new NTTs, and with strengthening our presence on campus and in the community.
This Semester So Far
Besides increasing conversations around campus about what it means to be a member of NTFC, we’ve also been focusing on how we as a union can be more relevant to our campus and community. It’s important that we create strong ties within our unit, but also with our friends and family. That’s why this semester we launched our first ever Halloween Party and Trick-or-Treat event. The event included NTT and GEO members handing out candy at their offices during the trick-or-treat event, exposing kids to campus life but also getting our name out there in a positive way. We also had a smashing chili cook-off, costume prizes, pumpkin painting, and great mingling in a family-friendly atmosphere. The event was a great success, people came together not only from our membership and GEO’s, but from our colleagues and the community as well. It’s events like these that help show the community who we are, and create stronger ties for the day when we may need the community’s support.
We’re hoping to get some temporary organizers from our affiliate, the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) for a 1-week organizing event in which we try to reach as many people as possible. We’ll need faculty volunteers to work with each staff person, so we’ll be looking for NTFC members interested in talking to new colleagues.
Soon, we will also be planning our semesterly Work-In for Reading Day. Traditionally, this has been a time for NTFC members and friends to come together, have some coffee and snacks, and make the labor we provide visible to the campus. It’s a great way to increase awareness of who NTTs are and what we do, but also to get some much needed work done! We’ll be planning this event very soon, so suggestions are welcome and helpful now.
As you are likely aware, our ally union—the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO)—is currently in negotiations for their collective bargaining agreement. Again, tuition waivers are at risk. The administration doesn’t want to guarantee tuition waivers for TAs so that these academic workers can afford to pursue their education while providing necessary labor to our University. In addition, GEO is fighting for family care assistance. The GEO has pursued mediation with no compromises or movement from the administration. GEO has already conducted a Strike Authorization Vote, which passed with over-whelming support. That means we could be seeing yet another strike on our campus in the coming months. NTFC supports GEO in their efforts to secure a fair collective bargaining agreement. In addition, if a strike does happen, NTFC will have materials ready helping members understand their restrictions, rights, choices, and options.
Some of you have already been following the Supreme Court Case, Janus v. AFSCME. The Supreme Court has chosen to hear a case on the constitutionality of Fair Share, which could have drastic effects for all unions nationally. NTFC, as well as all of our affiliates, have been working to reduce any negative impact should the Supreme Court rule in favor of Janus. New membership cards have been created to help make sure locals can budget responsibly, and we’ve been talking to members as well as the University administration to see how we might all respond swiftly. In addition, our local is currently working on guiding documents about this case and what it could mean for our union so that our members are better informed.
At this time, all around us there seems to be threats to worker rights, but this year NTFC wants to focus on being a positive force. If members have ideas for how we can leave a positive impact on our campus or community, let us know! Anyone can stop by our office in the McKinley Foundation. Office hours are staffed by our Office Manager, Leslie Thomas, who can help with questions or at least forward a message to the right person to do so. Have thoughts? Send us a message on Facebook, or just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
Kay Emmert, President
NTFC Local #6546