Labor and Power

GEO,

Let’s talk about power and organizing. We can often spend a lot of time getting lost in a rush of actions and updates that happen while we’re here at UMass – while we’re dealing with the university time and time again and the updates can often feel depressing at times, because it’s an endless treadmill and a constant fight – well. We have to see what it is we are fighting for. We have to see what victory looks like.

And fortunately for us, we’ve got a few examples of that. 

Howard University faculty threatened a strike two weeks ago over low pay and bad conditions – and after threatening the strike, the university gave in. Howard’s faculty were given a raise to bring their non-tenure-track faculty up to pay parity with tenure-track faculty, as well as one that would guarantee longer term appointments so that faculty would not be working semester to semester.

Sound familiar? It’s the same way we’re appointed – or “non-reappointed” – every semester. It’s a way we’re fighting the university to ensure that graduate students get job security. And we can see that it’s something that we *can fight* and a fight that we can win – as long as we all fight. But what we have to offer about Howard’s situation is second-hand at best, and it’s best that you hear directly from people who were on the ground and fighting the good fight, one that’s been in the making for over a year now. 

It’s not just Howard’s non tenure-track faculty pushing on its employer. Across the country, Starbucks have been unionizing in a wave of ratification votes to push for better wages and rights – and Starbucks is terrified. We know Starbucks is scared because of how it is they’re responding. Rather than let the employers unionize and back off, or work in some way to increase benefits, the company is trying to fire employees for their union organizing – while claiming that it’s for violations. In the meantime, those employees are seeking to fight back against their retaliation… and while Starbucks resorts to failed terminations, the best they have to show for it is their anti-union website. Their anti-union website is hilariously bad. We won’t link it here, but it’s good for a laugh and a reminder that the people fighting us often rely – heavily – on money and institutional moment.

While Howard faculty are winning by threatening strike actions, and Starbucks are unionizing across the country, there’s another larger labor win – and it’s JFK8, one of the Amazon warehouses in Staten Island, which voted to unionize the other day. Amazon is pushing back in every way that they can, but the ALU is already beginning to move toward unionizing other warehouses in the area. This win is one that we should view as empowering and one that we can take strength from. An employee fired by the company for unionizing efforts leads an election and unionizes the first Amazon warehouse – and if Amazon employees can do that, then we can fight, too. [See ALU’s website here: https://www.amazonlaborunion.org/]

When we fight together, we win together.

Let’s fight together.

This Thursday, we’re holding our next action on campus. Join us at the union office between 945am and 1015am – and then join us as we march up to Quinn-03 to present our open letter to the Chancellor. If you haven’t yet, you can read the letter here – it’s arguing that we need more and better from the university. 

Sign the letter – and spread the word. Everyone and anyone can sign onto the letter, and the more, the better, so share this URL widely! https://forms.gle/mV9S3eiHmt987zKUA When we fight together, we win together, and we have to fight together to get that win.

Join us Thursday.

Let’s push back.

GSA Announces Spayne and Bollinger grants!

GEO,

You may know about the GSA – the Graduate Student Government – and what they’re up to, and you may have applied to SSF earlier this semester. We’ve got good news.

First thing’s first: the GSA is announcing the opening of both the Dr. Robert. W Spayne and Craig R. Bollinger spring 2022 research grants! 

The Spayne Research Grant (which is for work leading to a master’s thesis or a capstone project) is a competitive grant awarded to assist students in defraying research expenses. The numbers vary, and it can reward up to $1500 each Fall and Spring semester! The grant is to support registered masters students and not en route doctoral students. 

The Bollinger Doctoral Thesis Grant is for work leading to a doctoral dissertation or doctoral-level capstone project – similar to the Spayne grant, it is meant to defray the costs of research, and while the number of grants vary, it can reward up to $1500 each Fall and Spring semester. Candidates who have already defended their proposals and received IRB approval are welcome to apply!
To apply for either grant, https://umb.campuslabs.com/engage/ using your email (not @umb.edu; just your email) and your email password. Once logged in, click on “Organizations” and search for Graduate Student Assembly. From the GSA home page, click the join button, then on forms, and then select the Spayne or Bollinger application form as applicable. More detailed instructions can be found there.

