Campus Unions Prepare Vote of No Confidence

Campus Unions Prepare Vote of No Confidence

Campus Unions Prepare Vote of No Confidence

Natalia Cooper

At a recent meeting including all the unions on campus, the main topic at hand was the upcoming vote of no confidence in University of Massachusetts President William Bulger.

Some UMass unions have already taken such votes and others plan to do so in the coming weeks and months. Although a vote of no confidence in Bulger will carry no legal repercussions, it is an “important public expression” according to Elizabeth Mock, President of the Faculty/Staff Union. It is speculated that such a vote from the Faculty Council at UMB would have more legal weight.

The all-union meeting, held at noon on December 4 in Wheatley’s Snowden Auditorium lasted just over an hour, and drew members from the Professional Staff Union (SEIU Local 509), Classified Staff Union (SEIU Local 285), the Faculty/Staff Union (MTA/FSP), and the Graduate Employees Union (UAW Local 1596). In addition to an update on recent actions and plans to continue such visibility tactics as “Bulger watch,” there was some talk of a possible strike if nothing is resolved by the spring.

Tom Goodkind, shop steward for SEIU Local 509, and Elizabeth Mock presented background about the contract negotiations, the collective bargaining agreement that was reached, and the surprise veto of the funding by acting Governor Jane Swift. Specific emphasis was placed on the urgent need for action to encourage a response from the legislature before January, 2003. The legislature could still override the governor’s veto, if they do so before the new year. Due to the time constraint and the lack of a legislature response so far, the unions will soon shift their actions from a focus on the legislature to focus on the central administration, particularly Bulger’s office.

“Resolving this crisis is more important than a new building, more important than new software … more important than a lot of other things,” things that get more attention and funding, according to Goodkind. He went on to express his personal disgust at the statement by Grace Fey and other UMass trustees recently quoted in the media which referred to Bulger’s loyalty to the UMass institution and its employees.

Linda McManus spoke about some actions the Higher Ed Unions United coalition has been involved in around the issue of the as-yet unfunded contracts. One of the most visible campaigns is something called “Bulger watch.” Members of the coalition “follow him around the city,” and whenever he makes a public appearance or speech, they hand out informational fliers and have petitions in support of the unions. McManus also mentioned the need for the unions to work closely with student groups and show solidarity at student-organized events such as the budget cuts forum held December 5. McManus also mentioned a new parking fee increase, it will soon cost $5 to park at UMB, as the most recent pay cut. “We need to keep in mind that we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore,” McManus concluded.

Ann Withorn discussed how the strength of a no-confidence vote is not only in the vote itself, but the fact that all the unions are doing it together. She mentioned that people may have various reasons for voting no confidence in Bulger, but the unions need to be strategic about such a vote.

Professor Gary Zabel, speaking from the audience, explained that in an already difficult time for Bulger, who is experiencing many legal troubles due to his mob boss brother, a no confidence vote takes away the power of statements like the one Trustee Fey made in defense of President Bulger. “What we’re doing with a no-confidence vote is taking away that ‘at least’,” Zabel said, and restated the fact that such a vote would undermine Bulger’s public position.