Unions Address Board of Trustees Meeting at UMass Amerst

JoAnne Martone speaking to all University union members before addressing the board of trustees
April 6, 2018

Board of Trustees speech by JoAnne Martone, Co-Chair PSU, April 6, 2018

Thank you, Chairman, for allowing me to address this body today.

I stood before you in December 2014, telling the story of my bargaining team being defamed. That story led to a conversation with our Chancellor, which unveiled a communication gap.

I am JoAnne Martone. I currently serve as a co-chair of the Professional Staff Union.  I have been with the University since 1999.

The University of Massachusetts’ Amherst, the system’s flagship campus, is something we can all be proud of.  Some recent items of note include that we have the best dining in the country, we are on a steady course to reaching the top twenty, and we have won awards for anti-hate and anti-bullying initiatives. 

The University excels at sharing information about all of the excellent work accomplished by the staff here.  Staff are proud to be a part of this; we are passionate, and committed, and we enjoy talking about the University when people ask us about these accomplishments.

Until people say to us that it must be a great place to work.

Staff are disheartened by the way we are treated.  In my role as a chief-steward, I talk to people all the time who feel overworked, and over-managed.

In Athletics, we hear stories of people who are docked for coming to work 15 minutes late, and yet given no recognition for staying well past their daily hours, and are expected to put in an additional 10-15 hours per week.

In dining services, staff are afraid to speak up when they feel unjustly treated because they feel that they have no job security. Many feel like second class workers because they don’t get the same benefits as other full-time staff.

Hate Has No Home Here, but staff regularly report classism, and nepotism, and ardent disrespect.

So, I ask you, at what cost are we reaching these goals?

I have two analogies for you to consider. 

First, consider if the University staff were a sports team, with the morale we experience today across campus, across all unions. I would posit that we may never win a game, match or meet.

Secondly, think about the pyramids.  They are a huge and amazing accomplishment. But at what cost?

Communication about the great things UMass does is inspiring, and gratifying and needs to continue.  But communication cannot just be a stream of trophy stories from the top. There must be communication both ways.  I urge you to stop and to listen to people on your campuses.

Strive to make this not only a destination of choice for students, but the destination of choice for employees, too. Value our individual contributions, pay us our worth, and make us feel secure, heard and appreciated.

It is time, it is always time, really, to tend to the needs of the myriad of workers who have brought the University this far.  It is time to stop being the pyramid builder. It is time to be that coach who pulls the team out of the gutter of despair.  

If you can do that, if you can change the workers experience, the University will reach not only the top twenty, but the top ten.

If you had concentrated on making this a workers’ destination of choice, I would say that we might already be there. And it all starts with a conversation, and better communication. It starts with a true commitment to respect, dignity, and appreciation.