“Student Workers Deserve Access to Medical Leaves”
September 10, 2019
This is a brief introduction to the Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) law that is coming into force in Massachusetts and how it impacts students. Our goal at UMB-GEO is to push UMass to provide student-workers with the same access to paid leaves as any other employee in the state of Massachusetts.
On the week of September 9th, UMass will start informing all employees about the new PFML program – all employees EXCEPT the student workers represented by the various GEO unions. Other universities are in the same position – they will be enrolling all of their workers, except students, in the PFML on their campuses. Exclusion from this program is unfair and unjust – we are calling on all our members and allies to support our effort to get student-workers treated fairly in Massachusetts!
What is PFML?
Illness or incapacity to work can strike anyone or their families at any time. The PFML is a program which offers temporary income replacement should you be unable to work due to personal medical or family reasons – it is a program that provides paid short-term leaves. This program helps provide 12 weeks of income if you have a sick family member or after the birth of a child and up to 20 weeks of leave if you are personally injured or ill. For more information check out:
How does this impact student-workers?
Unfortunately, the Massachusetts legislature has voted that students are excluded from the PFML program. This is unfair as student workers should have the same rights and access to programs as any other employee in the State of Massachusetts. Students are covered under Worker’s Compensation programs managed by the State of Massachusetts and paid into for us by UMass Boston. This means that if we are hurt on the job, we are eligible for salary replacement when we are off work. Why are students considered workers who deserve paid leaves when hurt at work but not in this new PFML program? We are still trying to get answers, and we need your help!
Initiatives to get Student Workers included in PFML:
GEO is bargaining with all other UMass unions in coalition and we are working to start a student-worker coalition with student unions at other Massachusetts Universities. As part of our effort with the other UMass unions, we are launching several initiatives to coincide with the beginning of the 2019-20 school year and with the roll-out of the PFML program. A list of talking points put together by the UMass Union Coalition is found in
Week of September 9, 2019
As all other UMass employees are getting their notice of inclusion in the PFML program, students will not be contacted by HR. But this does not mean we can’t reach out to the University and contact them! We are asking all members to send an email requesting that we be admitted into the PFML program (and a shout out to Marty Meehan on twitter wouldn’t hurt either @martymeehan). A sample of that email is found farther below.
October 2, 2019
At this year’s convocation, we are asking all GEO member and allies to demand better health insurance and access to the PFML program. Between increasing insurance fees and being excluded from the new sick leave program – it is clear that UMass does not care about its students. We need to hold the university accountable when they claim that students matter! Join us at convocation and let them know our health and welfare is something we will stand up and fight for!
To sign the Student Health Insurance Petition, please click here!
UMass Union PFML Implementation Coalition Background Information
What are our Guiding Principles in bargaining?
- Zero cost to employees Potential to negotiate offset value if the tax is paid by bargaining unit members.
- No negative impact to employer; employer also receives the benefit. This program supports the fiscal health of UMass by offsetting existing costs. We want to help them access PFML reimbursements as a way of offsetting our primary goal of $0 cost to employees. Workers want the benefits; the University can receive the reimbursement for paying for leaves.
- Subsidy for low paid employees (This must include Student Workers) The lowest paid members of the coalition need extra support in the PFML process
- Not losing benefits or paying more for the benefits that we have No extra costs for existing benefits. Whatever contractual leaves or benefits exist should not be negatively impacted by the PFML implementation
- All UMass Employees (bargaining unit members) should be able to access the full PFML benefits through the employer Everyone should have access to this program, including student workers.
- Clarity of process and easy access to benefits We want to avoid any bureaucratic hassles that impede our members’ access to their benefits.
- Other protections for employees (like return to work assurances) Employees have the right to a similar job when they return to work.
Talking Points to Remember when Discussing PFML
• The PFML is a great benefit, particularly for those without good sick and family leave—and the union fought to get this for all workers in Massachusetts. It should be in place for all workers at UMass, including student workers!
• But, it’s being implemented (including by UMass) as a pay cut for those who already have benefits akin to PFML.
• PFML benefits shouldn’t be paid on the backs of workers. UMass and the Commonwealth must change their policy. This benefit should be paid by the employer not the employees.
• If UMass forces us to take this pay cut, we’re going into bargaining and we expect to get it back (and more). We are going to fight any pay cuts now and in the future.
• Employer will receive more money from this benefit than it costs.
• Meehan needs to stand up to Baker and push for the legislation to support UMass as one of the state’s largest employers. This is Baker’s law, Meehan needs to make him pay for it – not UMass employees.
• There is a State PFML reserve for this purpose. We need to push the state to pay the cost of the benefit they want to give their employees. At UMass we work for the State Government and should have our costs paid from this reserve.
PFML Email Template for UMB GEO Members
To: UMass President – Marty Meehan – firstname.lastname@example.org
UMB Chancellor – Katherine Newman – Katherine.Newman@umb.edu
UMass Senior VP Student Affairs–Robert Gamache – email@example.com
UMass PFML Administrator – Jennifer Larsen – firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Why are Student-Workers excluded from the PFML
This week, all of the employees at UMass are being notified that they are being enrolled in the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program. Why are student workers excluded?
As a student and an employee of UMass, I should have the same rights as all other employees. If I am hurt on the job, workers compensation will provide me with a salary replacement until I can get back to work. Why am I considered a worker if I am injured but not if I fall ill with a serious medical ailment?
I am calling on you to advocate on the behalf of student employees like myself. I hope you will lobby on the behalf of your students with Governor Baker and the Massachusetts Legislature. UMass could not function without student workers. We are the customers, the product, and the workers of our great institution. Without students conducting research, grading papers, and paying tuition – where would UMass be? You need to make the Governor realize that your student workers need the same protections as every other employee at UMass.
We also call on you to stand with your students who need support the most by putting an internal program in place to provide leaves to student workers immediately. Nothing prevents UMass from doing the right thing and creating a private program to support their student workers. If you are committed to UMass, you need to demonstrate this by being committed to its students.
Degree Type (e.g. Master of Fine Arts or PhD Biology)
Position (Research/Teaching Assistant)
Department Name, University of Massachusetts Boston