Bruce Baker (Newcastle University)

Election address

I am Lecturer in Modern American History at Newcastle University, specialising in the history of the American South, especially labour history.  I would like to ask for your vote so I can serve on the NEC for the North East and build on the work we have done in the past few years to make this a bigger, stronger, and more effective union that is directed by its membership.

When I took up my first post, at Royal Holloway in 2004, I immediately joined UCU.  Where I came from in North Carolina there were laws making it illegal for universities to recognise trade unions.  I served as membership secretary for the RHUL branch for a few years and as branch president in 2010.  During my term, the management announced a major restructuring that would have resulted in four departments closing and over twenty compulsory redundancies.  With a strong grassroots campaign, support from our regional officials and our students, we forced the management to cancel the entire restructuring plan.  Jobs and departments were saved; the branch was re-energised.  We followed up on that success by supporting the election of a slate of UCU-backed candidates to Academic Board.  Encouraging greater participation in existing governance structures needs to be an important part of our strategy.

After moving to Newcastle University in 2013, I was elected branch vice-president in 2015, just before the management introduced impossible performance management targets for all research-active staff under the name "Raising the Bar".  Our members were outraged by this attack on their professionalism and the blatant attempt to get rid of staff through capability procedures, and we fought back.  Despite repeated advice to make the best of it, the membership insisted on rejecting the policy outright.  We held many meetings, built alliances with students, brought in outside speakers, and publicised the dispute.  Membership surged as people saw the union taking a stand and not acquiescing in yet another disastrous policy. With the support of comrades around the country, a public petition that drew thousands of signatures, and three days of a marking boycott, the management completely withdrew the performance management targets and formally retired the phrase "Raising the Bar".

In 2017, I was elected branch chair and have led a number of local initiatives, along with an unprecedented mobilisation for the USS strike.  Again, action built the union, with our membership increasing by over 40%.  In the aftermath of the dispute, I was elected to the National Dispute Committee, and I was also a delegate at Congress 2018. I am a member of UCU Left.

Our union succeeds when it stands up for members and listens to them.

Last updated: 1 February 2019