Statements of Support


From Jeffrey Melnick, Professor, American Studies Department (Current FSU Executive Committee):

I am so honored to have the opportunity to endorse Steve Striffler in his campaign for president of the FSU.   And most of all I am honored to join the long list of colleagues who have been deeply engaged with union work on campus–as members of the Executive Committee, bargaining team, and as former president–who share my confidence in Steve’s commitment to collective action.   The broad support he has in this campaign–across major categories of race, age, sexuality, gender, professional rank, and so on–speak volumes about the work he has done here on campus and in our surrounding communities. Steve Striffler has a remarkable commitment to building consensus and a rare ability to help accomplish it. 

On the Executive Committee he was one of two members (along with Tim Sieber) who took the lead in convening a group of faculty of color to help develop a protocol of communication and redress.  I am also deeply inspired by Steve’s work organizing the campus against attacks on our urban mission: he has been a leading voice in fighting against the budgetary austerity that has targeted  our university’s centers and institutes. Steve has also played a major part in articulating why the FSU should make a priority of forging strong alliances with the other campus unions–especially when it comes to such important matters as striving to keep parking fees low for students and five-day-a-week staff. As President, Steve will fight to roll back the unconscionably high rates foisted on all of us by the administration.

Steve Striffler always volunteers for the nitty-gritty tasks and carries them out with spirit and good humor. Steve lives close to campus, in Dorchester, and seems to be always here, taking care of some business or other.  He is deeply engaged with the efforts of our staff colleagues in their union work; if you don’t know much about Steve find a staff person you know who is involved with their union and ask them what they think.  As President of the FSU, Steve will no doubt lead the FSU in doing the reparative work it needs to engage in to undo some of the strain our relationship with the staff unions has suffered in the past few years.

I have been disheartened this election cycle to see that the current president of the FSU has adopted low-road tactics of circulating false information about Steve.  It hits me in a particular personal way that the current president claims that he wants to somehow strip faculty of their collectively-bargained investment in the sick leave bank. This is a sensationalistic and patently false charge.  I have only been at UMB for 10 years but my partner has been her for 23.  When our children were 5 and 13 she had to go into extended treatment for cancer: drawing from the sick leave bank allowed her to continue teaching with a reduced load and this made all the difference in our family’s ability to make it through a difficult time.  The idea that I would support a candidate (a progressive labor historian no less!) who wants to take this important right from us strains credulity.

I have gone on too long already. But I want to urge you to come to the candidate’s forum this coming Wednesday, March 4th at 3 (McCormack, first floor, room 209) if you can, or let me know if you want to learn any more about Steve.  He has become a real role model for me as a leader who always listens carefully before he speaks, brings as many people to the table as he can, and always remains committed to the notion that the power of the collective comes from our ability to find common ground and shared engagement.  I urge you to vote for him next week to be president of the FSU.

From Karen Suyemoto, Professor, Psychology Department (FSU Executive Committee, 2016-2018):

Dear Colleagues,

With the many challenges facing higher education across the nation, and the specific challenges facing UMass Boston, I feel that we are privileged to have a unionized faculty.  Being unionized means that we have direct means to protect shared governance and academic freedom, challenge exploitation of faculty and erosion of faculty benefits, and advocate to ensure that access and equity are central to the education we provide for students.  A strong union is an asset to maintaining the urban mission at UMass Boston. However, a strong union needs strong leadership, leadership that is oriented towards member involvement and organizing, proactive advocacy, and equity and inclusion. I am therefore urging you to join me in voting for Steve Striffler for FSU President.    

As a past member of the FSU ExComm, I worked with both Marlene Kim (as President) and Steve Striffler (as fellow elected rep).  I join the majority of current and past ExComm members who are eligible to vote in endorsing Steve Striffler for FSU President.  Steve’s statement is available here and you can see his long list of endorsers here.

I am supporting Steve for a number of reasons:

Who he is:

  • He is honest, transparent, and collaborative.  He brings out the best in others and does not personalize credit for collaborative work or the work of others. 
  • He emphasizes commitment to and communication with members.  He is actively invested in hearing and acting on faculty perspectives.
  • He is committed to increasing member voice and involvement, and, as a labor scholar and activist, has the experience and strategic know how about making that happen.
  • He is a leader who is willing to speak up on our (faculty) behalf and uses effective, proactive, and strategic ways to do so in order to maximize success.
  • He values justice and works to promote it at UMass Boston. 

