The Continental Divide

Rainbow – Grand Mesa, CO

My family’s summer this year focuses on a roadtrip from home near Berkeley to family and friends in Vermont. On the way we stopped in spectacular Grand Mesa National Forest, where our first night at lovely (and chilly!) Island Lake was punctuated by thunderstorms that gave us both an amazing rainbow and a slightly anxious night counting “mississippis” between lightning strikes and thunderclaps while hail, wind and rain lashed our tent. Morning showers gave way to breezy sunshine on a couple of bike loops along mesa trails. Being away from internet connection was of course part of the point of the trip, but it was a little poignant for me on this particular July 1st and 2nd, when there was so much going on at home: our first post-contract paychecks reflecting the historic gains won in the union’s recently completed negotiations were due, and our local UC-AFT members were scheduled to join with our colleagues in LAUC-B to celebrate with a “Raise the Floor/Raise the Roof/Raise a Glass” happy hour.

Librarian, Elevated

The next day brought us to Salida, CO, for some hipster glamping, more mountain biking, and Independence Day festivities before heading up to Silverthorne and Denver. A return to the land of wi-fi brought the happy news that our union-negotiated salary gains were being extended to our non-represented librarian colleagues. But – as I contemplated the journey ahead, which would take us several times back and forth over the Continental Divide – I was reminded of the gaps that still separate union-represented librarians from those not covered by the union contract: librarians who work side by side with us, share similar educational and career paths, collaborate toward the same mission of supporting the teaching and research of the UC system.

A Shared Path

Why does this divide exist? The contract unit is defined to include all librarians except those few who meet the statutory definition of managerial employees – those with authority over hiring and firing, discipline, and salary actions. There are a few library colleagues I can think of who might meet this definition, but most are not in the librarian series (they are in management title codes). On the other hand, I know of many librarians at Berkeley and other campuses who oversee and coordinate employees (including librarians and other professional library staff), have oversight over significant budgets, and develop and implement critical policy directions. But they are not singled out as “non-represented.”

We in the union participate with our non-represented colleagues in the governance and advisory roles of LAUC, and act as peers in each others’ merit reviews. And as librarians, we all share a concern that academic salaries are still not keeping up with the market, endangering our ability to recruit and retain the next generation of great UC librarians; we strive together to ensure that professional development opportunities for librarians will continue to be supported so that we can all individually grow as professionals, so that we can innovate within the UC, and bring our ideas and innovations to the broader profession; and we continue to work in concert to ensure that librarians’ professional judgment and privileges continue to be a valued and vital part of the UCs’ teaching, research, and public service missions.

So why does the University persist in dividing us?

Locally, we have made great strides in breaking down a cultural divide that has long vexed the relationship between LAUC-B and the union: a false dichotomy between the two groups’ goals and functions in guiding professional and occupational standards for librarians in the UC. What we’ve seen in the past year and a half of negotiation is that LAUC and UC-AFT in fact have well-aligned interests, and can work well in tandem to improve the welfare of all librarians. This potential was demonstrated when the union raised the critical issue of academic freedom protections for librarians, leading to an open discussion of the problem among the LAUC local divisions, and culminating in the appointment of a representative from the LAUC statewide board to bring a librarian perspective in shaping the new policy that will clarify academic freedom protections for all academic workers in the UC.

But there’s still that great divide: represented librarians and non-represented librarians. What can we do to cross that divide, to continue the great work of all librarians at the UC?

Two Thumbs Up!

Winter snows were heavy and late storms held over big drifts in the high country, as far down as 8,000 feet. As we set out on our first leg-stretch ride at altitude, we ran across a group of cross-country skiers. Throughout the morning, we criss-crossed each other again and again – here, a large drift would drive us off our bikes to portage across ice-rimed, partly slushy sections, while our skiing companions glided by; there, a long stretch of elevated, exposed trail would get us back on our pedals, while the skiers bushwhacked their way around through shaded patches of remaining snow. We would pass them, cruising by on our wheels, and then they would catch up and pass us as we slogged through another drift. We hailed each other, pointed out passable paths for each group, cheered each other on across the tricky parts. Representatives of our two groups gave two thumbs up for our shared path. In the same spirit, here’s a form for non-represented academic appointees to express their support for the union.

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