Ajoy Sarkar is an associate professor specializing in textile development and marketing at SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. A member of the United College Employees-FIT, he recently attended his first NYSUT Community College Conference.
1. What was the moment that compelled you to become more involved in your union?
When I arrived at FIT [in 2012], I was pleasantly surprised to learn that FIT had a wall-to-wall union and was the first union in higher ed in New York state. As I researched more, I realized that the [UCE] union was doing a fantastic job representing the interests of FIT employees. I decided to become more involved, appreciate our past history and work to make our union strong into the future.
2. How does your union help you do a better job?
Our union is continually involved in making FIT a safe and enjoyable place to work, where all members have a voice and the welfare of members is of paramount importance.
3. Unions have long made special efforts to shed light on abuses in the fashion industry. Why is it important for unions to focus on social justice issues?
I believe social justice issues are integrally connected with economic, as well as environmental, issues. In the absence of one, there cannot be progress on the other two.
I also believe that, globally, we can work together to achieve success and fairness in all three arenas.
4. You recently attended a NYSUT Community College Conference for the first time. What was that like?
It was enlightening. In addition to meeting colleagues from all over the state, the workshops and seminars were very useful in that they shed light regarding the importance of strong labor movements in higher education.
5. What would you tell a colleague who doesn’t believe America needs unions anymore?
Without unions there would be no 40-hour work week, no fair wages, no protections against abuses and workplace violations, etc. I would say that the success and global leadership of America, post World War II, can be attributed, in large measure, to the strong union movement in the country.