At each LACCD college, faculty step up to be part of the Guild’s Contract Action Team, helping to maintain a strong union presence at that campus. At Los Angeles Pierce College, that team member is sociology professor Julio Tsuha, an AFT 1521 Executive Board delegate who just finished his fourth year as a full-time faculty member. Before coming to Pierce, he worked for the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute (DHLI) and for his alma mater, UC Riverside.
As a member of the Action Team, Tsuha devotes his energy to organizing. In addition to signing up new faculty at Pierce as union members, he also helps strengthen the union by identifying leaders on campus who want to be more involved and assigning them tasks.
“Unions are one of the most important institutions in society,” Tsuha said. “In unions, average folks can have a voice and feel empowered, especially in situations that have been difficult for workers.”
While he was a student, Tsuha conducted research on the labor movement, a subject about which he had very little awareness. “It struck me how little I had been taught about labor movement history in high school,” he noted. “I feel that it should be taught the same way the Civil Rights Movement is.”
Because the labor movement is currently involved in an active struggle to boost its membership and remain a force for positive change, it bothers Tsuha that students don’t know what is happening in our country and around the world.
“In the classroom, I try to teach about labor as much as possible,” said Tsuha, who participated in a campus walkout to protest the election of Donald Trump in 2016. “I’ve seen that when the union is empowered, it improves both our own conditions and the learning conditions of students.” He also feels it’s important to be critical of the economic system we have in place and recognize its flaws.
A native of Peru, Tsuha came to Los Angeles at the age of 11. Expecting to encounter a bucolic city resembling the small town in “Back to the Future,” he came face to face with the civil unrest over the Rodney King verdicts. “It was surreal,” he recalled.
Tsuha earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at UC Riverside. While his field his sociology, he admits to spending a lot of time thinking about black holes and quantum physics.
“I might have been a physicist in another life,” he said.