Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass faculty rally for equal rights

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Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

Faculty from the University of Massachusetts rallied for equal rights to unionize in a demonstration that took place in front of the Whitmore Administration Building last Friday. Both Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) faculty and members of the Massachusetts Society of Professors (MSP) were there.

According to a press release from the CPE faculty, members of the staff submitted a petition to the state’s Department of Labor Relations that would “require the University to recognize CPE faculty with the same legal status as all other University campus faculty.”  Members of the staff also provided a copy for the University administration.

At the rally, various organization leaders spoke on the group’s mission.

Randy Phillips, MSP president, talked about equity and fairness, specifically in light of the upcoming bargaining.

Brian Pickett, an organizer for MSP, touched on faculty fears of speaking out, especially without the job security that unions provide to members.

Jon Weissman, a Jobs with Justice organizer, spoke about the issue in a national context.

A data report released by CPE faculty shows that there are three categories of faculty who teach in Continuing and Professional Education: UMass faculty who are represented by the MSP and Massachusetts Teachers Association, graduate students who are represented by the Graduate Student Employee Organization, and “other instructors” who are not formally represented.

The report also shows there are three different pay groups of faculty at the University; UMass lecturers (on non-tenure track) teaching on campus who make $6,485 per three credit course, UMass lectures teaching through CPE who make $4,000 per three credit course and “other instructors” who make $3,260 per three credit course (these numbers are at minimum).

Ferd Wulkan, a staffer for MSP, said that the entire UMass faculty will be going into bargaining soon. CPE faculty hopes to join their fellow educators, said Wulkan.

One of the major frustrations, Wulkan commented, is the inequality of pay.

He recalled a faculty member shouting, “Half pay for equal work!”

“Classes taught through CPE are all for credit classes that are very similar to those taught on campus, though one difference being CPE classes are taught online.  All CPE faculty are hired through their respective departments like other faculty members and the level of qualifications are the same,” he explained.

Wulkan also cited benefits as a motivation for unionizing.

He said, “This will be more difficult. Only some of the people who teach through CPE get credit per every course they teach that goes towards their retirement, namely those members of faculty who teach both on-campus courses and CPE courses. The remaining faculty members do not receive any of the benefits like health care, protected intellectual property rights or credit towards retirement.”

When asked about how the UMass administration has responded, Wulkan replied, “The University administration could circumvent the whole thing (with the MA Department of Labor Relations) by voluntarily allowing the CPE faculty to join the MSP and bargain collectively.”

Upon their request to unionize however, the administration denied the request, saying they did not believe there was a “community of interest,” according to Wulkan.

“The reason we want to join together,” Wulkan said, “is because we truly believe that there is.”

Marie MacCune can be reached at [email protected]

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