“I wanted to contribute, especially after the election, to strengthening unions and thinking about what the labor movement was going to look like going forward. So I was looking for insights for a while, both for broader movement and to work within my own union to make it better– more organized and politically engaged.”- Jake Spertus
Each week, we’ll share a post getting to know a member of the Guild community. This week, we’re excited to learn from Jake Spertus, Union Rep, HUCTW.
Jake Spertus is a union rep with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW). He joined the union a year and a half ago, when he began working as a researcher at one of Harvard’s labs. According to Jake, becoming an active member wasn’t an immediate priority. “I’m in the bargaining unit, so they came around and had me sign a union card. Pretty much everyone opts in because everybody pays anyway. I didn’t initially think that much about it.”
It wasn’t until the election in November that Jake realized the power of the union and decided to become more engaged. While he knew and appreciated the important job HUCTW plays in securing benefits and pay increases for its members, it was the political climate and the way in which other unions were responding to it that showed him a broader view of what unions can accomplish. “Unions’ fundamental role is to protect working people and ensure fair wages. When we’re thinking about increasing inequality and rising xenophobia, I really think economic justice is at the base level of that. Unions have a crucial role to play in fighting for the rights of working people.”
As a union rep, Jake wants to spread that message and help people realize that the rights union members have are unique and powerful. There are 5,000 members in his union, all with diverse jobs, and many who work for only a year or two before going on to graduate school or other research positions. For Jake, reaching these people and creating a positive experience with HUCTW is important for influencing the way they think about unions throughout the rest of their careers; “We need to see ourselves as part of a larger movement, and that’s actually something I’m working for.”
This is Jake’s first term taking Guild classes, and he is excited about the experience he has had so far. “You sit in a room with people of all ages, and from all different backgrounds and trades. It’s an amazing space and one that doesn’t really exist anymore […] Some of the best parts of the Guild are the discussions that come out of these classes, to learn all of these different kinds of strategies for organizing and bargaining and exerting pressure and filing grievances. And what the instructors do is really facilitate those conversations.” This term he is taking Rand Wilson’s Resistance in a Trump Presidency: Grassroots Organizing and Strategy, and Ken Grace’s The American Labor Relations System: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” He has enjoyed the focus on history and organizing, thinking about how to most effectively learn from the past and work both within and push against the current systems that exist.
The Guild is lucky to have Jake as a student and community member!