We are the Voice of the Workers – Addressing Systemic Social Injustice is a Must!

By Elaina Baird, CSU Chico Chief Steward, February 2023

Unions need to find better responses to social injustice. We need to implement new strategies in response to the protests, which opened, like a festering wound, the current systemic level of social injustice and police brutality/bullying. Our APC constitution preamble states, “Our purpose shall include furthering educational development and opportunity, protecting intellectual freedom, improved scholarship and teaching, and promoting reason and justice.” Unions need to step up now more than ever, from wherever they find themselves, to the fight for social justice.

After the death of George Floyd, the most visible response from the Minneapolis Police Union (MPU) was to protect its members to the “extreme.”

What can Academic Professionals of California learn from this moment in time? Our country is in turmoil long after Mr. Floyd’s murder, more so today than it seems in past years. Society is absorbed by a new awareness of and personal blindness to racism. Nationally, unions are waking up to the need for systemic structural social reforms in our communities and on our campuses to counter racism!

The global protests have been a testament to humans not being heard, humans killed because of the color of their skin or their sexual orientation, and a culture of systemic “power over” structure. What has been hidden needs to be transparent. Too often, only one side of the narrative is shared because it serves a purpose – usually to distract us or dismiss the truth of what we are seeing.

APC must demonstrate that unions, our union, is a place of constructive and courageous conversations working with and for staff and students struggling on our campuses. We need to step out of our comfort zone to support and implement actions that demand social justice reform while getting a seat at the tables we intentionally have been left out from. APC must be seen as part of the coalition of campus communities in creating a safe workplace in terms of emotional, mental, and physical safety and of financial equity.

Recruitment is the lifeblood of the union. When considering union leaders, we must seek members that reflect the diversity of our campus. Communication needs to expand between campuses and our executive board through surveys of our members about diversity and social justice issues on their campuses and how to address them directly. It means listening to our council stewards, campus members and the students we serve. It means union engagement and communication expansion.

In conclusion, APC is not isolated from our society’s current upheaval. Our union policies and decisions reflect equity, inclusion, diversity, and transparency. How we demonstrate those values must happen through our activism and mobilizing efforts! APC can focus our efforts in: member recruitment, respecting all members’ voices, transparency in our dealings with members and each other, steward training in unconscious bias and other diversity education. Elimination of systemic social injustice is a long-haul journey. A social justice committee can be created to address these issues within APC members. It is a path in which the union must be active and engaged in the larger community.

APC must demonstrate that unions, our union, is a place of constructive and courageous conversations working with and for staff and students struggling on our campuses.