On June 20th, 2017, UMass Lowell held the 2nd annual Women in Leadership Conference. Founded by Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney, this conference brings together leading women professionals in business, education, government, and the nonprofit sector to share their expertise and to engage in conversations about building their careers and leading healthy and productive lives.
The conference was meant to lead, empower, and inspire. This goal, though, stands in direct contradiction with UMass Lowell’s ongoing mistreatment of its adjunct faculty. UMass Lowell’s adjunct faculty, who make up 61% of the faculty at UMass Lowell, have been working under an expired contract for two years and have been fighting for parity in pay and benefits with the rest of the adjuncts in the UMass system. These adjuncts receive 32% less pay than their counterparts at UMass Boston and Amherst for doing the exact same work, which includes teaching 57% of all the undergraduate courses. The UMass Lowell Administration refuses to extend the same healthcare and retirement benefits to its adjunct faculty. Also, more than 50% of the adjunct faculty are women. There is an obvious problem when UML is promoting the financial well-being and holistic health of women while simultaneously refusing to empower the individuals that teach more than half of the school’s courses.
Nonetheless, this faculty and its supporters refused to stay silent. On June 20th, the Union of Adjunct Faculty at UMass Lowell, an affiliate of the UAW [United Auto Workers], led a rally at UMass Lowell to demand justice and underscore the aforementioned contradiction. At around 12 noon, the protest began. Marching from a nearby parking lot, the group of about 150 protesters assembled in the back of UMass Lowell’s Inn and Conference Center, where there were large windows that looked into one of the conference’s main rooms. Speakers included the director of UAW Region 9A, