Top Social Menu


The Point: Battle Cries


We will welcome to our numbers the loyal, true and brave,

Shouting the battle cry of freedom!—George Frederick Root’

Greetings, Colleagues:

I was thinking a whole lot about unions this past week and a whole lot about the history of American music this past week but neither of those activities is that out of the ordinary for me. I am the FSU Communications Director, a historian of popular music, and a pretty committed listener as well. But one slightly odd thing is how much I found myself thinking about George Frederick Root, a Boston-born songwriter who penned a few crucial American songs—perhaps most notably "Battle Cry of Freedom"(1862).  I was thinking about how this song has energized over 150 years of songs about both kinds of union—the nation itself and the labor collective.  The song has flickered in and out of our consciousness over the years: it has been used as a reference point for many other musicians, from Charles Ives in "They Are There" during World War II  to New Jersey punk band Titus Andronicus in its 2010  song "A More Perfect Union".  Root’s song also provided the melody for British artist Billy Bragg’s rousing labor anthem "There Is Power in a Union" (1986).

This was a good week to think about the relationship of our local collective to various larger collectives.  On Friday of last week the FSU hosted a forum with Professor Deepa Kumar, a media studies scholar and former president of Rutgers University’s faculty union.  Professor Kumar gave a thrilling and informative talk about how the Rutgers’ union has committed itself to transforming itself into a social-justice oriented union in recent years—still focused on the bread-and-butter issues that shape our everyday work lives while also devoting energy and resources to broader issues surrounding racial justice and gender equity. In fact, this teachers’ union organized its entire last contract battle around such concerns under the battle cry of “Equity Security Dignity.”  The Rutgers’ union has managed to forge meaningful alliances with students, campus staff, and members of their broader community in an effort to use the power of the union to engage in bargaining for the common good.  This forum with Professor Kumar was a provocation, a roadmap, and an inspiration. 

I was also fortunate last week to be able to spend time in Pennsylvania doing election day work with UNITE HERE Philly.  This thrillingly diverse group of workers in Philadelphia (and across the country) organized the most robust door-to-door turnout operation across the country in this election cycle and served as a powerful reminder of how important it is to use our proximate workplace engagements to build larger coalitions of citizens working together on issues surrounding shared social justice concerns.  This IS what democracy looks like.

Still, whatever you feel about the national events of the past week it remains clear that public higher education is under siege.  Our colleagues at Salem State, for instance, have been threatened with furloughs of 3-5 weeks by their administration since this past summer; the administration at Salem State seems poised to try to force through the furloughs without having yet bargained the details of such a proposal.  We at UMB face a much different budget situation and furloughs have not been proposed but we will need to continue finding ways to support our colleagues around the Commonwealth and fight austerity measures (0% raises for three years, for instance) being proposed right here on the Point.  Remember that all current FSU members can join the expanded bargaining team and learn more about how our administration is responding to the current crises.  The next session is this Wednesday (members in good standing will receive registration info shortly from the Core Bargaining Team) and now that you won’t be spending all day hitting “refresh” on election results think of all the time you will have to do things like joining the expanded bargaining team!

This is your union: please tell us at how you our local union should be exploring its relationship to larger collectives around the city, state, and nation.


Jeffrey Melnick

Communications Director, Faculty Staff Union Executive Committee

For information on the FSU, links to our contract and bargaining updates, and a calendar of events, see the FSU webpage

Check out the FSU Blog

Please “like” the  FSU Facebook Page