Unionization is a difficult but rewarding process. There are few feelings better for workers than winning a union election or having your union certified. That feels ecstatic, but then the real work of a union begins. Professors at Frederick Community College have seen their collaborative action move from activists to union members with AFT-Maryland. The next step of a union is the first contract. To get there, members sit down with administrators to negotiate an agreement. Members of the United Academics of Maryland at Frederick Community College rallied in support of the bargaining committee ahead of their first session with school administration.
Professor Savita Prabhakar, in the Science Department at the college, said she felt “very united and powerful; hope we can stay together to achieve what we need to do for ourselves and our students.” She was not alone in mentioning the strength of the collective. Numerous professors applauded the strength and solidarity among their colleagues, noting how important it was to get them this far in the process. Professor Teresa Calzonetti, also in the Science Department, found it “amazing to see the faculty working together, and working together towards this common goal of having a say in what our working conditions will be.”
In addition to the strong union presence, AFT-Maryland staff was on hand to support the bargaining committee as they headed into negotiations. So, too, were members’ family and friends. A band made up of faculty and students played music hyping an already excited crowd. When the bargaining team arrived, they were greeted by applause and cheers. During remarks, members noted their deep appreciation and support for the bargaining team with each member echoing the one before them expressing their solidarity and support for those who will be bargaining on the unit’s behalf.
The energy and excitement was palpable from everyone in attendance. Professor Laura Cordova, in the Communication, Arts, and Languages Department also expressed hope. She married the aforementioned excitement with hopefulness, saying she hoped “the administrators will listen to our faculty and vice versa. [I’m] just really happy and excited that faculty has a voice at the table, that we have a seat at the table, and that we have a voice, that our hopes and our concerns will be listened to.”
The union at Frederick Community College is strengthened by the diversity of experiences that bring the faculty to the union. Professor Christine Chin Choy, in the Science Department had previous experience with higher education union membership and that was a huge motivation for her involvement in United Academics of Maryland at Frederick Community College. “I used to adjunct at Montgomery College and I benefited from the part-time union, and I think it was awesome. It was very helpful for me as a new faculty person. Even as an adjunct, I learned a lot through the union. I think it’s great to have it, period. I was already on board from the beginning,” said Chin Choy.
It typically takes six months to a year for a new union to negotiate its first contract. As of now, each side has agreed to at least six bargaining sessions with the potential for more to be added.
photos and story by AFT-Maryland staff