By Peter Tattlebaum, PSU member
The union victories achieved in West Virginia and Boston (Local 26 Marriott hotel workers), Los Angeles and other places reinforced the belief that resolve, persistence, and unity can win the battle against misinformation and austerity budgets. When a staff member not covered by the contract opts to use her own hard-earned money to pay dues, there is no surer sign of belief in unions and the power of solidarity.
That is the case of Louise Putnam, who has been working at UMass Boston since fall 2010. Her initial position was in the art department at the College of Liberal Arts. Previously, she spent more than 20 years in a nonunion job at the University of Virginia. When she arrived in Boston, paying union dues or agency fees was a culture shock. After speaking with and hearing the passion of PSU leaders, Putnam became a PSU member. In October 2017, she transferred to the non-unit position of executive assistant to the dean in the College of Liberal Arts. However, the anti-union climate permeating the country chipped away at her conscience and near the end of 2018, Putnam became PSU Boston’s first associate member. An associate member is a staff member who is outside of the bargaining unit but wants to continue financial contributions to PSU.
“[I am] concerned about the loss of power of individuals in the current climate,” said Putnam. “There is a natural flow that pushes work down to the lowest common denominator.”
A sense of duty, not only to other staff members but also to students, motivates Putnam to continue to support PSU as well as UMass Boston’s mission. She sees the union as a vehicle for the staff, students, and administrators to unite for the betterment of all, an effort that cannot happen until the unions show their strength. By putting her money where her mouth is, Putnam is encouraging others to show the same commitment.