AFT 6157 Executive Director Barbara Hanfling Retiring after 16 years of Dedicated Service
I am writing this article to celebrate our retiring Executive Director, Barbara Hanfling. The headline of this article serves a dual purpose. Barbara has been the “heart and soul” of AFT 6157. That is almost a unanimous opinion in this district. The other purpose of the headline is to explain that she gave her “heart and soul” to this union.
I feel fortunate to know her, to have worked with her, and especially to call her my friend. She is genuinely a fine and decent person whose social conscience and sense of right and wrong made her the perfect fit for AFT 6157. Also, her absolute integrity was apparent even at times when it worked against her own goals. A long ago CFO in our district once told me that Barbara and her negotiations team had “absolute integrity” and he was hopeful that his bargaining team could learn from her.
Before we had Barbara the Union was, at best, weak and ineffective. There was no consistent leadership or continuity to the union. When we had a strong president that had some influence most were quickly overwhelmed with Union responsibilities and their own teaching obligations. They quickly burned out or left.
Barbara’s hire as Executive Director was a result of our affiliation with AFT/CFT almost 15 years ago. The CFT provided some financial support and we were able to hire a professional Executive Director which was crucial to making the Union grow and succeed. She was the best choice of the possible candidates and with her education, years of Union working experience for the SEIU and her strong Union values made her the best candidate for the job.
She brought not only professional expertise, but also an unusual set of negotiation skills as well as strong personal skills that allowed her to bring a 24/7 sort of professionalism to our union. She has proven to be the best thing we ever did for the faculty, both full and adjunct. Our Union has received national acclaim and she has been recognized as one of the best Executive Directors in the state of California.
Over the last 15 years, her fantastic memory and her strong organizational skills has given the Union an “institutional memory” that served us well in the ever-changing leadership this district has experienced, whether it be with negotiations, faculty vacancies or Human Resources issues.
It was always amazing to those of us around her how much she gave to this Union. Not just her time but her “heart and soul.” It would be impossible to calculate the number of hours she spent forging relationships with administrators and members of the Board of Trustees. She was always available to talk to faculty about their issues even when they weren’t necessarily a Union issue. Sometimes a willing ear to listen was all that was needed and Barbara gave it willingly and sometimes just shoulder to cry on.
She was always the power behind the organizing of Union members for political activities, the dreaded phone banking, for example, and giving out assignments to those that attended Conventions or other Union meetings, and she seemed to especially be the spirit of the Union at protest rallies or other organized actions carried out for faculty or students in our District and around the state.
These skills, along with great negotiating abilities, created positive outcomes and solutions that often end up in our contract, a contract recognized around the state as a model document. At other times it resulted in solutions to serious contractual conflicts we would resolve in one of our many meetings between the Union and the administration that most faculty never hear about.
But of course, in Union work as in life, no single person accomplishes great goals alone. Neither did Barbara. She had the help of a terrific team of Executive Board members around her and guiding her and supporting her. Unionism is a “collective” activity. So the new Executive Director will need a strong supportive and team-oriented Executive Board as well, if they are to be successful.
Replacing Barbara will be one of the AFT 6157’s most important decisions. I hope the selection committee and the Executive Board take the time and invests the money to hire the most qualified person available. I encourage all faculty to pay attention to the process and the selection because who replaces Barbara is much more important than who replaces any of the other members of the executive team including the president. So please take this responsibility seriously because her replacement will become the new “Heart and soul of the Union.”
Retired SJCC History Faculty and AFT 6157 President
Notes to Barbara from AFT 6157 Faculty
We hired Barbara Hanfling in 2001 as Executive Director of the (then) Faculty Association, but soon to be AFT 6157. My interest was to get someone who could professionalize our union. Of course she far exceeded mine or anyone’s expectations. I quickly dubbed her a “force of nature.” It is fair to say that Barbara’s intelligence, hard work, strong personality, sense of justice, kindness, generosity, and ability to make a deal, helped change the union remarkably. Not only that, as she has fought for and guarded faculty rights in the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District, Barbara helped change how the district did business. By cultivating connections with some individuals, a somewhat less adversarial union-administration relationship morphed into something much more of a productive and oriented to problem-solving.
