Letters from the Classified

The following letters come from the Classified Staff Union members of UMass Boston. The CSU aims to provide fair and safe working conditions for its members, as well as negotiate in order to improve these conditions—and advance the well-being—for these members.

The CSU reached out to The Mass Media in order to inform all communities of staff, faculty, professional staff and administration of UMass Boston to communicate their stories of good, bad and indifferent experiences. 

The CSU continues to ask the question is what, how, why and when, will UMass Boston treat its employees with respect, appreciation, professionalism, and increase in all employees benefits of their jobs. To allow all to be given fair funding. 

 

Wally Soper— 

My name is Wally Soper and I am the Administrative Coordinator for UMass Boston Labor Resource Center and activist in our Classified Staff Union here at UMass Boston. I am an alum of UMass Boston with B.A. in Labor Studies, Minor in Economics and Certificate in Conflict Resolution. Our classified staff union at UMass Boston is part of a coalition of nine unions across the UMass system from all campuses, including UMass Medical, representing some 2,800 workers. We are the administration workers in all departments, support services and security personnel and all workers in facilities—we make UMass Boston work! We are joined together around a common purpose to fight for the parity, dignity and respect that we each deserve and we need your support.

We have been circulating a UMass Unions United Staff survey to all in our coalition and creating a Classified Staff Bill of Rights that is an expression of the minimum standards and basics that should be afforded to all unionized employees at UMass Boston. This will help us to identify what we need in our contracts and serve as a message to fellow union members, students, politicians and the public about what is happening on our campuses. We need your support in order to provide the best quality services and to meet the needs of our students. We all agree that better pay is absolutely necessary, but we also know that full-staffing, pay parity across campuses, flexible schedules, equitable leave provisions, and opportunities for career advancement are priorities that also need to be addressed.  We are getting organized to help identify and clarify our priorities and we need the support of all who work and attend school at UMass Boston and in the UMass system as well as taxpayers who fund our public education.

We are sharing this information as well as attached stories from front-line workers at UMass Boston and thank you for your support in advance! We start negotiations this spring and for the first time in some 35 years we are planning to bargaining together and establish a common expiration date in order to build more power. We hope to neutralize the contracting out of our jobs as well as continued trends for consolidation of workless people doing more work while quality of services provided decline. We will be mobilizing support of students and taxpayers to help with our efforts so stay tuned and thank you for your support.

In Solidarity,

Wally Soper

 

Bob Carrol—

ARTICLE 24 - OUT OF TITLE WORK Section 1. Work in a Lower Classification A. When an employee is assigned by the CEO to perform the duties of a position classified in a grade lower than that in which the employee performs their duties, the employee will be compensated at their regular rate of pay as if performing their regular duties.

I came here, interviewed with Bob Gorman, and he said I have all the qualifications for the job—this was some 34 to 35 years ago. He asked me if I knew anybody, and I said yes—I know three people who work in the gym, I play basketball and go swimming here—he said that’s not what I mean but do I "know anybody," inferring someone connected. I talked with my mother, who talked with her sister, who grew up with John Joseph Moakley. Moakley wrote me a letter and that’s how I got my job as part of the UMass Boston movers—custodians here at UMass Boston.

I worked as a custodian-mover and my job was going to be eliminated. Some folks went around McCormack collecting signatures on a petition to keep me working in McCormack. They said they would have adequate custodial service for everyone, but what happened was the union fought hard for my job and the best we could do was to keep me in the same grade by transferring to the grounds department, and I accepted this. This was not right because I had seniority over two people in moving. In time, the person who had seniority right after me became the boss of the movers.

Everyone got a four-grade increase and I received a two-grade increase—this was with Bob Kelly. Then David Lancaster became manager, and he made me a plaza worker. I worked in cold, inclement weather outside while others did not, and this seemed unfair.

Then I had to work in severe weather storms—coming down cats and dogs— and no one else was doing this work. The industrial rain gear only lasted for three to four hours in these conditions and my boss said, “You only need one rain suit so go and don’t be insubordinate.” When I spoke to my boss’s boss Denise Duggan, I told her about the rain suit and she said, “It’s an industrial rain suit and no one else complained about this."

During two snow storms my boss wouldn’t let me eat, but with my medication it slowed down my body and I needed to eat.

ARTICLE 7 – AFFIRMATIVE ACTION/ NON-DISCRIMINATION/CODE OF CONDUCT Section 1. The parties agree not to discriminate in any way in violation of applicable law, against bargaining unit members covered by this agreement on account of race, religion, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, age, mental or physical handicap, veterans’ status or membership in any other legally protected class.