What he has accomplished already:

  • He is currently chair of the Core Bargaining Team and is deftly facilitating communication between the CBT and: administration, MTA, FSU staff, and members across the university.  He has taken the lead on the CBT’s department and constituency outreach.
  • He has advocated for and promoted expanded bargaining.
  • On his own initiative as an ExComm elected member, he co-convened a members meeting to hear from his constituency (the first with that constituency in several years), resulting in recommendations for the FSU to take up issues of workload equity across the University generally, and issues of equity for faculty of color and women [although the FSU ExComm under Marlene chose not to prioritize addressing those recommendations at that time].
  • He took the initiative to co-convene (with Tim Sieber) a group of faculty of color to share perspectives and offer recommendations to the FSU and he has continued to follow up with that initiative and maintain accountability to faculty of color.
  • He provided leadership within the Caucus for a Democratic Union with the primary goal of increasing FSU members’ engagement with the FSU. More faculty and staff are actively involved, attending union meetings, and contributing to FSU governance than I have witnessed in my 20 years at UMB.
  • He builds coalitions for strength. He has played a major part in articulating why the FSU should make a priority of forging strong alliances with the other campus unions–especially when it comes to such important matters as striving to keep parking fees low for students and five-day-a-week staff. He is deeply engaged with the efforts of our staff colleagues in their union work; if you don’t know much about Steve find a staff person you know who is involved with their union and ask them what they think.  
  • He advocates for UMB students, faculty, and mission in multiple ways inside and outside of the University and direct relations with Administration.  For example, he has been a part of the “Resisting Systemic Oppression” teach-in since its inception. And see this article co-authored with Aviva Chomsky that first appeared in DigBoston: 

For these reasons and many more, please join me in supporting Steve Striffler for FSU President. 

Voting is March 6th to March 13th.

From Emilio Sauri, Professor, English Department (Current FSU Executive Committee):

As you know, the FSU is holding elections next week for both members of the Executive Committee and, importantly, for President. I am writing now to express my support for Steve Striffler’s candidacy and hope that you’ll join me in supporting him too.

I have served on the Executive Committee for nearly two years now, and ran for the position because I believed we needed to work toward creating a more democratic union. Having served with Steve on the Executive Committee I can say that he has been—and continues to be—at the forefront of these efforts, while drawing on his many years of experience in the labor movement. For this reason, the majority of my colleagues on the Executive Committee and I strongly advocated to have Steve appointed to the Core Bargaining Team for our next contract—in fact, we could not imagine the team without him. It’s also for this reason that so many of us who serve or have served on the Executive Committee signed a letter endorsing his candidacy for union President (see above).

But while we have made great progress in making our union more participatory and transparent, particularly with regard to bargaining, my experience these past two years has left me feeling that the need for new leadership is even more urgent today.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or if you’d like me to elaborate on any of this. In the meantime, you can find Steve’s statement here.

From Alex Mueller, Associate Professor, English Department (Current Bargaining Team):

This year I am on the Core Bargaining team and I have been extremely impressed by our chair, Steve Striffler, who is running for president. In my view, he’s just the kind of leader we need, one who is fervently dedicated to union work and makes quick, but careful, decisions that are consistent with the needs and desires of the membership. 

I’m clearly not the only one who feels this way. Of the 22 FSU officers who have served with the current president and are eligible to vote, 14 endorse Steve and 6 are remaining neutral. It is very clear that we need a change in FSU leadership and I would encourage you to vote for Steve, who I am confident will continue to work hard to make union work more democratic and transparent. Among his many accomplishments, he has already argued persuasively for our current “open” and expanded approach to bargaining, which brings all members to the bargaining table, and opposed the parking hikes strongly, arguing for bargaining in coalition with our sister unions PSU and SCU. I believe he will be an excellent advocate for faculty, one who will continue to build relationships with other unions on this campus, making us all stronger. If you have questions or concerns about his candidacy, I’m happy to discuss them.

And it would be fantastic if you could spread the word among colleagues! Every vote is going to make a difference!

From Sofya Aptekar, Assistant Professor, Sociology Department, Critical Ethnic & Community Studies Program (FSU Executive Committee, 2016-2018):

I am writing to urge you to vote for Steve Striffler for Faculty Staff Union president next week. I served on the FSU Executive Committee as a pre-tenure representative, and have gotten to know both candidates for president. I am honored to be among a long list of UMB colleagues, including the majority of current and past executive committee members, in endorsing Steve.

Steve has demonstrated a commitment to promoting union democracy, and his approach to union leadership reflects a belief in the strength of a rank-and-file union. That means that the direction of the union and decision-making is shared with ordinary union members, with transparency and accountability. Empowering rank-and-file members makes for a strong union. We need to build the strongest union we can to fight for ourselves and our students, with union leaders who collaborate, delegate, and share power and information. And I have seen Steve collaborate, delegate, and share power and information in all of the many projects we have worked on together, from open bargaining to building coalitions across unions and campuses.

