I was honored to serve as the lone RAFO delegate to the Illinois Education Association Representative Assembly held in Chicago from March 30th through April 1st. First, a shoutout to my friend and RAFO colleague Bonnie Smothers. Bonnie actually received more membership votes than I did to serve as delegate, but she was unable to attend and I had the opportunity to serve as her successor.
The 3-day Assembly was energized with almost 1,000 educators, support staff, and retired IEA members statewide. During the first morning of the Conference, we were starkly reminded by the IEA staff attorney and by the IEA staff lobbyist of the existential threats that we as educators face, both from Springfield and from Washington. Higher Ed in particular is under attack, as potential legislation and court decisions threaten our right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. Fortunately for RAFO members, our own Beverly Stewart, one of my mentors and a tireless advocate for Higher Ed, is the head of the Higher Education section of the IEA. The Higher Ed section (about 40-45 of us) had a productive and inspiring working lunch session, in which Beverly outlined some of the ways in which we can become more active, involved, and vocal advocates on political issues relating to Higher Ed.
Some of the Conference was devoted to administrative issues, like the election of directors, and of new officers, including President. IEA's president-elect, Kathy Griffin, like her predecessor Cinda Klickna, is a true and loyal friend of and advocate for issues unique to Higher Ed. She has often "rolled up her sleeves" and marched alongside Higher Ed advocates, and we know that she will "have our backs" during her term as President.
The administrative issue voted on at the Conference that will have the most direct impact on us, is the difficult decision to raise membership dues $5 per year this coming fiscal year, and an additional $10 the following year. There was spirited and emotional debate on this budgetary issue, which also included substantial staff and other administrative cuts. In the end, the majority of delegates agreed that the increases were necessary to fund advocacy campaigns, and to fund the pension system. With the financial interests of adjuncts at heart, Beverly proposed several successfully-passed resolutions that directed the IEA Board to consider a "tiered" dues structure based upon income, which would provide relief to our many contingent faculty members who may only teach 1-2 classes per year at Roosevelt (if that), for whom the burden of union dues hits the hardest.
It is crucial that we RAFO members have unconditional support from our "parent" organization. I came away from the Conference confident that we do. In my own mind, and I hope in yours, we are getting a very tangible "bang for our buck" by the dues we pay to the IEA. We urge you become more active with RAFO.
Michael W. Pinsof, Adjunct Instructor, Paralegal Studies Dept.