"Bulger joins contract campaign, unions seek support of trustees"

Having enlisted the support of UMass President William Bulger in its campaign to fund the higher ed contracts, Higher Ed Unions United (HEUU) is turning its energies to enlisting the support of the UMass Board of Trustees.

HEUU is planning to pack the trustees meeting at UMass/Boston, Feb. 12, and formally request their assistance.

Other union activity, discussed below, is aiming to win support for contract funding from students, Governor Romney and the state college presidents.

Bulger agreed to work with HEUU during a Jan. 17 meeting with union representatives at his Boston office. UMass participants included Bulger, UMass Vice President for Finance and Administration Steven Lenhardt and UMass Executive Vice President James Julian. Union participants included Edward. Sullivan (MTA), Kathleen Kelley (MFT), Robert Haynes (AFL-CIO), Thomas Coish (SEIU 509), Peter Wright and Tony Case (AFSCME) and Carol Knox (UAW).

According to a joint statement issued after the meeting, "both parties agreed to:
"1. Meet to work to develop possible solutions; and
"2. Arrange for representatives of each party to accomplish the following:

  • "Refine the financial scope of the issues …;
  • "Develop cooperative political strategies; and
  • "Develop appropriate public relations coordination."

So far, two meetings have been held on financial matters and one on political strategies.

Attending the meeting on political strategies, Feb. 5, were Julian for UMass and Sullivan, Kelley and Wright for the unions. According to a joint statement, the discussion included:

  • "Reconfirming the importance of working closely together on the political efforts;
  • "The need to keep open lines of communication for the sharing of information and decision-making;
  • "Ways of working together with the legislature (e.g., some joint attendance at key meetings) and working separately (e.g., testimony at legislative hearings);
  • "Coordination of message and timing efforts; and
  • "[The need for] frameworks for messages for messages for outside the legislature."

Bulger is expected to attend a second meeting on political strategies, scheduled for the week of  Feb. 10.

The newfound cooperation between Bulger and the unions, which followed months of union activism aimed at the UMass president, has toned down HEUU actions, at least temporarily. At this writing, union members were planning to demonstrate outside the inauguration of UMass/Amherst Chancellor John Lombardi, Feb. 7, but "the picketing at the inauguration is going to be very respectful," University Staff Association President Donna Johnson told the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

"We just want people to realize as they go into this festive occasion that some of us are not feeling festive," she said. "We will be wearing red in solidarity, because red shows we are a little angry and also that some of us are living in the red."

Other actions:

  • UMass/Amherst unions were planning a teach-in Feb. 19 and 20 to enlist student support for the contract campaign.
  • Representatives of the Association of Professional Administrators were planning to meet with state college presidents to discuss the contract crisis.
  • HEUU sent a letter to Governor Romney, Jan. 31, asking his "commitment to help us to secure funding for these contracts."
    The letter continues: "We would like you to file, in the near term, a bill that would fund these agreements. We would also like you to lobby the legislature to pass the bill and to sign the bill once it is passed. We know that you face countless challenges as you prepare to lead the state, and our members are acutely aware of the very serious fiscal challenges facing the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, we respectfully request that you uphold the basic principles of collective bargaining and the state’s obligation to fulfill signed contracts, and actively support funding for these agreements."