While in the mail room, I felt like I was discriminated against because everyone got a two-grade increase and my job was not changed like everyone else was. I feel this is too much injustice, too much discrimination. The UMass Boston discrimination does not stop there because parental leave is unfair here. If you make more money, you make more maternity leave than others —Profession versus Classified. I believe that UMass Boston does not have the right to call themselves the University of Massachusetts because the people of our state do not agree with discrimination in any form.

I thought this was discrimination as I was on medication I did not want to take, but I took it as was prescribed to me. While on these meds, that I did not want to take, I was discriminated against—thus insanity! I conclude that this was a definite act of discrimination which is not sane therefore these actions were insane!

UMass Boston—this college should have the nerve and should be called University of Discrimination number one. I hope that discrimination stops here and now.

 

C.B.B.—

Classified Staff Union at UMass Boston CSU/MTA/NEA By-Laws Amended November 2016

Article I – The Classified Staff Union at the University of Massachusetts Boston, hereinafter referred to as the “CSU.”

Article II – Purpose: The purpose of the CSU shall be to negotiate, submit for approval, and enforce collective bargaining contracts for its members; to improve the working conditions and economic well-being of its members; to protect and advance the interests of its members; to gain recognition of the importance of the classified staff in the functioning of the university of Massachusetts Boston; and to support public higher education in the Commonwealth.

I've been part of the Classified Staff Union for 30 years at UMass Boston.

When the union started working under the Mass Teachers Association in 2006, all were given opportunities to attend summer conferences, conventions and out of state conferences like the National Education of Association in Washington D.C. for all Educators in different states. We pay our union dues faithfully every month to be given this open-door opportunity. 

So, to target us CSU members here at UMass Boston, getting rid of our “Paid Union Time” that we have used for well over 20 years, is very disheartening and shows the lack of support we “CSU” members have never had from our Administration. To force us to use our personal and off-hours personal time to be able to grow professionally shows us that the administration does not encourage professional growth like in the past and is trying everything in its power to dismantle the union at UMass Boston. To have this taken away from "state union employees" should be a negative, just cause within administration at UMass Boston. Taking away all learning, teaching, union involvement to learn is unprofessional.

ARTICLE 12 - SICK LEAVE BANK Note in Article 11, Section 1 that members accrue 12, not 11 days. “One sick day is automatically contributed to the Sick Leave Bank as per Article 12.”

9. The Sick Leave Bank is intended to be used for short-term disabilities where the employee has a reasonable expectation of returning to work. It is not meant as a substitute for long term disability income protection.

13. Any return-to-work requirements under Article 11, Section 1(F) in the contract shall apply.

I was ill on Oct. 8, 2019. I also found I had a "brain tumor" at this time, and with God’s blessing it wasn’t cancer. I had a doctor’s letter written on Dec. 2, 2021 stating that I would remain working from home for seven weeks during treatment and recovery. Although my recovery can vary, there can be significant side effects associated with the treatments of me being able to work from home for at least four weeks after my radiation was completed.

Due to our CSU Contract, that has Sick Leave Bank included, I was given the opportunity to use this for the security of keeping my job. I thank our CSU Contract for having this written for all members who have medical issues, concerns and helps keep us our job.

Effective Sept. 12, 2022, my department, IT Application Service at Bayside Office, had been removed from the Corcoran & Jennison building due to the university's unwillingness to resign the yearly lease. Stating there’s no funding to pay the lease rental. Now the IT Application Services Department has been moved into the Wheatley-2-203 location that is unsafe, unhealthy, mold mildew smell, has dirty carpet, water drainage at the only window in this area, pipe leakage. Additionally, facilities has been instructed to shampoo the carpet, dust the old cubicles and whip down any areas. PSU/CSU are in the process of filing complaints with the HR Administrator who is forcing all the staff under this department to return to work.

Why is UMass Boston administration so against IT's staff? CSU/PSU/FSU/GEO

Izabel Depina—

My name is Izabel Depina, and I have been at UMass Boston since 2018. I am so grateful to come to this school. 

I have met some great people, and some are my mentors. They are UMass Boston staff. I have learned a lot from the staff. I am a Graduate Student in Conflict Resolution. My mother is a union member. “I fight Human Rights and Workers Rights is a Human Right.”

