Organizing Director, Seo Yun Son’s Departure – February 21st, 2024

Hi All,

Today is a very bittersweet Wednesday Win. I am sad and happy to announce the departure of our Organizing Director, Seo Yun Son. I am sad to see Seo Yun Leave but so glad to see her move on to bigger and better opportunities. Seo Yun’s work has helped transform our union, organize our members, and democratize our guild. Seo Yun built our Campus Action Teams, creating a network of members that enabled our union to be agile and responsive. This allowed us to mobilize at a moment’s notice, and we got hundreds of members to the Board of Trustees meetings and negotiations. This was crucial in getting us our amazing contract.

Also, through her organizing work and partnership with LATTC Chapter President Joe Guerrieri and the work of our professional staff Juan Carlos Vasquez and Leslie Simon, they saved 400 jobs in a single weekend, mobilizing over 4000 faculty, students, and community members in a letter writing campaign to the Board of Trustees stopping the class cuts. That is union power! This was only successful due to the work of over 20 CAT members who Seo Yun helped recruit, train, and mobilize.

We will also miss all the unsung and behind-the-scenes work that Seo Yun did to create online forms, refine programming, create opportunities for faculty, train staff and officers, and ensure that our programs from start to finish are top-notch.

Most of all, I will miss her strength, intelligence, and grace. She met hostility with compassion and consideration. She treated resistance as an opportunity to listen and work with those questioning her motives. As one of the kindest and most respected people I know in the union once said, “If you don’t like Seo Yun, that says more about you than it says about Seo Yun.” Seo Yun, you are loved and respected by our members. We see you, appreciate you, and you will be missed. Congratulations on your new position. Our loss is UPTE-CWA at UCLA’s gain. I’m sure they will recognize your skills, dedication, and the importance of having a solid and dedicated professional staff. Thank you, my friend, colleague, and sister, in the struggle for labor rights.

I am sharing Seo Yun’s parting wise words to our union below; I thought I would share them with you:

Dear members of the AFT 1521 Executive Board,

I am writing to formally resign from my position as the Organizing Director at AFT 1521. My last day of employment will be Thursday, February 15, 2024.

The last 4 years were challenging yet rewarding. Our work together speaks for itself: we’ve won two strong contracts engaging over 1,500 faculty throughout the contract campaign, built the Contract Action Team and developed new leaders and activists, improved communication to our rank-and-file faculty district-wide, secured part-time healthcare for Adjunct Faculty, increased membership from 76% to 80% majority post-Janus, trained over 250 members on union-building skills, formed the Guild’s first Vision Statement, and organized and won Trustee elections and workplace issue campaigns that brought our students and faculty together to advocate for the colleges our students deserve.

I am proud of my work training and assisting our Guild staff in maintaining accurate member databases, improving member communications, and fully transitioning online during the pandemic without any disruption to our members. I am also happy to have supported the SIP Coordinators and the student interns who are doing great work organizing students each semester. Most recently, our Executive Director and I spearheaded the launch of a new and improved Guild website that will be more responsive and accessible in serving our members’ needs (stay tuned)!

I am seeing exciting and positive changes in our Guild and I feel privileged and honored to have worked with you all. I want to especially thank our Guild President James McKeever for his unwavering support of organizing and aligning our union’s focus and resources in building an involved membership. I firmly believe in the leadership’s vision to win for our faculty, students, and community.

I entered this role with great enthusiasm and commitment to building a strong local that is member-driven and accountable to its membership. I believe this Guild is on the right trajectory in becoming powerful enough to leverage community and labor power to win contracts that benefit faculty, students, and the broader community we serve here in Los Angeles.

To sustain a strong and healthy union, I encourage member leaders to continue to:

  • Get curious, not furious.  Make space for members with different disciplines, classifications, identities, experiences, and beliefs. When we lean into curiosity, we become deeper listeners, are more open to receiving feedback, and see conflict as an opportunity for learning. I’ve witnessed this during the contract campaign in our CAT-led member rooms where faculty brought forward their concerns and grievances. Our CAT Leads facilitated candid dialogue and debates without shutting anyone down and received feedback from members that these spaces helped them feel heard as well as build solidarity with their colleagues.
  • Trust the professional skills and experience of staff and other rank-and-file members in the organization.  The role of your professional staff is to work on behalf of the membership. In my time here, I’ve been barred by certain leaders from interacting with members, attending union meetings, and building out programming to get more members involved in our union. If we want to increase our capacity and flex our strength, we’ll need staff and members working together on all 9 campuses, unified as one.
  • Support people at all levels of power to understand how it operates in the Guild and the District and work towards collectively resisting internalized tendencies to hoard and defend power.  Educate members on how decisions are made in this union as well as the levels of responsibility. Great leaders identify, recruit, and develop other leaders to succeed so they can expand their capacity to be effective.
  • Value rank-and-file members and students and include those that are the most impacted, in the strategizing and decision-making. Furthermore, keep strengthening your organizing committees.  We were able to push back against an unsafe return to campus, major class cuts, and arbitrary decisions by the Administration through various campaigns at LATTC. The Chapter leadership, CAT, AFAC, WEC, Academic Senate, and our sibling unions worked together to organize around issues and grievances while centering student voices that were directly affected. Through these organizing structures, this union can become more proactive and less reactive.
  • Reward clear, consistent, and frequent communication.  A strong union communicates and helps members interpret information to overcome confusion and inform members about what’s going on via various channels.
  • Develop a culture of inquiry that allows people to make mistakes.
  • Develop a culture of appreciation to make sure that everyone’s work and efforts are appreciated.  I have heard from many members who feel their contributions to our union are not valued. We can build on our strengths when we recognize the skills that every person brings to the organization.
  • Understand that change is inevitable and challenges to our leadership can be healthy and productive.  I encourage those leaders who have resisted staff assistance and member involvement to return to the principle of collective thinking and action and make sure the work is focused on the vision and values of the union.
  • Share a vision and identify a common ground.  Ask whether or not the Guild’s time, energy, and resources are going toward advancing the Vision Statement. If not, ask the “why.” By focusing on the goals and working collaboratively, you can overcome divisions.

I see nothing more urgent at this time than building member power to be proactive, well-organized, and ready to defend student futures against austerity-driven crises. I share this feedback to encourage everyone to remain steadfast in building the union that will bring more victories for our members and students.

You all are transforming the lives of your students every day—let that ground you in the critical work you do to shape your campus, district, and higher education, together, for a better and dignified life for yourselves and your students.

Although I am leaving the Guild, I will continue the organizing work here in Los Angeles.

In unity and solidarity always,

Seo Yun Son

Organizing Director

LA College Faculty Guild, AFT 1521