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BU, Lecturers Agree on First-Ever Contract

Three-year deal includes 2.5 percent raises, professional development funding

  • BU salaried lecturers ratify first-ever union contact
  • Deal includes 2.5 percent annual increases
  • Opportunities to earn more based on teaching performance

BU’s salaried lecturers and instructors in several Charles River Campus schools on Friday ratified their first contract with the University since unionizing last year. The three-year agreement includes a 2.5 percent salary adjustment each year, starting in 2018, for about 240 lecturers and instructors who are members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509.

BU also will enhance its current funding for lecturers’ professional development, and starting next September, for recognizing lecturers with distinguished service.

Both sides hailed the contract, which averted a possible strike.

“This is a really solid contract,” preserving “robust academic and management rights for the University and recognizing teaching excellence and meritorious performance,” says Judi Burgess, the University’s labor relations director.

The SEIU agreed during negotiations that the union and Jean Morrison, University provost, must mutually agree to any outside review of decisions not to reappoint long-term lecturers and instructors, a concession “that helped to finalize the new agreement,” Burgess says. “Ultimate academic decision-making and determinations are, appropriately, left to the provost or her designee.”

Morrison says the lecturers “are skilled and dedicated faculty. The contract we have negotiated brings clarity and predictability to critical areas like compensation, appointment length, and promotion, and provides a formal mechanism for the University to invest in their professional development.”

These changes, she says, will benefit lecturers “and their students, and keep BU on competitive footing for the finest lecturers in the Boston area.”

“The salary increases in the agreement are of vital importance to the union’s members,” says William Marx, a College of Arts & Sciences Writing Program senior lecturer. “A full-time lectureship at BU should offer a living wage in a city as expensive to live in as Boston.

“There were also important gains made regarding transparency, professional development, and job security,” Marx says. “This is the first step in making the concerns of the full-time lecturers heard, a process that will inevitably improve the quality of education at BU.”

In an SEIU statement, Seaghan McKay, a College of Fine Arts lecturer in lighting and media production, says that “by coming together as a union, we have built a better understanding of our colleagues’ working conditions across departments and disciplines. This contract is a clear way to make sure all of us are compensated and treated fairly.”

Excluded from the bargaining unit are all professors (full, associate, assistant, and professors of the practice); faculty compensated solely on a per-course basis; all faculty at the School of Medicine, the Goldman School of Dental Medicine, the School of Public Health, the School of Law, the Questrom School of Business, Sargent College, and the College of Engineering; and deans, provosts, administrators, department chairs and associate chairs, members of the University Council, and a host of other employees, students, and faculty who teach exclusively in online programs.

The SEIU says more than 3,500 faculty members at various Boston universities have joined it in recent years, including full-time teaching staff at Tufts and Lesley.


15 Comments on BU, Lecturers Agree on First-Ever Contract

  • Perry Donham on 10.13.2017 at 7:04 pm

    Please keep in mind that SEIU (an AFL/CIO union) is first a political organization. They spend the majority of the dues that members pay not on negotiating working conditions but on political candidates and lobbying. You can follow some of the money on OpenSecrets (http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000077&cycle=2016).

    I am opposed to unionization of educators,the and I am opposed to a significant number of politicians that SEIU hands money to. I am 100% opposed to money changing hands when lobbying our elected officials. In short, I oppose the SEIU.

    However, as a salaried lecturer I have no choice about whether I am a member or not. I voted against unionization, and yet every month SEIU will take a percentage of my paycheck and use it for endeavors that I am fundamentally against. In many contexts this would be labeled extortion.

    Please keep this in mind when you read news about the SEIU at BU. Not all of us are at all happy with this arrangement. Unfortunately we are currently in the minority.

    • Zachary Bos on 10.16.2017 at 7:51 am

      When you raised these points with your colleagues, Perry, how did they reply?

      • Perry Donham on 10.16.2017 at 9:06 am

        Most of my conversations were prior to the unionization vote several months ago. The union’s messaging was nearly entirely around salary and, to a lesser extent, contract duration. There was zero information being offered about the political activities of the union. My advice to colleagues to research the SEIU was met for the most part with a bit of apathy; maybe that was dissonance caused by the opposing messages. I think there was a fair amount of confusion about the process, at least among those I spoke with.

        Union members can notify both SEIU and BU HR in writing that they object to the use of dues for political purposes. The membership fee is reduced to cover only representational activities. I believe the deadline is the first week of November for such letters. The data that I have available (https://www.unionfacts.com/union/Service_Employees#basic-tab) indicates that SEIU spends roughly half of their revenue on lobbying and donations, but SEIU claims it it is a much smaller number, so don’t expect your dues to be cut in half.

