Several Middlesex College employees registered to speak during the public comment portion of
The Board of Trustees Meeting held via Zoom during the regular monthly meeting this week to draw The Board’s attention to the fact that they are working without contracts.
Forty people were registered to talk during the public portion of the meeting.
Fifteen people spoke, identifying themselves as faculty members and staff. One student spoke. Twenty-four of the registered speakers left before their names were called to speak, which was close to 9:30 a.m. and later: an hour after the meeting started.
The faculty members and staff who spoke urged the administration to offer terms acceptable to the unions to settle the contracts. The Board of Trustees responded to each public comment by thanking the speaker.
The 15 employees who spoke were president of the Staff Union Maryann Quick, president of the Faculty Union Pat Payne, History and Social Sciences faculty Giuseppe Rotolo, English Acting Associate Chairperson Raymond Dademo, Librarian Technical Services faculty Charles Dolan, Mathematics faculty Keith Bosler, ESL, Language and Cultures faculty Virgil Blanco, English faculty Sallie Delvecchio, Business and Computer Science faculty Shannon Pullaro, Natural Sciences faculty Gail Becker, Assistant Chairperson Visual, Performing and Media Arts Susan Altman, Natural Sciences faculty Virender Kanwal, Visual, Performing and Media Arts faculty Alane Poirier, Counselor Gina Bedoya, and History and Social Sciences faculty Andrew Dzurisin.
Quick, spoke first and asked how the board justifies hiring more administrators and no staff or faculty, and how the board justifies giving McCormick and the administration raises when they were offered 0% raises and 1.1% raises for three years.
Dorothy Powers, President of the Board of Trustees, said questions must be submitted in writing to the assistant secretary of The Board of Trustees.
However, at the end of the meeting, Middlesex College President, Mark McCormick, addressed what Quick asked, saying it is true that the board approved his recommendation in June for a one-time payment to full-time, non-represented employees of $1,500 for the year 2021, which ended in June,
to help cover the costs of health care premiums as well as a 1% salary increase for the current year: fiscal year 2022.
No full-time employee received a salary increase last year, he said.
Reasonable, equitable compensation adjustments for last year, and this year, totaling more than 1%, are on the table with the four bargaining units that represent full-time employees, he said.
President of the Faculty Union, Payne, said the pandemic affected faculty and she highlighted the fact that faculty members need to take care of their children and families in addition to teaching their students. Faculty don’t just want to be told to stay positive, which is toxic positivity. They want to have the administration settle contracts and not fall through on promises to build trust.
Throughout the meeting, Payne’s Zoom square displayed the words “Pat Payne, working without a contract.”
Rotolo said the faculty haven’t had a way to be heard from the board and that the faculty was barely mentioned in the meeting because they don’t have a fair voice in anything.
Dademo tried to yield his time back to Payne; however, Powers said each registrant is allotted three minutes, and transferring time is not permitted.
Dademo said he supported what the previous faculty members said about trying to push for the contracts to be settled.
Dolan said, “...As you know, we've been working without a contract since July 2020, almost a year and a half. It's not just the faculty, but all of the unionized employees on campus. What does it say about the current state of labor relations and the current administration when they're unable to settle contracts with any of the unions on campus? What does it say that the vast majority of full-time employees are left hanging for this long? Over the past year and a half, we've had repeated instances where our requests to schedule negotiation sessions were ignored, or scheduled sessions were postponed or canceled by the administration...”
After the meeting, Poirier said, “In my view it appears that the administration has not been bargaining in good faith because they have used stalling tactics like not meeting with the Union in a timely manner, offering no salary increase, expecting more work for no salary increase, claiming to have no money, but (they) do have (money). For example, (they have) money to change the name of the college; that's expensive, refusing to share how they are spending the stimulus money from CARES and other financial issues.”
Poirier said, “The reason the contract is important is that it specifies or outlines the job, or duties that the employee is responsible for and what they're not responsible for. It also details benefits and salary and is for a specific number of years; then it gets renegotiated. ‘Collective bargaining’ is the phrase commonly used to describe how unions negotiate a contract for their members. It is also a process that both sides,Union and the employer/administration, are supposed to be ‘bargaining in good faith’ i.e. honestly and actively working toward a mutually acceptable settlement for the Union contract.”
Poirier said, “Some people like to put down unions, but they are why we have an eight-hour workday, five days a week, instead of the 12 hour, seven day work week that folks used to work, as well as safety issues, and job protection.”
Like Payne, Kanwal’s Zoom square displayed the words “Virender, working without a contract.”
During the meeting, Pullaro had her Zoom square display “AFT LOCAL 1940 477 DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT SETTLE THE CONTRACT NOW!” instead of showing her face.
Student Jazmine Brown said, “I believe the student body may be better off if the contract is settled. It would be ideal for the administrators and faculty to be partners.”
Every person signed up to speak during the public portion asked for the contracts to be settled.
Powers said that it was good to have the dialogue with the faculty before closing the public comment portion of the meeting.
After the public portion of the meeting was closed, McCormick said, “I have immense respect for my colleagues who addressed the board today and to student Jazmine Brown. I have to respect everyone’s right to speak their mind.”
Some other issues that were brought up during the public comment were about understaffing, how the unsettled contract disrupts student learning and fair compensation for work.
After addressing Quick’s comment at the end of the Board of Trustees meeting, McCormick also presented other information pertaining to the comments made by the public.
He said, “... as far as what's going on with the need for additional staff, we are trying to keep positions vacant as long as possible.”
However, the college will fill spots when there is critical need, he said.
Before filling spots and increasing staff in any area, however, the College must collect and analyze data, McCormick said.
“So for example, in the case of counseling services, such data will include how many requests the counseling department is receiving at this time from students who want to see a counselor versus how many appointment slots are available at the time. We will review that data before making decisions about hiring additional staff. If it appears the demand clearly exceeds the availability of counselors, we will move as quickly as possible to hire one or two part-time counselors to start help address the immediate demand...in peak times and also expand the times...such as evenings and Saturdays, when full-time counselors are not on duty,” he said.
During the annual meeting portion, the board announced nominations for the executive committee, appointed committee chairs and appointed new members.
During the regular meeting, homage was paid to Veterans. The late Paige L'Hommedieu was honored. There were committee reports pertaining to academic and student affairs, budgets and grants.