Volunteering: A Personal Perspective
by Darrell Bartlett, Steward, CSU Chico
In March, I will begin my 30th and final year as an employee at CSU, Chico. For those of you with higher math skills, you would deduce that I began working here in March of 1982. In 1978, the California legislature enacted the Higher Education Employer Employee Relations Act (HEERA). But it took until 1983 for the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) to determine the “communities of interest” and for the representative elections to take place. We voted, first if we wanted representation or no representation, and then, after choosing representation, which union we wanted to represent us. This was all pretty exciting for me. We were courted by different unions who wanted us to pick them as our exclusive bargaining representative. My past experience with unions had occurred in the Silicon Valley, where “no representation” always prevailed.
CSEA won the election in four of the nine bargaining units. The California State Employee Association (CSEA) existed prior to HEERA and these elections. Of course, at that time, we did not have collective bargaining, so CSEA was an employee association. At the time, I remember being impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of the CSEA “Old Guard.” These were men and women, mostly a lot older than I was, who had come of age in the California boom times of the 1950s.
We had far fewer staff then, but most were members of the association. These were people who took for granted that employees supported one another. Frankly, it was a very different group than the folks I had worked with in Silicon Valley, very connected and very warm. After the election, these same employees established the first CSU Chico chapter of the new CSEA union. They ran for state offices and negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement.
I loved these men and women and wanted to be just like them. A couple of years after the election, they recruited me for chapter vice president. About two weeks after that I found I was the chapter president. And I never looked back. During the past 25 plus years, I held most chapter offices at one time or another, was a unit 9 BUR, and served on various statewide committees. But I discovered that my real love was for doing representation at the local level.
As any of us start considering our retirement, it is natural to look back on the years. Thirty years is a long time to spend doing anything. I loved my job and the people I worked with. As an Equipment Technician, then an ITC, I had the good fortune of working with hundreds of wonderful staff, students, and faculty. And as a union steward, I had the good fortune to help many staff deal with difficult and challenging problems. I have come to realize that the common thread was service. I feel that I served the University well in my professional function and as a union steward. I am equally proud of both roles and I would like to believe the University is better off that I performed each.
I cannot imagine these many years without my time as a union volunteer. It made me whole, and gave me satisfaction that I would not have achieved from doing my state job alone. It was personally rewarding in a way that purely technical work could never have been. It took me some time working at different union positions and levels to recognize that I was most fulfilled doing local representation. I was fortunate to have worked with so many men and women who were amazing leaders at the chapter and state level. I cherish all of the memories of each and every one.
“Many hands make small work”. There are many jobs that need to be done in a chapter and at the state level. There is plenty of work for all of us and with plenty of help it is work easily accomplished.
“Charity begins at home”. I encourage each of you to rethink the concept of community work, and extend that model to not just helping in your city or town, but helping your fellow employees at the work site. Find a niche that fits you and I am certain that you will look back on the years feeling whole and fulfilled.
# # #