I Love My Union

Unions get a pretty bad rap in the media. According to many news outlets, if companies are forced to pay living wages and include benefits like health insurance in their pay packages, the economy will crash and we’ll all die. Well, maybe they don’t present such an extreme case, but it’s not a far cry.

I grew up in a union family, so I have a different perception of unions. My dad was a member of the UAW when he worked for the Dana Corporation in Antwerp, OH. My dad’s dad was also in the UAW at the same factory. Later Dad got more involved and became a union delegate for his factory, and he even went to some conferences. It’s nothing that we really talked about in my family, but the union had a presence in our home. I remember a couple of times the factory went on strike. Those were pretty miserable time for my dad, I think, but the union provided at least some income during the strike though it was less than Dad would normally make. The union was there for my dad and his family during those times…

And, they had a union picnic every summer for the families of the union members. They had the best chicken that I’ve ever eaten. My mouth is watering as I think of it! It’s the little things, as well as the big things, in life…

I’ve written before about my involvement in my union (USF-GAU: here, here, here, and even a union-inspired haiku here). Last night we had a union social. These are opportunities for union members, or those interested in learning more about the union, to meet other Graduate Assistants and to talk about issues. Part of its purpose is to get members together and unwind. But it also gets people talking about the issues in a more casual setting. Last night, as a whole, we talked strategy in dealing with certain issues that have come up recently, we identified things we should keep our eye on, we solved some problems, etc…

Quite a lot of people came to our gathering last night, which is a reminder of how far we’ve come over the past few years. When I first joined the union, socials consisted of just a few people from one or two departments. Last night we had many more people from a diverse array of departments: biology, history, psychology, philosophy, art, physics, women’s studies, etc… The presence of all of these people is also a reminder of how much the union has accomplished over the past few years.

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My union colleagues keep reminding me that I’ve played a pretty big part in getting the union to where it is today. I feel like I didn’t do enough when I was President/Co-President, so I probably downplay my role in things… Regardless, I’m damn proud of this organization, of the work we do, of the individual contributions of those who give their time and their energy, and the positive energy of all of our members who come out to our socials and other events. This sort of energy is what is going to keep our momentum going in getting all Graduate Assistants livable wages and making sure GAs are treated with respect, all while maintaining the high level of education and research GAs provide at USF.

Here’s to fighting the good fight and being a troublemaker for all the right reasons.


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