Thursday – Bargaining, Action, Social!

GEO,

This Thursday we need you to show up! It is a day packed with collective action, bargaining, and some after-bargaining fun! You can join for any or all of it. We have to present a strong and unified front to finally get management to offer us a contract that substantially improves the lives of grad employees.

… and we are also LONG overdue to have some time together.
 

  • Between 09:45am and 10:15am, join us in the Union Office (Quinn-02-081) to prepare for our rally on Quinn’s third floor!
  • From 10:15am to 10:45am, we’ll be at Quinn-03 to hold our action and rally – where we’ll push our open letter to the powers that be and demand the university treat us right!
  • You can read the open letter here,
  • And sign it here! ANYONE CAN SIGN: share it widely.
  • At 10:45am we’ll head over to CC2115 – where we’ll be in bargaining with management until 1pm! The conference room has a big, wall-length window that management always conveniently sits right across from. To have all of our membership staring them down makes our demands real in a way nothing else can. .
  • You can show up at any time, but we need you there!
  • Bargaining ends at 1pm – and we plan to meet at the Harp and Bard from 2pm to 5pm to take a breather, pat ourselves on the back, and socialize. Come join all of us at the Harp (1099 Dorchester Avenue, about 15 minutes from campus) for an afternoon of lunch, company, and solidarity!


If you have any dietary restrictions or needs, email us to let us know!

See you Thursday!

Public College Should Not be a Debt Sentence!

Take Action to Win Debt-Free College in Mass.

THIS THURSAY 3/24

You might have heard the news that this week New Mexico became the 31st state to offer some kind of statewide debt-free college. We need your help to win that in Massachusetts!

PHENOM (Public Higher Ed Network of Massachusetts) and other groups need our help to advance a debt-free college bill in our state legislature. If it doesn’t move out of committee to a floor vote, this bill will die and will have to be restarted in the next legislative session. S829/H1339, An Act to Guarantee Debt-Free Public Higher Education,” would guarantee every Massachusetts resident has a right to a public higher education free of tuition, fees, and student debt and covers all MA public higher ed institutions, including UMB.

This legislation will create a grant program to cover tuition and fees for all MA residents to attend any MA public college, university, or certificate, vocational or training program. It will also cover additional costs of attendance (housing, transportation, books, etc.) for low income students. These funds will NOT affect eligibility for other financial aid.

Will you make 2 phone calls on Thurs. 3/24 to help win Debt-Free College in MA?

Any time between 9am and 5pm on Thursday 3/24 [tomorrow!], please call the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Higher Education and ask them to positively report out S829/H1339 “An Act to Guarantee Debt-Free Public Higher Education,” before the April 4th deadline. This will bring the bill to the House and Senate floors for a vote. Otherwise, the bill will die, and PHENOM will have to start over during the next State House session. Note that both these Chairs are big supporters of public higher education.

The Senate Committee Chair is Senator Anne M. Gobi of Central Mass. Her phone number is: 617-722-1540

The House Committee Chair is Representative David Rogers of Cambridge. His phone number is: (617) 722-2263

Some Talking Points:

  • When you call Senator Gobi’s and Rep. Roger’s offices, please give them your name and your UMass Boston affiliation (staff, student, alum, faculty, etc.).
  • The ask: you are calling to ask the Chair to please positively report out S829/H1339 “An Act to Guarantee Debt-Free Public Higher Education,” before the April 4th deadline.
  • Please also tell the Chairs why this legislation matters to you.

Some ideas on why passing S829/H1339 matters to so many people in Massachusetts:

  • I believe that access to debt-free, high-quality public higher education should be the right of every Massachusetts resident.
  • Cuts in state funding for public colleges are making it impossible for students and families to afford college. These cuts are now driving Massachusetts public college tuition and fees up faster than any other state in the country. 
  • Many students and their families are burdened by debilitating debt that severely limits their future opportunities.
  • The average student debt in Massachusetts is $37,172 growing.
  • Student debt affects most heavily Black, Latinx, other people of color, low-income and first generation students, who are the majority of our UMass Boston undergraduate students.
  • Massachusetts has the 10th highest student debt burden in the country and the sixth lowest public college budget.
  • 31 other state legislatures have passed some kind of debt-free college legislation. Our state legislature should join them!
  • YOUR THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES. . .