    • John Magee on 10.16.2017 at 9:06 am

      I agree with Perry above. As a summer-term adjunct, I was not even afforded the opportunity to vote for or against unionization of part-time adjuncts a couple of years ago. Yet, I was forced into the union and told that I must either contribute dues to the SEIU or alternatively make a mandatory contribution to one of four Boston charities. I was told that I could not negotiate salary levels with BU because even if I opt-out of the union, the salary is set by the union contract.

    • BU lecturer on 10.16.2017 at 9:43 am

      SEIU does support progressive candidates, but not with dues. Dues go toward bargaining, organizing, and enforcing contracts. However, members can authorize to voluntarily give additional money to the union in order to support political action. I think this is an important distinction.

      Also, it is worth noting that of those who voted for the contract – 100% voted in favor.

      • Perry Donham on 10.16.2017 at 11:12 am

        Either you have been misled, or are deliberately making a false statement regarding the use of dues by the SEIU. If what you state is true, why did the union distribute a four-page letter explaining the process to opt out of paying for non-bargaining activities? are you claiming that SEIU is not a political entity?

        Regarding your second statement, you left out the fact that only those who chose to “join” the union by signing a union card were allowed to vote on the contract. I refused to sign and so was barred from voting on a contract that I am involuntarily bound to.

  • mb on 10.16.2017 at 9:50 am

    Then, I would like to ask, what sort of alternatives were available in order to negotiate with the BU Administration in order to receive a fair compensation for our work? My monthly take-home salary was barely $3,000 and the rent of my apartment is $2,200. There are colleagues who are forced to have second jobs.

    • Perry Donham on 10.16.2017 at 11:19 am

      I acknowledge that many lecturers make less than what they would like to. However, that is not uniformly true across the university. My compensation is no longer tied to my value to my college and to my own negotiations; instead I am stuck with a least-common-demoninator solution that limits my career growth. I’m happy that you probably are going to bring home more in your paycheck, but it’s at the cost of me probably bringing home less in the future.

      How is that fair?

      • Anonymous on 10.16.2017 at 1:15 pm

        If you are unwilling to make sacrifices in order to ensure a more equitable working environment for your colleagues, what incentive do they have to acknowledge your concerns about fairness?

        Boston University is also a political organization, as are most corporations. Employees seldom have any say in the political activities of the corporations that employ them. They have the option to work for a different corporate entity, but if all the corporations in a region engage in similar political activities their predicament is no different from yours.

        • Perry Donham on 10.16.2017 at 2:57 pm

          Sorry, Anonymous, but BU is not taking money out of my pocket to promote their own political agenda as is the SEIU. And, by your argument, if an employee here is unhappy with the wage they earn, they have the option to work for a different corporate entity.

          I might in fact be willing to make sacrifices for my colleagues, given a choice. I had zero choice in this matter.

          • Anonymous on 10.16.2017 at 6:21 pm

            If BU reduces your compensation in order to fund its political activities, it very much is taking money out of your pocket. Your objection seems to be about the stage at which this occurs, but the end result is the same.

            What choices had you made to promote equity for your colleagues in the past? How many years of opportunities did you (or others across the university) have you had? If this was an issue that has been neglected over time, then the consequences of that neglect affect everyone (including, as you point out, yourself) in a potentially unfair way.

      • mb on 10.16.2017 at 3:49 pm

        It sounds like you are making a lot more than we make, but that is not generally true across the university. Even though YOUR compensation is tied to YOUR own negotiations, we do not have that sort of luxury. Why WE have to suffer in order to make it possible for you to have a fancy life?

        How is that fair?

      • Michael Jerome Johnson on 10.16.2017 at 4:37 pm

        IIRC, as with other union contracts I’ve voted on, the pay scale is a minimum, not a maximum. All of us can negotiate a higher salary, we just can’t negotiate below the minimum.

  • Anonymous on 10.16.2017 at 5:44 pm

    As far as I can tell, there is a 2.5% raise. Dues are 1.5%. So the union gets more from this deal than the lecturer. And if a lecturer is not making a living wage, making $60-80 more a month (1% of a 60-80k salary) *before* taxes is certainly not going to suddenly make that lecturer’s wage a “living wage.” I’d be happy to be corrected on my math–my questions to a union rep about this were met with silence.

    • Michael Jerome Johnson on 10.18.2017 at 12:42 pm

      2.5% per year, for three years, or the negotiatied pay raise per year, whichever is greatest.

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