Jennifer Braceras’s “UMass thriving with Meehan” (Opinion, Aug. 3) presents only one side of the ongoing struggle between the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s administration and the university’s adjunct union.
While UMass Lowell presents itself as a flagship university for technical and business education, which has undergone tremendous growth in infrastructure, technological advances, and enrollment, underpaid adjunct instructors make up a substantial part of its faculty. Adjunct instructors at UMass Lowell make $2,000 less per course than adjuncts at UMass Boston and UMass Amherst for the same work, and receive no health insurance or employer-funded retirement plan.
Braceras misrepresents the union’s demands, stating that the union is asking for full health insurance for instructors who teach only two courses per year. In fact, the union is asking for health insurance for members who teach two courses each semester of the academic year. However, the university is willing to offer that benefit to only those instructors who teach three or more courses per semester, which is only 15 percent of adjunct faculty.
Moreover, many departments practice a two-course per semester limit on adjuncts; thus, the university is offering a benefit that very few of these employees can actually access. This is hardly a “good faith” effort at fair bargaining.
The reason that the union has not accepted offers by management at the bargaining table is that its offers have fallen far short of true equity with UMass Boston and UMass Amherst.
University president Martin T. Meehan needs to look at the campus in the city of his roots and ensure that the professionals who teach half the courses at UMass Lowell receive fair wages and equitable benefits with the other UMass campuses.
The writer is an adjunct instructor at UMass Lowell and a member of the adjunct faculty union.