The Save UMB Coalition is a coalition of various unions on campus that fight for protections and services for students and faculty, as well as combatting increases in fees for students. Anneta Argyres, the president of the Professional Staff Union and member of the Save UMB Coalition, explained how the coalition is made up of various unions from classified staff union, representing the hourly employees on campus and PHENOM, the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts. The Save UMB Coalition was behind the parking rallies of previous semesters in hopes of lowering parking fees for students.
The Save UMB Coalition first came together in 2016 when a round of cuts from administration began. In 2016, the Coalition came together after hearing that the administration would not be renewing contracts for about 100 non-tenured faculty, and the coalition began to note more cuts following that one. The coalition works to understand why the cuts from administration are occurring, and what the impacts of the decisions would have on students and the financial situation on campus. In an interview with Anneta Argyres, she explained that coalition was originally formed because of concern that was rising among students, faculty and staff in terms of “its accessibility to students, its affordability, and that’s both a mixture of tuition and fees, including things like the parking fee.” The coalition works to understand what types of students are able to access an education at UMass Boston, the quality of that education, the types and quality of jobs on campus, and what faculty and staff are able to do to serve students needs.
An increase in parking fees was seen as soon as the West Garage was opened. Save UMB got involved quickly with trying to keep the parking fees from rising significantly. Argyres explained that the garage was built to add parking for students after the garage that lies underneath McCormack, Wheatley, Healey Library, Quinn Administration and the Plaza was shut down due to unsafe conditions within it.
With the opening of the West Garage, the administration needed a solution to combat the debt which arose from the completion of the new garage. According to Argyres, “already we thought the cost of parking here was exorbitant. It’s way higher at $9 a day, which is what it used to be—it was already higher than other UMass campuses, some of [which] offered free parking to staff and students. A lot of community colleges offer free parking to staff and students, but nobody was charging anywhere near the amount of money the UMass Boston had already been charging and we already knew that for students it was a hardship, for many of our staff it was a hardship. People don’t make a lot of money here, and having to be out of pocket for a full time worker $1000 a year to be able to get to work and park at work is economically difficult.”
Argyres went on to explain the goal the coalition had in organizing was to bring all the stakeholders together, including students, so that all voices were heard. “Because we’re unionized, management had to bargain with us, they couldn’t just [say] ‘our decision, we’re increasing the prices.’ If there had been no unions, if there had been no organized workers on campus with no union representation, management could have done that,” Argyres stated.
Argyres explained in the interview how the Save UMB Coalition proposed to lower the cost from $9 a day for students and lowest paid workers, and increased costs for higher paid employees. The coalition had also proposed a sliding scale that would have offered a discount to students who only came to campus a few days a week. The administration rejected both terms. To draw attention to the issue of the parking fees, the coalition organized a campus march, poster holding days and the West Garage strike, where they had attempted to shut down the garage to show the administration that they would not bring in the money that they had hoped for. The coalition was able to gain a discount through semester passes, where if a student of staff member bought a semester pass, they would be paying a little less than parking at the Bayside Lot or on campus. Argyres had also pointed out that soon faculty would be heading back into contract negotiations and management is possibly going to be putting parking back on the bargaining table.
Argyres had talked extensively about what she has seen and what the coalition has seen and heard from students and staff about how parking fees have affected them. The coalition is still working on trying to lower parking fees but it has not been on their “front burner” according to Argyres. Now, the coalition is planning to organize around the issue of parking when access is lost at the Bayside Lot. Management had made Bayside the only “lower-priced” lot and, according to Argyres, “if the development plans move forward there, as soon as that lot gets shut down and they start actually doing the construction, the only parking available would be the on-campus parking at $15 a day, and we built into the agreement that as soon as management knows when that lot is going to be closed, I believe, it’s nine months prior to that they have to let us so that we can go back to the bargaining table to adjust the prices on campus.”
The interview finished with Argyres providing advice to students who want to get involved with Save UMB. Save UMB meetings take place every first Wednesday of the month, and third Tuesday of every month from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in the Labor Resource Center. Argyres also advised any student wanting to get involved with issues on campus, such as issues in work study or parking or tuition, to visit PHENOM, who work on issues facing students and raise awareness surrounding those issues.