Over the years, there has really only been one controversy surrounding Barbara. Is she the life blood of the union or the heart of the union? Of course the answer is both. Working with her and learning from her has been a huge personal privilege. As Barbara transitions to a life of retirement with even more tennis, travel, movies and lunches with friends, there will be a huge void in our colleges. All the faculty will miss her caring way, professionalism, effectiveness and indomitable spirit. I will miss our almost daily interactions terribly. Thank you Barbara for everything; you are a special person, and certainly deserve a wonderful retirement.
Dean, Math and Sciences, SJCC
“I am also so thankful for the leadership you have given the college faculty and the guidance you have provided for me personally. You have been a pleasure to work and travel with. I hope you are able to continue seeing the world in your retirement. You will be missed but I’m guessing we may see you at a picnic or two!”
-- Amber McCall
Dance Faculty, SJCC
“Thank you for all that you have done. For all the support, care and hard work. You have offered much wisdom and encouragement. Enjoy your retirement. Thank you for inspiring.”
-- Jennifer Schriber
Math & Science Faculty, SJCC
“Barbara, It has been an honor being faculty during your tenure as Executive Director. Thank you for your passion, your hard work, your support, your presence. There will certainly be a huge void you will be leaving us with. We will miss you.
Wishing you all the best in your next journey --- fair winds and gentle seas.”
-- Dorothy Pucay
ESL Faculty, SJCC
“Dear Barbara, Thank you for your active pursuit of fairness, equity, clarity and true concern for all. Your responsiveness to my queries, whether at meetings or via email, helped me to make stronger decisions. You will be missed. Wishing you the very best in this next step in your remarkable journey.”
-- Fran Jackler
Psychology Faculty, SJCC
“Hello Barbara, Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for the outstanding work you did for us over the past 16 years. I wish you the best in your next adventure! Best Regards.”
-- Sydney Sakuta
Laser Technology Faculty, SJCC
“I have not known you for as long a time, but have always been so impressed with the balance you, Barbara, bring to this challenging job of teaching us how to assert our rights, leading us in doing so, while keeping in mind that we want and need to be partners with the people on the other side of the table.
I have always felt we had the very best advocate one could ever hope for, and am so grateful for all your years of dedication to representing us.”
-- Liza Kramer
Language Arts Faculty, EVC
“Thank you for your leadership, dedication, sound advice and commitment over the years. Some of you may recall that back in 2010, Dr. Gerry Grudzen and I coordinated a 16-day education trip to Egypt. And, Barbara was among the 48 travelers. I still believe that Dynamic Barbara was behind the “Arab Spring” that swept the Middle East shortly after our departure!”
-- Sami Ibrahim
Chemistry Faculty, SJCC
“Barbara retiring is unimaginable! (Perhaps not to her!) Things will never be the same! Thank you so much, Barbara, for all your work for us.”
-- Celine Grenier
ESL Faculty, EVC
“Barbara is one of the coolest and kindest person I met at City College.”
-- Shiva Singh
Math & Science Faculty, SJCC
“Thank you, Barbara, for all your good, hard work! We will miss you!”
-- Sharon Antonelli
Humanities Faculty, SJCC
Barbara — It has taken me a while to process your upcoming departure — and to formulate my thoughts and feelings. I’m still working on this.
The day that you came to this district was the day that our faculty organization went from being a small time/“bit” player in the way that faculty were treated/mistreated and regarded/disregarded to being a powerful, professional organization operating on “par” with the administration and the Board.
If anyone ever “hit the deck running” in a new position, that person was you. Right after you started, an issue came up for EVC counselors with the then-current Dean of Counseling. I decided to call you — just to see what would happen. As a kind of “test case.” You immediately sprang into action to address and ameliorate the issue. I’ve been a Barbara Hanfling “fan” ever since. And I’ve never been disappointed.
Respectful (to all). Fair (to all). Empowering. Supportive. Caring. Responsive, understanding. Smart. Straight shooter. Creative, innovative. I could go on and on. (So could others.)
I also often viewed you as a “coach” who empowered me (and others) to address issues ourselves (whenever we could) and to do so at the lowest level possible. You never wanted to be “heavy-handed” in your approach. Your sole focus was to resolve whatever the issue was. And hopefully— and often — in a way that worked for — and was respectful to — all concerned.
Over the years that you have worked with us, I have become (and continue to be) proud to be a faculty member here and proud to be a member of a labor union that operates with such integrity and with such professionalism. Barbara, you gave that to me — and to all of us. Thank you.
-- Rick Wagner
Counseling Faculty, EVC