New faculty union president is elected

United Academics elected a new president to their faculty union Nov. 24. Felicia Kornbluh won the first contested United Academics election against Don Loeb.

Felicia Kornbluh has been working at UVM for five years as the director of the gender, sexuality and women’s studies department.

“I bring the same qualities to UA that I developed in that role: tenacity, eagerness to bring diverse perspectives into decisions, and enthusiasm for the project of making conditions as good as they possibly can be for our precious teaching and scholarship,” Kornbluh said.

She is also an associate professor of history, with a master’s and doctorate from Princeton University and a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard-Radcliffe College.

Winning the first contested election was a “great sign of the health and maturity of the union,” Kornbluh said.

Kornbluh specializes her studies in social and labor movements as well as in environmental justice. She wrote a book called “The Battle for Welfare Rights” in 2007.

Kornbluh became interested in running for president after former president Denise Youngblood decided to step down.

“Initially I was hesitant, but since I have been the head of a program I know how to run a meeting, make an agenda and listen to people. So maybe I am qualified, I thought,” Kornbluh said.

United Academics represents both part-time and full-time faculty and advocates for fair teaching conditions through collective bargaining agreements.

In addition to the recent election, there is also a new tentative agreement for tenured and non-tenured faculty at the University. The new agreement is still unfinished, but once it is, it will go to the United Academics members for a vote.

In the years since the faculty at UVM has had a union, some of the biggest differences made have been on the side of part-time faculty.

“What part-time faculty needs is more security so that they can plan their lives. The union helps provide for that. It can negotiate on behalf of the whole group instead of one individual trying to negotiate with the chair,” Kornbluh said.

There has been an increase in compensation and in salary and benefits. United Academics also provides more security in terms of quality of jobs and the nature of the work that teachers, professors and researchers perform, she said.

One of her main focuses will be increasing participation and bringing more people into the union, Kornbluh said.