bplist00Ń_WebMainResourceŐ ^WebResourceURL_WebResourceFrameName_WebResourceTextEncodingName_WebResourceData_WebResourceMIMEType_Chttp://www.faculty.umb.edu/gary_zabel/Publications/labornotes.2.htmPUUTF-8O› How UMass Boston Part

How UMass Boston Part-Time Professors Won Big

 

 

Part-time faculty bargaining unit members won a major victory at University of Massachusetts, Boston, which for the first time has officially acknowledged that part-time members who are working at least 20 hours a week deserve half-time status.  The new contract defines half-time status as a teaching load of four courses a year.  State law mandates that State employees who work half-time are entitled to health benefits and participation in the State pension system on the same basis as full-timers.  To avoid granting benefits, the university administration defined almost all-part-timers as less than half-time employees no matter how many hours they worked. 

 

Also won was a huge increase in the base pay.  It will be immediately increased by over 21% to $16,000 a year, which is $4,000 a course.  By the end of the 3 year contract, half-time faculty will receive about $5500 a course, which yields an annual salary of $22,000.

 

Several months before the Union (which is the local of the Massachusetts Teachers Association) began contract negotiations with the Administration, it formed an independent organization of part-time activists.  The organization, called the Part-Time Faculty Committee continually encouraged the participation of part-timers in the leadership group, and it involved as many rank-and-filers as possible in the struggle.   Multiple general meetings were held to reach those with scheduling problems, and conversations on a one to one basis with as many part-timers as possible was an integral aspect of the campaign.

 

The Committee chose a very ambitious agenda rather than compromise before the good fight even began.  Recognizing that demands are inseparable from strategy, the Committee believed that efforts to mobilize and involve part-time faculty would be more successful by advancing an inspiring rather than a scaled down program. 

 

For strategic as well as for principled reasons, the Committee stressed throughout the campaign the urgency of obtaining health benefits because this issue has significant moral resonance.  Hearing that some part-time faculty and family members having to depend on emergency hospital clinics, going deeply into debt to pay medical expenses, or failing to get treatment for a medical condition were very troubling to the university community.

 

The strategy adopted by the Committee grew out of the minority status of part-timers within the union.  As the majority of the union=s executive committee are full-timers, and only one part-time member would be included in the negotiation team, it was not enough to persuade the leadership to just support the part-time agenda.  The committee had to insist that its demands be given priority.  Members of the executive committee and the negotiation team had to be convinced -- some already had been --that to refuse to make the part-time agenda a priority was unconscionable.

 

The committee adopted a two pronged approach of putting pressure on both the university administration and the union. A full-time faculty member, who was invited to join the committee, drafted a petition to be circulated to full-time faculty that was highly critical of the Administration for understating the workload of part-time faculty to avoid providing benefits.  In each Department a faculty member was identified for the purposes of talking with colleagues about the issues and obtaining their signatures.  The petition, which was reprinted in the school newspaper, was signed by 175 full-time members of the faculty. Although the petition was aimed at the Administration, it also served, like other tactics, to demonstrate to the union that the part-time agenda was widely supported by members of the university community.

 

The Part-time Committee also set up tables around the University to talk with students and collect signatures for a petition supporting health care and pension benefits, which two thousand students signed.  Also, the campus was continually leafleted, posters were put up throughout the campus, buttons were distributed, letters to the editor were written, and the school newspaper was encouraged to write articles on the struggle.

 

The high point in the campaign was the successful picketing of the Administration on campus.  Around 200 part-time and full-time faculty, students, staff, and almost the entire full-time members of the union=s executive committee picketed during the one-and-a-half hour demonstration.  It was the largest picket line on campus in more than 25 years.

 

By making the part-time agenda the focus of attention of the university community, the committee convinced the union to take its demands very seriously.  The united front of part-time and full-time faculty and staff paved the road to victory.

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