Steve Striffler – Q&A
1) Why do you want to serve on the Executive Committee?
I am the Director of the Labor Resource Center, a Professor of Anthropology, and a member of the executive committee of the FSU. I have been in the labor movement as a scholar and participant for over twenty years, and held leadership positions in two unions prior to arriving at UMass. If elected President, I will work to strengthen the FSU’s capacity to be a powerful voice for faculty/staff – to build a strong, democratically-run, union that is responsive to member needs, provides avenues for member engagement, defends our interests, and builds alliances with other unions. Strengthening our voice is crucial not only because the jobs of faculty/staff are threatened, but because our mission as a public-research university that provides an affordable education to a diverse student population is currently under attack. I believe that one of the most important ways to defend higher education is to maintain a strong faculty/staff – one that produces knowledge, provides a first-rate education to students, and has the capacity to advance the public mission.
2) Given the local and national threats to unions, like the Janus decision, what would you do to strengthen the FSU?
Because the anticipated Supreme Court ruling (Janus v AFSCME) will allow employees to enjoy the benefits of union membership without paying dues, it provides a strong incentive for people to opt out of unions. The (ironic) upside is the ruling should force unions to be better – to engage more with members in order to collectively advance their issues, concerns, and interests. It will encourage unions to do what they should have been doing all along — organize and mobilize members. To face these threats, we need to strengthen the FSU both internally and in terms of our external alliances.
Within the FSU, we need to be run as efficiently as possible, both to use resources wisely and so that members can contribute their time and ideas in effective ways; we need to be run as democratically as possible so that members become more involved, knowing that they are part of the FSU’s leadership and will collectively chart its direction; and we need to improve our capacity to protect the rights of our members, including the most marginalized among us.
But the FSU also needs to strengthen our alliances, including with students, unions, and other allies on campus, with our sister unions across the state, with the MTA, and with friendly politicians and policymakers across the region. As the attack on the public sector continues, these alliances will become increasingly important not only for UMB faculty/staff, but for higher education in general.
3) What is your favorite campus memory?
When the university announced that parking is free. Oh, wait…