Last weekend, adjunct professors and public service workers came together in sunny St. Petersburg, FL for the SEIU-FPSU Summer Leadership Academy, the fourth regional or statewide training in Florida over the past 12 months. During the 2.5 day organizing training with our partners at the Leading Change Network, worker leaders dove deep into core organizing skills in regional teams: building relationships, practicing public narratives, developing team structures, crafting campaign plans, and honing mobilizing skills. Reflecting on the experience, adjunct professor Michelle de Marco said:
My experience at the Leadership Academy allowed me to absorb the many ways I can improve the way I both organize new members and cultivate new leaders as an adjunct at Broward College. For example, I’ve learned how to ask open-ended questions about people’s experiences to engage them to be more active in the process of organizing a strong Union. Questions such as ‘what are your working conditions at the college’ or ‘how can we work together to improve our quality of life’ are integral to creating personal connections that will compel my colleagues to care about our cause on a more personal level.
Further, the powerful stories people told with regard to the ‘story of me, the story of us and the story of now’ made me feel wholly connected to their experiences and will motivate me to share my own story with colleagues. It forces people to understand that we’re not alone in our fight for justice and that our personal narratives make an impact on others as well. I’ve recognized that the ‘story of me’ isn’t simply about me, but that it morphs into the concept of what WE can do together as a unit if we are unafraid to share our most personal experiences. This common ground is built upon the notion that we must take action NOW in order to enact the change we seek.
Finally, I also learned a great deal from the other workers who aren’t teachers, such as the school bus drivers who are thick in the fight for better wages and job stability as well. The timeline we’d created as a group to organize our actions in the future really allowed me to see the endless possibilities of how we can force those who are apathetic to our plight to pay attention. And we all agreed to unite forces with these workers to help change our working conditions, and the current political climate that is not only opposed to that change but is actively creating policies to aggressively keep us from achieving the upward mobility we all deserve. Together, we know we’re on the right side of this fight, and that has made all the difference in how we’ll approach the adversity we face!