Some wins, like a new tentative agreement, cover lots of people. Other wins, like the one that affected PSU Teaching-Lecturer and Chapter 30 member Kristin Stelmok, have a smaller reach. Whether it’s one or a hundred, though, any time workers win when asserting rights in the workplace, it’s worth celebrating. And for Kristin, being able to be a part of the union brings her full circle to where she was before this all started – trying to help bring a union to PSU for teaching lecturers.
Kristin’s story started last year when she sought to be a part of the PSU Teaching-Lecturer bargaining unit. The contract language defining eligibility was initially misinterpreted by PSU administration. After human resources told her she wasn’t eligible, Kristin checked with chapter president Philip Inwood and fellow-member Burrett McBee. As it turned out, they’d seen the exact same situation before. Philip got involved and after back and forth with the college, was successful in demonstrating the correct interpretation of the language.
“Ultimately, the dean agreed,” Stelmok said. “Her email said she wanted to respect my service to PSU and the spirit of the collective bargaining agreement, and agreed I was eligible.” Kristin said she truly appreciated that response from the dean, Cynthia Vascak.
For Kristin – who teaches English and women’s studies – being included in the bargaining unit means wage increases, but more than that, it means she can contribute to the larger cause.
“The pay is definitely a lot better, especially because I’m teaching so much – four courses a semester,” Kristin said. “But it’s important that I’m able to be a part of the team that’s helping support all of the other teaching-lecturers. I’ve always found a great deal of support from the other teaching-lecturers, and having the union has helped us come together even more.”
Kristin is now in her 11th semester at PSU, although not consecutively – she spent time away at UNH working on her doctorate. That gap was actually what caused confusion over her eligibility. Joining the union, though, has brought everything full circle for Kristin.
“When I was initially at PSU, I was one of the folks working toward getting a union,” she said. “It’s nice to finally be a part of it.”