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UMass Faculty Staff Assistance Program

 

 
  UMASS UNION LEADERS TESTIMONY TO BOARD OF TRUSTEES
September 26, 2008

 

Tom Goodkind, President of the UMass Boston Professional Staff Union

My name is Tom Goodkind. I'm the president of the Professional Staff Union at UMass Boston, and I've worked there as the machinist for the sciences for 23 years. My machine shop is in the upper-level garage. In fact, I'm one of the few remaining human beings working in the garage, and if the overdue New England earthquake ever strikes on a work day, I'll be one of the last found. No one understands the need for new buildings better than I do.

I came before the Board in late June-shortly before our contracts expired-to present to you our analysis of the erosion of the employee tuition waiver benefit. As we expected, most Trustees were simply unaware that a critical employee benefit instituted in 1983 had, through years of rising fees and inaction on the Board's part, lost nearly all its value.

Among employee benefits at UMass, the tuition benefit is-or was-unique. It was unique in its direct connection to the educational mission of the institution. It was the one employee benefit which encapsulated those two much-abused concepts: hope and change. The 1983 Board of Trustees said to its employees: "Come make a career here, and you can educate yourselves and your families, and raise yourselves up just as all our students strive to do." It was a statement that the University would invest in its employees as the first-not the last-rung of the public higher education ladder, as the foundation stone-not the decorative trim-of the UMass edifice.

Today, UMass employees have seen plenty of change, but have precious little hope.

We understand that the Board has little influence on the size of the state deficit and even less on the circuses in New York and Washington. But the Board and the University President's Office have considerable influence on the Governor and legislature. And above all, you have direct control over the University operating budget and its priorities. Every one of us understands that budgets are all about priorities, and now is the time to prioritize the people who inhabit and maintain UMass's buildings, who deliver the goods to our students, and who introduce those students to the hope and change which our institution at its best represents.

Fully restoring the tuition benefit-and expanding it to include continuing education courses-is entirely within the Board's control. Before June, perhaps the Board was unaware of the unfairness of this benefit's erosion. But today-especially given the rough treatment endured by staff and faculty at the hands of the Patrick administration-there is really no excuse for inaction.
 

Shauna Manning, President of the UMass Boston Classified Staff Union

I am Shauna Manning, the president of the Classified Staff Union at UMass Boston, where I have worked for almost 20 years. I am also an alumna who would like to see the university once again be a contender for national excellence.

In 1987, U.S. News and World Report named UMB as one of the best and most promising universities in the country. That year, I decided to transfer from California to Boston to complete my education.

In 1987, no one had cell phones. Daytime cross country phone calls were expensive. I got up at 6:00 am California time to call Boston universities at 9:00 am for information about admissions. I called Boston University, Northeastern, Boston College, and UMass Boston. Of all of these institutions, the employees at UMass Boston were by far the most friendly and helpful. When they heard I was calling from California, they bent over backward to help me. Each time I called, I had a positive experience. This phone relationship helped convince me to choose UMB.

Much later, I learned that everyone I had spoken to in 1987 was a Classified Staff employee. Those excellent frontline representatives are a part of the reason I am standing in front of you today. The other is the employee tuition and fee waiver, which subsequently prompted me to apply for a job on campus.
You may not realize that today the UMass system's Classified Staff employees still work under the same state job titles that were last updated in 1987-a time before cell phones, email, and the internet. You may not know that the state took a five year pay scale in the late 90's and stretched it into 12 steps without adding money. Now, it takes 14 years for a Classified Staff employee to reach his/her contractual salary.

Boston is one of the most expensive cities to live in the U.S., but none of our salary increases have kept up with the local inflation rate. The net result is that each year our salaries decrease.

Employees have told me-ashamed and in tears-that they have had to take Personal days prior to payday because they could not afford to pay for gas and parking to get to work. A new mailroom employee pays 4.5% of his salary to park here while he works. Employees have had to decide each month which bill not to pay as they struggle to cover their basic living expenses.

While employed here, I have never seen a contract negotiated on time. Employees are constantly paid in arrears, and when we finally get that lump sum owed us, we are taxed at 27%.

The result is we are not retaining new employees. In fact, we are becoming the training ground for higher education in the Boston area. Evidently, we are doing a very good job, because employees are working 1-3 years here and moving to better paying staff jobs at Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and Northeastern.
In our Facilities area, we have only 2 electricians and no plumbers on campus. Our last plumber retired in May and our salary scale is so low, we can't attract employees.

We cannot grow as a university if we are constantly understaffed and training the staff we do have. We cannot attract and retain talented employees if they can't pay for basic necessities-food, rent, and transportation-on our full time salaries.
How do we solve this problem?? First, we need genuine cost of living increases so we don't actually make less money each year. Second, we need to increase staffing levels so that the university can handle its own business competently. And last but not least, we need to move forward expeditiously on getting our job descriptions, titles, and salaries into the 21st century.

We need you, our Board of Trustees, to make these three issues a priority. They are crucial to the future of the University.
 

Catherine Lynde, President of the UMass Boston Faculty Union

Thanks for this opportunity to speak to you this morning- and welcome to all our new trustees.

Let me start by reminding us all that the university's reputation - in the community, among students, among other intellectuals - is based completely on the quality of people who work there. The role of high-quality faculty in building the university's reputation is central to this and is my focus this morning.

