Becky Hodd
Becky Hodd

I love professional unions. When I started teaching in 1971 in a fourth grade classroom in Mechanicsburg, PA,  one of the first people I met was my union faculty representative. My principal had an all female staff which cut down on any dissent, and the faculty meetings were always a burden. He talked; we listened. At the end of the meeting, he acknowledged the faculty rep (FR), and she was to bring up any “issues.”As the year progressed, I would take items to my FR, but she would only bring up ”watered-down” versions. When the principal addressed the items, his response was usually a non-response. When he asked if anyone had anything else, I started to speak up. Soon the union part of the meeting went like this. Principal: “Joan (our FR), any issues? (SIGH!) Okay, Becky, any issues?” Power to the people!

In 1974, I started teaching overseas for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS). These schools are located on military bases around the world. For the next 32 years, I taught at schools in Okinawa and various places in Germany plus two years in a DoDDS school in Jacksonville, NC. No matter where I was, one of the first to welcome me, answer questions about the school and the school system, and to orient me to the culture was always a union representative.

Most of the schools had almost 95% union participation and in Okinawa a few were 100%. Not one to sit back, I was soon involved with committees such as the social committee and contract training.  From that role, it wasn’t long until I was the faculty rep and for one year, the union president of the North Germany Region. At each step of the way, union members helped me settle into the positions and learn what my roles should be. Classes and mentors were provided to keep me away from the mine shafts.

What I saw evolve the most in my union interactions was a change in the union attitude. From belligerent and radical, the attitude changed to cooperation and collaboration. Whereas before, the FR would walk out of a meeting threatening a grievance, we were trained on working towards common goals. A group of members always met with me before important  meetings to strategize counter-proposals that were often more beneficial to students and members than what the principal proposed. When I sat down at the table with my principal, I was an equal as far as power was concerned. The union had my back with its grievance procedure and good faith measures. As a result, the principal often agreed with what we were trying to change and helped promote the changes.

Did all the members agree with what was decided? Of course not! Did I hear from them? Of course I did! But with monthly meetings providing each member a voice, all that was required was that the member attend and be heard. Often, I didn’t need to say anything. The other members voiced their opinions, often heatedly, and the member who was upset realized that other sides to the issue were considered before a plan of action was formulated.

Today, I’m still involved with the union. I do  not only because do I believe in being part of a professional union, but also because the union representative contacted me shortly after I arrived, welcomed me, answered questions, and oriented me to the college culture at County College of Morris. Additionally, I know that they have my back. Did I tell you yet that I love unions?

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