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Adjunct professors at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Lowell were not on any baseball diamond, but they sure hit the ball out of the park the first weekend of October.
First came news on Oct. 1 from the Massachusetts Division of Labor Relations that the petition they filed in May for UAW certification had been approved – making them officially members of the UAW.
Hours later, they were headed for part two of an incredible weekend: The One Nation Working Together rally in Washington on Oct. 2, where they joined thousands of union members and activists from around the country.
“That made it all the sweeter,” said Greg DeLaurier, a political science teacher who has worked at UMass since 1996. “It really was an exciting weekend for us.”
DeLaurier and nearly 650 adjunct (or part-time) instructors are now members of UAW Local 1596 in Canton, Mass.
Other members of the local union, which totals about 2,000, include graduate students at UMass Lowell and Boston campuses, said Local 1596 President Kathy Melish.
The next step, said Melish, is to elect a bargaining committee and negotiate a first contract.
“Having a contract is going to be a good thing for us,” said DeLaurier. “I think it makes a difference in terms of some of the things that we need like pay and benefits.”
For adjuncts, DeLaurier said, a contract could mean better job stability and more job predictability. A contract, he added, also could provide the membership with some sort of seniority system, if that is what the membership decides.
“The point is that it gives a voice at the table and input into the decisions that affect us,” he said.
“UMass simply could not fulfill its research or teaching mission without the valuable work that postdocs and adjuncts perform, yet both are underpaid, often don’t receive benefits, have no job security and almost never have a voice in decisions that impact their employment,” said UAW Region 9A Director Julie Kushner.
Colleges and universities throughout the United States increasingly rely on postdoctoral researchers and part-time professors to teach and conduct research. They are a growing group of under-recognized workers in need of better wages, benefits, job security and a voice at work.
The successes at UMass are the result of significant commitment and mobilization of rank-and-file organizers from Region 9A locals, including members of Locals 2121 and 379 in Connecticut; Locals 1596, 2322, 470 and 422 in Massachusetts; and Locals 2320, 2110 and 7902 in New York.
About 45,000 UAW members work for colleges and universities as postdoctoral researchers, adjunct faculty, and teaching and research assistants.
“The adjuncts have been part of our family from the beginning,” Kushner said. “ We’re excited as we prepare for what comes next.”