In order to recruit and retain the necessary high quality faculty, the University must remain competitive with its peers around the country. Unfortunately, our competitiveness is deteriorating, and the current salary offer guarantees further deterioration. Here are some sobering facts about our university that you need to know:
Your current salary offer and the last few years of faculty salary changes mean that the value of our salaries will decline. I'm sure you know that the CPI is growing at over 2 times your offer at the moment.
Private higher education salaries are higher than those for public institutions. The AAUP released a study in the CHE indicating that private institution faculty salaries are 33% higher than those for public higher education. (CHE 4-8-08 report on AAUP study)
Compared to other institutions in New England - public and private - UMass faculty salaries are 5.5% below the average - as compared to: Rutgers NB & Newark, Penn St., SUNY Buff & Stoney Brk, MD-CP, UCONN, Del.
If you look at the individual campuses, you see that Boston faculty salaries (adjusted for cost of living) currently are 18.3% below their peer average - that's $15K; and Amherst salaries are 28.5% lower than their peers (that's $26K). (This by the way, is based on results produced by the President's office.)
The current contract offer would significantly add to the disparity.
The reason for this: the faculty at UCONN have recently signed a 3-year contract with a salary pkg of 5,5,5 - let's call it 15%; Rutgers faculty have a 3-year contract for 14%; U New Hampshire's is for14.5%. Ours, would be 7.5%
This is a significant gap: for UMass to catch-up with these institutions, faculty salaries would have to rise by about 7% p.a. for 3 years - and we'd still be a bit short.
We're not even asking for that, although many would say that would be a fair offer.

A sign of the problem can easily be found on the Amherst campus. If you look at the number of faculty hires authorized on that campus each year (for the last 2 years), you see that they manage to fill just slightly over half of those authorized positions. We all know the significant amount of time and expense that goes into recruiting faculty. This is a sorry waste of a lot of our money and time.

We are clearly in a situation where our relative salaries are making it difficult to recruit and retain the faculty we urgently need to maintain, not to speak of raising, the quality of our institutions.

We see a University that is mistakenly thinking that bricks and mortar alone will enhance the reputation of the university - while our ability to attract and retain high-quality faculty is deteriorating. This is a short-sighted strategy which guarantees the further deterioration of our reputation.
 

Max Page, President of the UMass Amherst Faculty Union

Good morning. I am Max Page, President of the Massachusetts Society of Profesors, the 1400-member faculty and librarian union at Umass Amherst. I want to offer a special welcome to Secretary Reveille - I mean, Trustee Reveille. Perhaps now the Governor will hear and know a little more about where the University of Massachusetts puts its resources. And a warm welcome to my union brothers and sisters who traveled from every campus in the system to be here.

Two things will surely come to pass today:

First, President Wilson will tell us that Deval Patrick is more supportive of public higher education than any Governor he has seen. He will further tell us all that this has been a terrific year for the university and that things are looking great for UMass.

We don't need to hear those lines again. From where we sit, things are not great. No one worked harder to elect this Governor and to get the capital and life sciences bills passed than your employees and their unions. But we are sick of hearing the Good News about the university when both you and the Governor are failing to invest in the most essential element of a university: its faculty and staff who make the university what it is.

Jack, your stock response to our members who have written to you is how much you support us and how much you believe that we all do better when we "work together." The union members in this room know what "let's work together" means: "tough luck for you." If you are in the President's Office, "working together" means you got 4% increases, minimum, last year. And the closer you "work together " -- as in, closer to the President's corner office - the more likely you'll see raises like 15%, or even 45%. Now that's what I call a raise! I'm still looking for a staff or faculty member who has ever received anything like the $91,000 raise one President's Office staffer who is here today received last year. And the President didn't do so badly for himself -- $144,000 in bonuses and pay increases. Not too shabby.

The second thing that will happen today is that you will no doubt approve the appointment of Michael Collins as the new chancellor of the medical school. Praise will be showered, applause will be given, and then in private the compensation subcommittee will approve a compensation package worth at least $600,000. You'll say, if asked, that we need to provide a "competitive" salary for the chancellor, that this is standard around the country, etc., etc., etc. I am going to make a wild guess that you aren't going to tell him that we are all need to "work together" and then ask him to take a pay cut each of the next three years.

For some of us, $600,000 is a lot of money.

" $600,000 a year would pay for a full .5% increase for every single one of my 1400 faculty members and librarians on the Amherst campus.

" $600,000 a year would pay for .61% increase for all 1700 members of the Professional Staff Union.

" $600,000 would be able to add nearly $600 to the paychecks of all 1010 of the members of the University Staff Association in Amherst, who pull in, on average, $35,000 a year. Several hundred make closer to $20,000, well below the living wage for the Amherst area.

It is also worth noting that Mr. Collins will have a salary close to thirty times that of a starting clerical staffperson in Amherst. In case you haven't read the papers, the era of overpaid executives is over.

I was here in June with these same colleagues, urging you to advocate on behalf of your employees to the Governor, and to come to the table with a fair offer. That was after having already spent five months at the table with your representatives.

And yet here we are, at the end of September, nine months after we began negotiating, and some of our units have still not received a formal offer at the table. Others have received a robot-like recitation of the Governor's parameters, and with nothing done to improve them. Indeed, the President's Office offered their own toxic contributions to an unacceptable offer.

Do you, my trustees, know they are doing this?

I'm not sure which I want to hear less - your ignorance or your complicity. I guess I do know which I prefer - ignorance, after all, can be cured. That's what we do at a university.

I am, therefore, going to believe that you have not been fully engaged in bargaining. I am going to believe that you understand that investing in the human infrastructure of this university is as important as investing in the physical infrastructure. I am going to believe that you know that your dreams for a better UMass rests with recruiting, retaining, and investing in your faculty and staff.

So, how about it? No more passing the buck. You are our employer. Get your President's Office to the table, make them deliver legitimate offers on all aspects of our contracts, and show - in actions and not just words - that you understand that a great university begins with a real investment in your workers.

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