Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Over 100 staff gather at ‘8 minutes of action for 8%’ rally

The movement is a call to action for increased wages
Frank Aronson

The story has been updated with the latest information provided by the University. 

On Thursday, Nov. 30, over 100 staff members at the University of Massachusetts gathered to rally for “Eight minutes of action for eight percent,” a state-wide movement for staff to receive increased salaries.

The movement arose after increased pressure with the end of the year close by, as members of the rally were informed that they will have to wait till the new year at least to receive their already delayed wages. The rally at UMass is one of many across the state as a call to action for legislatures to implement the funding as per their new contracts by the end of this year.

“We are here to tell legislatures to validate our contracts, tens of thousands of state workers cannot wait any longer. I want you, right now, to show me what democracy looks like,” Nellie Taylor, a member of the Professional Staff Union (PSU) Bargaining team, their organizing chair and the associate director of the labor center said.

Frank Aronson

Numerous staff members spoke about how the delay in wages impacted their lifestyles. Many are living paycheck to paycheck and are unable to afford additional winter costs, like with heating and electricity.

The contracts were negotiated, ratified and submitted to the legislature six months ago, but workers are yet to receive the additional eight percent of their salary in funding.

“Get these people to get this done and when it is done, we need to not forget,”  Max Page, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) and a professor in architecture said. “Remember how they disrespect public sector workers for months and months on this, we have to change the system once and for all and we have to change [it] before they get away with this.”

For the eight minutes of action, Taylor asked the gathering to scan fliers with QR codes and contact their legislators. They asked people to make social media posts and call and email said legislators. This included House Speaker Ron Mariano, Senate President Karen Spilka, and Ways and Means leadership Michael J. Rodrigues and Aaron Michlewitz.

In addition, they urged everyone to record a one-minute clip of why they decided to attend the rally to use for social media awareness efforts.

Staff were seen holding posters that said, “Fund our contracts now” and “Lawmakers do your job.” In addition, chants like “this is what democracy looks like” were called out by the group.

Frank Aronson

“We’re taking action now because time is running out,” explained Taylor. They believe the UMass community needs to inform the university and legislators that the wages of staff and faculty on this campus are not sufficient as living wages and that the state needs to increase their salary so union members stop leaving for private sector jobs.

“It drains knowledge out of the workforce on this campus and that’s bad for the students that we serve,” Taylor said.

Ashley Krause is an education abroad advisor at the International Programs Office. She came out to show her support for this “important issue” and said the strength of the union is strength in their numbers: “The union already negotiated the contract, so I don’t understand why we’re not getting the money,” she explained.

She added that the staff of UMass are its “backbone” and many of them feel underappreciated as they are one of the university’s lowest paid employees.

As for next steps, Taylor called on Governor Maura Healy, who they believe “needs to realize that the cost of living raises that state workers got under the previous administration for over a decade… were woefully insufficient and [that] there is ground to be made up.”

They added that although they saw an eight percent increase in this year, state workers need it repeatedly for the following years, so these jobs are well-paid and sought after again.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to get the legislators that have been elected in this state to realize that state workers deserve at least what they are giving themselves,” Taylor said.

Frank Aronson

“You can look back at the raises they have given themselves in the past couple of years and state workers haven’t seen anything near that and we’re at work every day.”

Page added that in most situations, people get their pay immediately once the contract is signed. However, in higher education in Massachusetts, the pay has to go through the legislature: “[The legislature] are sitting on them in some battle between the two houses…rather than just passing those,” he explained.

All the unions on campus are part of MTA. They’ve been advocating as part of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) of Massachusetts and most public sector workers across the state have been constantly advocating. “There was a huge rally before thanksgiving and we’re doing this social media approach and we’re really trying to push them to get this done, it’s easy,” he said.

“People are really angry, and people are going to keep turning out in larger and larger numbers the longer we keep being disrespected,” explained Taylor.

The University is now moving forward with plans to first provide the pay raises and then retroactive pay in a prompt fashion. Further details on specific timing will be shared when they become available.

Mahidhar Sai Lakkavaram can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X @Mahidhar_sl

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