Please let us know what you hear from on your calls or hear back from the Committee Chairs. Share that information with our UMB PHENOM Organizer, Izabel.Depina001@umb.edu.

HVAC Presentation and Report

The Massachusetts Teacher Association commissioned a third party to do an airflow evaluation of Wheatley – we now have the reports, and they are not good. Sixty percent of the rooms in Wheatley do not achieve the recommended number of air exchanges per hour. 

Read the report here. On Friday, join us from 12pm to 1pm as the researchers present their findings directly. You can do so by clicking into this Zoom link at that time.

https://umassboston.zoom.us/j/91336634626

Dorchester Bay City Petition

Please help us get a better Dorchester Bay City Proposal by signing and sharing this petition to Mayor Wu and the Boston Planning and Development Authority to Slow Down Approval.

The current proposal for “Dorchester Bay City” is far too big, far too brash, and needs to be slowed down!  We hope the new Mayor will recognize this need – but we need to urge her to do so.

Please support important changes to Dorchester Bay City (DBC) development and the timeline for approving it. You have heard several times this year from our Administration about Accordia Partners’ plan to build Dorchester Bay City—a project as large as three Empire State Buildings–on waterfront land leased from UMass Boston at the former Bayside Expo Center, with some adjoining land. The UMB Administration has actively supported this project, which will generate up to $235 million in future revenue for the campus, as it has moved through the City’s development review process.  

At the same time, many UMB staff, faculty and students strongly oppose the DBC project’s process to date and its current form. We believe that our campus has a moral responsibility as the largest “anchor institution” in the community and the major financial beneficiary of this development to push the developers to do better (at the very least, a scaled down version with decent affordable housing). Many members of the broader Dorchester community also oppose the current plan because of the significant economic and climate risks it will bring for the community and the fact that to date many of the most at-risk members of the community have not been sufficiently included in the process.

Make Your Voice Heard! What You Can Do to Help Us Get a Better DBC Proposal 

We encourage you to sign the petition linked below that was created by our community partner coalition, DotNot4Sale. It calls on Mayor Michelle Wu and the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) to institute a six month slow-down of the project approval process, which will help us to get real community feedback, as well as more commitments around affordability, good jobs, and community benefits.

The petition link is https://bit.ly/DBCPetition

Please also share this petition with others who can help us reach the Mayor and the BPDA. We need this time to get real commitments from the developer and to make sure residents most impacted by displacement are at the table. Let’s win real affordability, actions against displacement, jobs access, climate resiliency, and racial justice!

Undoing Racism Anti-Racist Training

The Undoing Racism Assembly is offering two (2) separate virtual training workshops this spring. The first virtual workshop will run on Fridays: March 25, April 1, and April 8 (9am-3pm). The second virtual workshop will run on Thursdays: April 21, April 28, and May 5 (9am-3pm). Participation in all three sessions of the workshop you sign-up for is required.

This training is an important step towards being armed with information that can assist with UMB’s aim to be an anti-racist and health promoting university. To register, use this link: https://forms.gle/Je4zQYn7G5NMpF4PA 

Please reach out to ​tony.vandermeer@umb.edu and keith.jones@umb.edu if you have any questions.

Weekend Demonstration

This weekend is the Eastern Sociological Society – and they’re holding their conference at UMass Boston. We want to make sure the ESS knows who keeps UMass Boston running, and what they want from the university… but we need your help for it.

We want you to show up on Saturday or Sunday in the morning and afternoon (you can see the times in the google form below!) to help us spread the word. The plan is to have a non-disruptive presence; ESS isn’t why we’re underpaid. But if we can educate and inform everyone who is on campus for that conference, we can turn them into allies and make sure they remember UMass Boston’s graduate students as they return home… or tell the chancellor about us. 

To volunteer, fill out this google form: https://forms.gle/Vk3pZik9A8YtguDQ7 

Bargaining This Week

Bargaining is this week on Wednesday. Last session, Management came back to us with an offer – a 2.5% increase in salary for the 21-22 year, and 2.0% for 22-23 and 23-24 year, as well as a 190$ increase to the health insurance cap.