The Administration needs to listen to students because we are the reason you have a job. I have talked to many students since 2018 and they say that we need staff to help the students go through their experience in college. In 2018, advisors were getting pay cuts and laid off. They do extra work for no reward. They deserve better than how they are being treated during the crazy time in our world. Have a heart for your workers. We need justice for our workers. Students are standing with them… Please listen to the students now!

Eric Summers—

ARTICLE 28 - SAFETY PROCEDURES

Section 4.

D. Where it is currently the practice, at least two employees shall be assigned when working underground; in tunnels; in crawl spaces; in hazardous areas where steam, sewage, electrical, or other systems exist; in trenches with a depth of five or more feet; or when working more than ten feet above the floor or the ground. For other institutions, appropriate precautions—i.e. additional staffing, close supervision and so on—will be taken to ensure the safety of employees working in these hazardous areas.

S. No employee shall be assigned to work in areas where heavy moving machinery, high voltage current or nauseous gasses are present unless they are accompanied by one or more other employees.

We are the Facility Workers of UMass Boston! We are tired of your failures to the property staff facility. The current Administration has made it truly clear that they promote an unsafe working environment staffing levels at a critical level.

 The Dangers to the workers are poor air quality, hazardous machine rooms, unsafe equipment and toxic work environments.

ARTICLE 39 - WORKING CONDITIONS

Section 1. Support Services

The Employer/University Administration agrees to provide adequate overall support services for bargaining unit members.

Section 2. Workloads

Recognizing that workloads may vary from department to department and from one time of year to another, the Employer/University Administration will not assign unreasonable or excessive workloads to bargaining unit members. 

Our staffing levels have gone from 45 workers to 12. We had on-staff four painters, six carpenters, two sheet metal workers, two pipe insulators, four refrigeration mechanics and six HVAC Mechanics. Our staff and our shops deserve better!

We keep the lights on, the toilets flushing, the buildings warm, the doors opening, walls painted, floors clean, mail delivered and attend work daily.

We're the people that keep the university running. 

Authorized by: Stressed Facility Workers.

TerryAnise King, CSU Co-Chair—

Where Do We Draw the Line? 

I have been asked to write a letter explaining my experiences as a CSU member, leader and also a UMass Boston employee. I have been employed by UMass Boston for 22 years. I can say it has been a very interesting 22 years. I have seen the UMass Boston administration and Classified Staff Union transition over and over again. I have been on many levels of leadership within the CSU. I was a member and was asked to join the steward council to assist other members who did not understand the contract or would need moral support to meet with their department heads. I have been on other committees within CSU.

My position within the university has changed, as well as any other employee who returned from COVID-19. We are all still affected by COVID-19 with returning to work in person. I am adjusting to the following:

  • New Position returning from COVID-19

    • My position before COVID-19 was not an option upon my return due to grants expiring and program changes. My department found a position for me. I am on campus daily and if there is remote work available within the realms of my grade, those are granted.

  • New CSU Executive Board

  • New Administrators in Human Resources and other Newly Hired Management Staff

There is a "negative" newness vibration going around the campus. I believe it is due to the energy of the new agenda and the idea of "let’s get this done no matter what—who is offended or affected."

Granted, we are not running our systems on a business-as-usual model. We should at least be civil. There is so much tension on both sides and I believe that what you project is what you get in return. Lately, we are looking for ways to fight back, and it seems as if the fight has been the same for every administration coming and going. Our fight has become complacent, fighting the same issues over and over on every contract, and all I see are a bunch of angry people who are frustrated and tired of fighting or standing up for themselves to get knocked down in another area. The outcomes of unhappy employees is "take what we put on the table or separate from the university."

My question: What is it going to take for things to change on both sides of the table? I joined the ranks to assist members who needed assistance with negotiating or talking to their department heads, supervisors or understanding the contract. I also joined the union ranks because of the training, workshops and conferences provided by the MTA/NEA and CSU. Being a union member has benefits that will enhance your ability to navigate your journey through UMass.

I was also able to enhance my Labor and unionism by utilizing my UMass Boston benefit to take courses and was able to obtain a Certificate of Labor. My daughter attended Culinary Arts School utilizing my benefits administered by UMass Boston and CSU.

UMass Boston and CSU have been a very successful benefit to me and my family. I know that one day the fight won’t be so gruesome but some of the things that are happening to other members should not be happening, and being on the front line it is not easy to see this going on. This is where the ugliness comes out and everyone becomes affected. Where do we draw the line?

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