I had worked in the private sector here in this rural southwestern portion of Wyoming, employed by engineering firms and as a consultant to mining companies. I was interested in teaching theater and dance and took on teaching some classes as an adjunct professor on one of the campuses for the Western Wyoming Community College.
That led to me teaching technology courses and eventually to non-academic position on the main campus as the technical support manager for the college, responsible for everything from the help desk and working with departments on their technology needs to working out the details of collaborative purchasing with other colleges in the state.
As a union leader today, I want to increase membership and get those who are involved energized. One approach I know works from my experience is to go to programs at the state and national level – and organize some locally – that show us ways the union can work for us and give us the techniques to organize and have our voices heard. I know effective communications is key and am working on ways to get the message out about our work.
I also know that efforts like this grow. Enthusiasm can be built when members and other employees see the advantages working together brings. We also have other projects that I believe members will find valuable, like our FAST Fund (Faculty and Students Together) which provides help to students in need – who might not have a winter coat or be able to pay their electric bill.
I have learned from the great experiences I have had with my local – and especially with the guidance of my state association and NEA, that we can build and energize our association. I know we can get our members to not think in the past and I hope I can open their eyes to what we can do.
Initially, I didn’t understand that the union would support non-academic employees and didn’t investigate it very carefully. But I was invited to some events and eventually some trainings by my state affiliate and NEA – and I grew excited about the work that could be done for classified employees. Although public employees in this state can’t organize as a union, I could see even as an association the value of working together to improve things for all of us.