We know they can do better.

Join us this Wednesday, at

1030AM, Quinn-03-081A, or

1100AM, CC2115

We will be holding more events in the weeks to come. Management is starting to move, which means we have to push them harder. Keep your eyes and schedules open. 

GEO Communication in Support of Faculty Council and Shared Governance

GEO believes that as a public research institution, the University of Massachusetts, Boston (UMB) should continue and extend its history of shared governance. In earlier iterations of this institution, the faculty’s role in governance was much larger than it is today. It was the faculty which made us a ‘research university with a teaching soul’. This past history of shared governance is partly why we have a strong Faculty Council today. It is this same strength that some fear, and it is this very fear which holds us back from achieving our aspirations and long-term visions.

Thus it was with great concern that many of us in the graduate student community read the joint statement released by Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco and Provost Joe Berger on Thursday, February 10, 2022. Upon further investigation, this concern turned into disappointment and dismay. The statement accused members of the Faculty Council of behaving in a racist manner during their previous meeting. In fact, this charge of racism was levied to shield themselves from criticism of their leadership practices. In doing so, they used racist tropes to discourage faculty from speaking out about leadership decisions. 

Their statement continued on to espouse a goal of becoming an anti-racist institution, yet their actions are not in line with this objective. We are not the only ones disappointed; we’re sure many of you have seen the responses put out by other unions and student groups on campus. (We encourage those interested to click here to see a transcript from the meeting and emails from the FSU.)

While we at GEO couldn’t agree more that we must aspire to be anti-racist, we feel it necessary to point out that this statement itself exhibits racist character and perpetuates racist tropes. GEO had representatives attend the Faculty Council meeting in question. At no time did we feel the legitimate concerns of faculty were racially motivated. The concerns of faculty were rooted in principles of shared governance. The critiques they leveled were not directed at Dr. Tyson King-Meadows, but rather at the Provost and Chancellor for ignoring faculty requests to be included in the process of selecting a search committee chair. Not who was chosen, but how they were chosen. The critique was not undue scrutiny of Dr. King-Meadows, in fact his credentials never were discussed; it was legitimate and necessary scrutiny of the selection process used by the Chancellor and the Provost. It was criticism of dictatorial imperatives instead of democratic ideals.  

UMB is currently filling a large number of senior leadership roles, particularly Deans, to oversee different campus colleges. Many faculty believe, as graduate students do, that the people who work in these colleges deserve to have their voices heard. They should have a role in the process. 

Leaders exist at all levels of an organization. Leaders stand up for what they feel is right, exhibit character in the face of adversity, and dare to speak truth to power. This is what faculty did when they made it known that ideals of shared governance were not being demonstrated by the Chancellor and the Provost. They did what was right and appropriate by demanding more inclusion of students, staff, and faculty in the process of selecting new college Deans.

Students already have an imbalance of trust and legitimacy at UMB. For many of us, we have chosen this university not for the levels of support we are offered (as the lowest paid in the state and amongst peer institutions), but for the quality of the faculty. It is the faculty advisors that most of us see as our personal beacons guiding us through higher education. The Chancellors and Provosts at UMB continue to deny us reasonable funding, they only put token student representation on governance committees, and they obstruct efforts of the University community to become more anti-racist. The joint statement issued by the Chancellor and Provost last week does not add luster to their character. It reveals their grasping and self-centered actions as a means of dismantling shared governance. It reveals their disdain for the anti-racist efforts of faculty.

We in the GEO issue this statement to show our appreciation for faculty – particularly the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) faculty who have been fighting against systemic racism for decades. It is not racist to make legitimate criticisms of process and procedure. It is not racist to believe that shared and collective governance is critical in a public research university. 

We call on the Chancellor and Provost to make amends for their racist behavior. We implore the University to commit to the process of becoming anti-racist. More than just an apology, if the Chancellor and Provost aspire to help UMB become an anti-racist institution, they need to act. We call on them to adopt and attend the training programs being advocated by the Undoing Racism Assembly and others working to restore justice in our community. They need to ensure that the actions of Thursday, February 10, 2022 are not repeated again. Enough is enough.