President and Chief Negotiator
Kate Birdsall teaches in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures and has been a UNTF member since 2014. She served on the Contract Negotiating committee during the 2018 contract negotiations and became vice president in the General Election in spring of 2019. Prior to her work with UNTF, she served as a steward for GEU and is strongly committed to organized labor. She has taken the lead on communications with MSU in the wake of COVID-19 and has successfully obtained letters of agreement that will protect our members in the coming months and years.
Víctor Rodríguez-Pereira teaches in the department of Romance and Classical Studies, and has been a UNTF member since 2017. He became a Member at Large of the Executive Board in the elections of 2019. Previously, he was part of the Organizing Committee of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization (LEO) at University of Michigan.
Rebecca Cifaldi (she/her) is the daughter of a Mexican immigrant and UAW member who worked at GM/Cadillac for 42 years. She understands how vital Unions are to the equity and justice of the higher education labor force. Rebecca received a BFA and an MA from Eastern Michigan University and an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago. She has been teaching in the Art, Art History, and Design Department at MSU since 2017. Before that, she was an adjunct faculty and Union member at Washtenaw Community College. She was voted Secretary of the UNTF.
Seven Mattes received her BA in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from WMU in 2007, and her PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Michigan State University in 2018. Following the Tōhoku disaster of 2011, Seven began an ongoing research project on the animals left behind in the Fukushima evacuation zone. Her research is aimed at improving disaster preparedness for animals through policy change, direct action with non-profit organizations, and education regarding the increasing significance of human-animal bonds across cultures.
Co-Treasurer, Member at Large
I am an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Michigan State University and a first-generation college student. As a first-gen student and PhD, I’m particularly interested in helping first-generation and other underserved student populations achieve academic success. My approach to teaching is an active one – sociology is an incredibly broad discipline that is relevant to student’s everyday lives, and they learn best when the classroom and the everyday can be brought together. Sociology is in the doing.
Member at Large and Chair of Constitution Committees
The purpose of a Union is to represent the members in negotiating on behalf of all members. We have more power and influence together than individually. I’m a proud Union member, having contributed to the 2018 UNTF-MSU bargaining unit negotiations. As an Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management (Eli Broad College of Business) since 2007, I’m thrilled to add my perspective to our board conversations.
Member at Large, Grievance Committee Co-Chair
Mary A. Bedikian is the former district vice president for the Detroit Region of the American Arbitration Association; she worked for the organization for 28 years. Her extensive experience in ADR spans many sectors, including labor, commercial, construction, international, and employment. She has trained mediators and arbitrators in both the process and substance of ADR. In 1987, Professor Bedikian created one of the first interactive ADR courses in Michigan, which is taught at various law schools in Michigan. She served as an adjunct professor at both the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and Wayne State University Law School for more than 10 years.
Member at Large, Grievance Committee Co-Chair
Laura Smith has been teaching art history in the Department of Art, Art History and Design at MSU since 2009. She specializes in North American arts, Indigenous North American arts, and photography. Since the spring of 2020, she has served on the College of Arts and Letters’ Faculty-led Taskforce on Non-Tenure System Pathways. As a task force member, she worked on clarifying and codifying the process for fixed-term and academic specialists’ promotions. The taskforce has also focused on revisioning faculty pathways so that the tenure-system model does not remain central or intrinsic to faculty careers. In higher education everywhere, Unions are becoming increasingly important to insuring job equity and the professional and human rights of faculty, staff, and graduate students. She believes the Union is an institution that can help assure respect and fulfillment in academic careers, as well as amend workplace issues.
Richard Fessler has been the UNTF organizer since 2019. When he isn’t building solidarity, he enjoys hiking, history, boardgames, and baseball.
Shelby Smith proudly serves as the UNTF Office Manager. A born and raised Michigander, Shelby got her BA in English and Professional and Public Writing from MSU. The best part of Shelby’s time at MSU was by far the stupendous teachers she had along the way. What she didn’t know while she was a student, was that all of her favorite classified as “non-tenured” and “fixed term.” And that meant they were under appreciated and underpaid by the university. Now Shelby uses the skills those exemplary educators taught her to fight with them for equity, fairness, and respect.