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The Point: HELU and You


Greetings, Colleagues!

(A note from Communications Director Jeff Melnick: Please read the wonderful guest Point column below written by our FSU comrade Joseph Ramsey)

From A Hundred Separate Bargaining Tables…to a United National Higher Ed Movement

HELU’s Winter Summit is Coming (February 23-27)!

Following the resounding ratification of our new FSU collective bargaining agreement there is much to celebrate, much to be thankful for—especially the impressive efforts of our Core Bargaining Team—and much to reflect upon. 

FSU took some big steps forward during this round of bargaining.  For one thing, we radically improved the transparency of the entire process, overcoming administration resistance to establish Expanded Bargaining.  This allowed members to watch negotiations unfold in real time and in ongoing dialogue with our appointed representatives—a huge gain.  

Moreover, based on such close listening to members, our Core Bargaining Team brought to the table—week after week, month after month—excellent, well-reasoned, principled proposals for improving faculty and librarian working conditions, as well as the learning conditions of our UMB students.  Some of these great proposals we were able to win, others…we weren’t, despite the strong efforts of our CBT (and support from our Expanded Team).  

So then, even as the bargaining dust settles, a couple of sobering, if not surprising, lessons loom large:

First, our UMB administration remains highly resistant—even intransigent—to movement on many key things our members and students need: in particular, proposals FSU made to improve the job status of our most vulnerable (and fastest growing) category of faculty, Associate Lecturers.  

Second, it’s becoming more and more clear that to shift the bargaining terrain further in our favor, in addition to sound arguments and transparency, we will need to find new ways to apply pressure on our employer, as well as to improve the funding for our campus, via state and federal government support—so management claims of austerity will lose their force.

At the Massachusetts state level, our parent union MTA is at the forefront of a crucial effort to improve the funding situation, namely the “Fair Share Amendment” , a much-needed 2022 ballot referendum that, if passed, could net billions of dollars to fund public education and transportation, via a strategic “millionaire’s tax.”  (FSU members are sure to be hearing more about Fair Share in the days to come.)  

Members might not yet know, however, about an exciting new effort at the national level, Higher Ed Labor United, or HELU, for short: . HELU is right now working on devising legislative strategies that can help unite our unions into a cohesive national movement, both to win more state and federal funding, and to couple that funding with additional protections for workers.  In addition to this, HELU is working to share strategies and coordinate local union campaigns across dozens of different campuses—including 40 locals (a few on our campus!) who are still in, or entering, contract fights as we speak. 

Last Fall, FSU leadership voted to endorse the inspiring HELU Vision Platform, which can be found online here: .  We thus joined 113 other unions and organizations from 29 states plus D.C., as part of a progressive nationwide coalition to defend and improve higher education, in the interests of students, grad students, staff, faculty, and the communities we serve. (The full list of endorsing organizations can be found here:, representing over 520,000 union workers.) 

At the end of this month, HELU will be holding its Winter Summit, Wednesday, Feb. 23 through Sunday, Feb. 27. .  And FSU members are invited! 

Featuring virtual sessions and a mix of panel sessions, plenaries, and break-out discussions, the summit will focus on three core tasks

1) coordinating the surge of higher education worker organizing across the country, 

2) developing federal policy proposals to reverse the trends that have damaged higher education over the last several decades, and 

3) engaging in the political process by educating politicians and candidates on these issues and working to support those who will advance a program of democratizing higher education.

It’s sure to be a stimulating, productive gathering, both for developing strategy and building solidarity across job categories, campuses, and union lines.  The HELU Summit presents a terrific chance for FSU members to sum up our recent contract bargaining experiences, and to think creatively and collectively about what needs doing in the days ahead.  Hope some of you can make it!

Feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback. 

In scholarship and solidarity,

Joseph G. Ramsey, PhD

Senior Lecturer, English and American Studies