Meet New Guild Leaders
AFT 1521 is excited to welcome some fresh faces in Guild leadership positions as we kick off the 2018-2019 academic year. These new leaders were elected to their positions this Spring and will serve through the Spring of 2020. This is part of a series introducing some of the Guild’s new leaders.
Our new Guild Treasurer, Sharon Hendricks, has been involved with AFT 1521 for 10 years – first serving as the Guild’s Retirement Liaison, then a CalSTRS board member representing community college faculty, and Chapter President at City College.
“I’m excited to serve our union and ensure that all members understand how union dues are being utilized,” she said. “We have an opportunity to grow our union by communicating about what we do – fighting for increased pay, better health benefits, a secure retirement, and better working conditions.” To that end, she’s looking forward to signing up new members and helping current members understand the value of our union.
When Sharon is not creating budgets, sitting on the CalSTRS board, or fielding member questions on retirement, she loves trail running with her dog, Finn, in the San Gabriel mountains.
Guild Recording Secretary Mindy Chen’s path to union leadership began in college, when she took a class with Marshall Ganz, a renowned union organizer and a senior lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where she did her undergraduate work in Anthropology. “Senior year changed my life,” she recalls.
While Chen continued her education, receiving an MA from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, she shifted her focus to public policy and labor and wrote her doctoral dissertation on union organizing strategies.
Doing union work is her way of putting what she’s learned into practice. “I’ve been study labor education since I was 21 – I thought it was time to put what I know into practice,” she says. Her first job after college was with SEIU – working in L.A., Orange County, Oakland, and San Francisco. She is currently the Director of the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute at Trade Tech. Among the courses she teaches in the college’s Labor Studies program are Labor in America, Union Leadership Skills, and The Working Class and Cinema.
“I’d like to encourage new leaders to get involved in the Guild and create ways to get people meaningfully involved and excited about the union.”
Chapter President, Mission College
Vilma Bernal, Mission College’s newly-elected chapter president, has always believed in the union’s cause. “I’ve always believed in what the union stands for and what it’s done in working for the rights of employees,” she says.” So, when former chapter president Louise Barbato retired, she stepped up to seize the opportunity to serve.
Bernal began as an adjunct in the Business and Law Department at Mission in 2001 and was hired full-time in 2002. “I was one of the lucky ones,” she says. Two years ago, she became department chair but still teaches one class. Five years ago, she took on the role of college Grievance Rep.
Serving on the most recent negotiating team was, she says, “a reality check about what really goes on and how the District and management function and where they stand.”
What Bernal hopes to do at Mission is to build collegiality and strengthen the voice of the union. “I would like to educate our members about our new contract and make sure that management adheres to the provisions of the CBA,” she says.
Chapter President, Pierce College
A self-described ‘recovering hipster,’ Brian Walsh has taught in Pierce’s history department for the past 10 years as a full-time faculty member. Before that he served as an adjunct for four years at Pierce, East, and Valley and also subbed at Southwest.
He’s gained valuable perspective on Pierce’s issues by having served as the college’s grievance rep for the past four years. “We’ve had some long-standing issues on campus related to our work environment and technology issues,” he said. “While there have been improvements, we’ve suffered because of the length of time it’s taken to get buildings renovated and construct new ones. Conditions have deteriorated while we’ve waited, and in the meantime, we have to live here.”
As chapter president, he intends to make sure the District follows through on its commitments and ensure that faculty have a seat at the table.” He also intends to keep an eye on the budget and enrollment management.
Walsh is dedicated to keeping the union strong in the face of the Janus Decision. “The Supreme Court has forced us to redefine ourselves – to re-examine how we use our leverage,” he said. “This is a chance to take up the challenge and make us better.”
Chapter President, Trade Tech
Trade Tech’s new Chapter President, Joe Guerrieri, has been involved informally with the union and has had excellent role models to emulate: he’s worked with folks in the Labor Center and his former department chair was the previous AFT 1521 Chapter President, Carole Anderson. He has been at LATTC for 11 years and is a full-time faculty member teaching digital media as part of the Design and Media Arts Pathway. He has a perspective that includes other categories of employees, having also served as classified staff and an adjunct faculty member.
Joe sees enrollment as the major hurdle his college faces. “Enrollment is counter-cyclical. When people are working more, they’re less likely to come to college,” he notes. “But I want to ensure that faculty don’t carry the burden – enrollment decline is not our fault.”
While recognizing the uncertainty unions face because of Janus, Joe plans to focus on organizing faculty on his campus to feel invested in the Guild and to get more involved. “My predecessor was good at that,” he says.
“I’m really excited for this opportunity. I love Trade and I love the Guild. We’re going to hold strong.”