The difference between the two candidates for president could not be clearer for me. Steve is an effective organizer with a long record in the labor movement, who celebrates collective victories and insists on sharing the spotlight with the group. He is also a distinguished labor scholar, who knows the nitty gritty of what works and doesn’t in union organizing. In my time organizing with FSU, I have often felt demoralized by the style of current FSU leadership, with its concentration of power, lack of prioritizing and delegating, and frankly, lack of vision. It is not an accident that of the 22 FSU officers who have served with the current president and are eligible to vote, 14 endorse Steve and 6 are remaining neutral.

I am voting for Steve because he will work to

  • strengthen our bargaining processes to bring the full collective of power of UMB faculty and librarians to get us better salaries, benefits, facilities, support for our teaching and research, and more.
  • draw on the collective power of the union to fight for our unique and irreplaceable Centers and Institutes
  • prioritize rolling back the exorbitant parking fees
  • repair relationships with other unions on campus and our sister union at UMass Amherst
  • continue his leadership role in addressing work equity, especially for faculty of color and non-tenure track faculty

(I have seen a letter from the current president saying that Steve wants to get rid of the sick leave bank. This is just not true, and I would not support a candidate who would advocate such a step.)

I urge you to vote for Steve Striffler for FSU president. Voting is March 6th to March 13th.

From Joe Ramsey, Senior Lecturer, English and American Studies (Current FSU Executive Committee):

As you have undoubtedly heard, we’re nearing the end of an important FSU election campaign, with a contested race for NTT faculty representative, and, crucially, for FSU President.  Voting begins at 9am (Friday, March 6) and extends for one week.  I hope you will all take a moment to vote!  

Also, before voting, I hope people will take a moment to watch yesterday’s Candidates Forum.  You can find the full video footage here

This Forum provided the latest evidence for my belief that Steve Striffler will make a terrific FSU President, with the clarity of vision, strategic sense, communication skills and democratic sensibility that can help us build a stronger, healthier, more participatory union. Steve’s opening answers at the Forum lay out his basic views more clearly than I can here.     

I would also draw your attention to two other moments in this video:  First, the responses to Emilio Sauri’s question about the last round of Parking Bargaining (found at 9:10), and second, the responses to colleague Jeff Melnick’s question (at 47:40), which clear up a serious piece of misinformation about the Sick Bank that has, unfortunately, been widely disseminated by the current President during this campaign.  The rest of the discussion is very interesting as well, but these moments were particularly revealing. 

Along with Emilio and Alex, I am wholeheartedly supporting Steve Striffler for President of our Faculty Staff Union.  In this we join a super-majority of current and recent elected Ex Com officers as well as a long list of NTT faculty who have been active in the union.  Most of these endorsers have had the chance to work with both the current President and with Steve, in many union-related contexts.  (See the FSU Officers and NTT endorsements here.)

I will avoid repeating points that have already been made by Emilio and Alex, adding just three more strong points in Steve’s favor.

1) In the years I’ve spent with Steve on the FSU Ex Com and on campus, I have found that he treats people with respect, transparency, and honesty.  Regardless of whether TT or NTT or Librarian (or Staff), he treats people as colleagues, partners, and as equals.  I have confidence that he will work actively to represent faculty across all ranks in a way that will attend to our disparate concerns as well as our common interests, while working effectively with the other campus unions.

2) Steve’s internationally respected scholarship on issues of labor and society demonstrates his deep commitment and knowledge of unions, and the challenges we face in the present moment.  He is an excellent verbal and written communicator, as evidenced by his recent article, joint authored with Aviva Chomsky here, as well as by his recent book on the history of US-Latin American solidarity movements. Like Steve’s work in general, his writing shows that he is someone who can make complex issues accessible and clear, attending to both the big picture and to local nuances and details.  All valuable traits in a union president!

3) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Steve is a great team player, someone who is knowledgeable but approachable, an excellent listener who is able to feel and adapt to the pulse of a group while also offering helpful insights that can help guide and steer group decisions.  He approaches the work with 24-7 devotion, but also good humor, trust, and generosity that inspires confidence and makes people want to get more (not less) involved.  Steve doesn’t seek the spotlight, but rather shares it constantly, doing the behind the scenes work that makes building a more democratic union not only possible, but a true pleasure.   

I hope you will give him your support.  A vote for Steve Striffler is truly a vote for union democracy.  And we need it now more than ever.

I am also happy to endorse the rest of the CDU candidates for Ex Com.  Together, with Steve, and an increasingly engaged membership, I believe we can help the FSU fulfill its potential, by tapping into the great energies of the talented, creative, and concerned faculty (and librarians!) on this precious public, urban campus.