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The Point: May Day!


Greetings, Colleagues:

I am writing this on May Day which (as Rosa Luxemburg reminds us here has its roots in very powerful collective workers’ action organized around NOT working for a day).  I recognize that in spending part of this Sunday working on this email blast I am not honoring the “work stoppage” at the heart of this labor holiday, but I will just have to hope that you did a better job of upholding the letter of the May Day holiday than I did!

In addition to being May Day, this is also the first day of the last month of our spring semester which provides a good opportunity to think back on the work that the FSU has done this past year and forward to all of the unfinished business we must commit ourselves to.  The central achievement of the FSU this year—through the dedicated work of our bargaining committee, support staff, and our stalwart expanded bargaining crew—was the new contract for faculty and unit librarians. 

Much of bargaining was, as always, taken up with what we might call bread-and-butter issues; one important thing our team established is that economic justice in the US is always tied up with challenging existing systems of inequity that skew along lines of race and gender.  If we want to recruit and retain faculty members and librarians who represent the thrilling diversity of our student population or the wider community we serve, then we have to continue pressing for fair wages, good benefits, and working conditions that make it possible for individuals from previously underrepresented communities to be able to thrive on campus and live comfortably in the area. 

This is also why we have to commit to supporting our graduate worker colleagues in their demand for livable wages: I’m sure many of us remember the chilling report a few years back describing the racial wealth gap in Boston.  The realities of family wealth materially shape who can consider attending graduate school and who can complete the work successfully without taking on oppressive debt.

I also know that those of us who commit so much of our work lives to the FSU must continue exploring and investing in the potential for our union to do what political scientists Paul Frymer and Jacob Grumbach argue that labor unions tend to do more broadly—“promote interracial solidarity.”  According to Frymer and Grumbach, “increasing the bargaining power of all U.S. workers is key to creating a more equitable economy and a society better equipped to deal with institutional racism at work and in our communities.”  None of us is so naïve as to assume that simply having a union gets this work done. But I do hope that we will all continue to use the union as a platform, an opportunity, and a space for taking on this difficult and necessary work.

I will finish by calling attention to the additional funds made available for campus anti-racism activity through the efforts of the FSU bargaining team.  I was thrilled to see the range of proposals that got funded this past year—quilting, writing instruction, music and incarceration, health promotion in Dorchester and international human rights issues—and look forward to seeing what colleagues are working on this round.  I was delighted recently to have a chance to meet with our colleague, Professor Mona Abo-Zena, who is a PI on one of the funded applications from the last round, in order to learn more about the #KnowBetterDoBetter initiative.  With additional support from a number of other campus entities, Professor Abo-Zena and her team have been doing impressive work in promoting and sustaining antibias education from early years through higher education.  This is a model of the kind of cross-community, intergenerational, collective work that holds so much promise for us all. 

This is your union: please let us know at how you think the union can expand and deepen its antiracist work.


Jeffrey Melnick (

American Studies Department

Communications Director, Faculty Staff Union Executive Committee

For information on the FSU, links to our contract and bargaining updates, and a calendar of events, see the FSU webpage