Tentative agreement reached between part-time faculty and administration, walkout cancelled

Adjunct professor Andy Klatt addresses a crowd at the Tufts Labor Coalition action in support of adunct faculty on April 20, 2017. (Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily)

Today’s walkout in support of part-time faculty was cancelled after the faculty bargaining committee and the School of Arts and Sciences reached a tentative five-year agreement for a new contract. This deal follows months of negotiations for part-time faculty members’ second union contract, according to Andy Klatt, a lecturer in the Department of Romance Languages and member of the bargaining committee.

Tufts’ part-time faculty members voted to unionize with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509 in 2013 and signed their first contract with the Tufts administration in October of the following year. The resulting collective bargaining agreement brought faculty increased pay and stronger job security.

Although the part-time faculty’s contract expired on June 30 of this year, it was extended twice to continue negotiations with the administration.

Significant aspects of the new agreement include a 22.5-percent raise in pay for over half of the part-time lecturers over the duration of the contract, with other part-time lecturers receiving a minimum of 12.5-percent raise in pay, according to a union press release. Additionally, part-time lecturers will be notified earlier if their contract will not be renewed, and there will be efforts to increase access to paid professional development opportunities.

The agreement still must be ratified by all 240 members of the part-time lecturer union, according to the press release.  Klatt said he is optimistic that the membership will vote in favor of the agreement.

“I think the bargaining committee is definitely recommending ratification because the tentative agreement that we reached fulfilled some of our priorities,” Klatt said. “Naturally, there were certain compromises that were made, but generally we’re in favor of ratification because of the terms that we signed off on.”

Klatt explained that only members of the bargaining committee were regularly in attendance at the negotiations, although other members of the union were allowed to join as well. He said the bargaining committee tried to represent the membership’s wishes for the new contract, which were identified during forums held before the negotiations started in March.

Dean of Arts and Sciences James Glaser said he was satisfied with the agreement.

“We’re extremely pleased that we have been able to tentatively reach a five-year agreement with our part-time lecturers, whose contributions to the university we respect and appreciate,” Glaser told the Daily in an email.  “We have had a productive and respectful relationship with our part-time faculty, and under the terms of the new agreement they would continue to enjoy pay, benefits and terms of employment that lead our local peer institutions and the relevant market.”

According to Tanya Larkin, a lecturer in the English Department and member of the bargaining committee, salaries were one of the committee’s priorities and a major area of pushback from Tufts administrators.

“The administration was very amenable to the non-economic proposals, but we encountered significant resistance to the economic proposals until the threat of the strike,” Larkin said.

According to Larkin, the agreement was ultimately reached so late in the game because of the threat of walkout and the overwhelming support of the action from the community.

“We had overwhelming support from the community, from Tufts alumni — so many alumni supported us and wrote letters to President Monaco,” she said. “So many students rallied and marched with us, and I think that that was extremely helpful.”

Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC) was one of the many groups that put pressure on the administration to reach a fair contract, and showed support for the part-time faculty by holding rallies and raising awareness for the ongoing negotiations.

“TLC’s role has been to support part-time faculty in realizing their goals for negotiations, and the bargaining team’s consensus demonstrates to me that this agreement is a success,”Zoe Schoen, a junior and member of TLC, told the Daily in an electronic message.

Schoen said she was happy to see TLC’s hard work pay off in what she sees as a win for the part-time lecturers.

“The details of the new five-year contract are certainly important for workers’ material needs; centrally, part-timers won key raises in per-course pay,” she said. “But even more important, I think, is the way in which this agreement demonstrates forward momentum towards larger goals of justice, respect and dignity in the workplace. It’s a sign that faculty, union workers, students, alumni, Boston activist communities can come together and make substantial change.”

According to Klatt, the union was only able to organize a strike because its contract expired on Oct. 6, subsequently allowing them to solicit support without violating their contract.

“We found, and I can speak to this firsthand as well from my own students, that support was almost unanimous,” Klatt said. “I think in this particular situation it’s very clear that people come out and support a just cause, and our cause is just.”

“It’s thanks to our own work and to the work of our friends and allies that we were successful in getting this far,” he added.

Robert Katz contributed reporting to this article

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Tufts was the first school in the Greater Boston area where adjunct faculty unionized. However, Tufts is the first Greater Boston school with faculty unionized through SEIU. Before Tufts’ faculty voted to unionize, adjuncts at a number of other schools unionized through different unions, including Emerson College, Suffolk University, University of Massachusetts Boston and the area’s community colleges. The article has been updated online to reflect this change. The Daily regrets this error.