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letters | fiscal considerations for the bay state

Underground economy’s inequity in plain view among adjunct faculty

So, the Patrick administration is launching a “first-of-its-kind study” to scope out the impacts of Massachusetts’ underground economy (“Mass. to study state’s underground economy,” Business, Dec. 5). This is a timely development indeed given the apparent shift in the economy to employment practices that too often result in “misclassifying workers as independent contractors,” where they work in part-time, tenuous positions that lack benefits.

In this state where the politically connected can retire from public-sector jobs (for example, the heads of the Chelsea Housing Authority and the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority) with hundreds of thousands of dollars due them in pension funds and “unused” vacation time, thousands of workers are employed in state institutions under conditions more typical of the underground economy.

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For example, in the community college where I teach, 70 percent of the instruction is provided by adjunct faculty who technically work part-time, unsure of continued employment from semester to semester, and lacking benefits such as sick time, health insurance, and pensions. Classified as “independent contractors” (and not state employees), some faculty have doctorates, decades of longevity, and the equivalent of a full-time commitment, commuting among institutions.

Moreover, this new faculty majority is being pressed to implement a reform agenda keyed to remedying the state’s so-called skills deficits. Under these circumstances, though, how likely is it the new agenda will succeed?

Linda Moussouris


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