Day School Collective Bargaining Agreement awaiting legislative approval

By Danielle Achin

Editorial Staff

By Dallas Gagnon

Staff Writer

The 2020-23 Day School faculty and librarian contract was ratified Oct. 22, and awaits legislative approval. Contractual changes include pay increases and paid family and medical leave (PFML). 

Pay raises consist of a 2.5% increase for Fiscal Year 2020, and an additional 2.0% increase for the remaining two years of the contract, expiring in 2023. 

Massachusetts State College Association (MSCA) Day Bargaining Chair Maria Hegbloom said, “We receive a 2% pay increase for July 2020, a 2% increase for July 2021 and July 2022.”

The additional .5% pay increase for 2020 was a compromise between the union and management, provided that the union dismisses court charges.

In 2018, Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law what is known as the “Grand Bargain,” which includes a new family and medical leave program in Massachusetts.

As a result, employees must pay into that program.

Hegbloom added, “The employer is really required to pay a certain amount into this fund … but then, the employers can kind of push some of that cost onto employees.  

“The Board of Higher Education pushed the full amount of that onto our members without negotiating that with us, and they are required to negotiate that.”

Although the Collective Bargaining Agreement has been ratified, Former Union President Sarah Pilkenton said the legislature hasn’t “even started moving it through the process.”  

Faculty and librarians have not received these pay increases and do not know when they will. 

According to Ann McDonald, chief of staff and general counsel, prior to bargaining, “The negotiating team receives the authorization to negotiate within certain parameters” by the Department of Higher Education. 

She said these parameters are in place because “ultimately, the legislature has to fund it – either through our budgets or through a separate funding line. 

“So, they give the bargaining team – which is represented by the Department of Higher Ed – parameters,” McDonald added.

The union initially proposed pay increases of 5.5%, 5%, and 5%.

Kate Caffrey, a communication, media, and performance professor and union chapter president (FSU), said these proposed raises were “just to keep up with inflation.”

Faculty contracts are in effect for a three-year period. 

Luis Rosero, a bargaining representative, said negotiations on a new contract start “before the expiration of the prior one.” 

The last contract was in effect 2017-20, “then we had COVID to deal with,” said Rosero. 

As a result, both parties agreed to a one-year contract with changes that included faculty accommodations for teaching online and a 0% pay increase for that year. 

Caffrey said, “When we have a zero year, it affects us that year, but also down the line because a lot of things in our salary are cumulative and have to do with percentages.”

A series of Memorandum of Agreements (MOA) and Health and Safety guidelines also went into effect in lieu of the 2020-21 temporary contract. 

In addition, a 1.5% bonus was awarded to union members in response to the 0% “bridge year” as part of an MOA. 

The terms of this bonus can be found at https://mscaunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/MOA-BHE-and-MSCA-COVID-Adjustment-Bonus-executed.pdf

The 1.5% bonus is a one-time provision that is based on faculty and librarians’ base pay. 

Both parties voted in favor of continuing the pre-existing MOAs that were in place from the temporary contract.

Some measures include on-campus COVID-19 testing for union members, offering remote office hours at faculty discretion, vaccine and mask mandates, and adhering to social distancing.

Despite the COVID-19 protocols that are in place, some faculty members believe MOAs are not being entirely complied with. An area of concern is classroom capacity. 

Bargaining Alternate Mirari Elcoro said, “There’s no way we can social distance in here [the classroom].”

Elcoro said she was “petrified” to move around the classroom at the beginning of the fall semester, adding, “If our working conditions aren’t safe – yes, it affects my professional working conditions – but it also affects my students.”

Another area of concern that surfaced during negotiations was student evaluation bias and the impact it has on faculty promotion. 

According to History Professor Joseph Adelman, there has been significant evidence that student evaluations, in general, tend to reflect less about the quality of the course and more about student assumptions about the professor. 

Adelman said, “Faculty of color, non-cis-gendered men, for example, all score lower.

“Right now, we’re still using the same version we have been using, but we’re in the process of reviewing them [student evaluations] and trying to come to an agreement on whether or not there’s a better way.”

Elcoro added, “When you start thinking about evaluations, you want to give students an opportunity to voice strengths and areas of improvement about faculty. But hopefully, those are opportunities for growth – not – you either keep your job or you don’t.”

Two joint committees have been established between management and the union to discuss common interests between both parties. 

Hegbloom said one committee is devoted to looking into promotions, faculty retention, and career progression for faculty and librarians of color. 

She said this committee will investigate “potential inequities that may exist on our campus” and address “how we can do a better job of recruiting and retaining faculty and librarians of color.” 

The other committee is tasked with advocating for state legislation “that benefits students and public higher education in general, particularly issues of funding,” said Hegbloom. 

Silent Bargainer and Student Success and Assessment Librarian Hedda Monaghan said each time the bargaining process begins, management introduces proposals that “we feel would weaken our union … massively.”

One proposal management put on the bargaining table was to discontinue post-tenure review and offer faculty a one-time bonus. 

According to Rosero, “Once you reach professor, the only way you can see an actual increase in your salary other than the cost of living adjustments is if you go up for post-tenure review.”

Rosero said offering post-tenure review provides an incentive for professors to continue working on teaching and research skills. 

“Not that people always need an incentive. People do it because they care, but it is an incentive so from that perspective, it works,” said Rosero.

He added, “It’s also a way to create some sort of career path, so you don’t just reach professor and you’re done.”

McDonald said, “The way the state operates is you base your retirement on your highest three years of your salary.”

In eliminating post-tenure review, benefits based on faculty base pay and percentages would be impacted – one benefit being retirement. 

Caffrey said, “We were not convinced we were going to be able to settle the contract.

“But this time, we had something management needed, which was the agreement for vaccination, and they needed that fast,” said Caffrey. 

Rosero said he also thought “somebody was going to walk away,” until the health and safety guidelines came into the conversation. 

Overall, faculty members agreed this contract was more “status quo” than past contracts. 

Monaghan said this contract consisted less of “major changes,” and the process revolved more around “holding on to the things that are important to us.”

They added, “Things like maintaining good workloads for faculty and librarians, like making sure we get the cost of living wages every year. The cost of living wages always feel like a nice win.”

Ellen Zimmerman, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said, “I think it’s very fair.

“I was very happy that the increase of pay was approved because I think that our faculty, especially, you know, they always work very hard, but to work under the circumstances of COVID and then not get that pay approved would have been extremely painful.”

President F. Javier Cevallos said, “I’m happy about it. I think that it is a fair contract. It has a nice economic incentive for all of the faculty and it’s a nice package. … It will allow us to spend the next year without having to worry about a contract.”

Caffrey said, “I think the agreement was the best we could get at this time, but it was slim. 

“A lot of people focus on the money, but I think it’s important to look at things other than that,” she added.

Caffrey said, “I think we all want the same thing. We want the schools and students to succeed, but we don’t always agree on the best way for that to happen.”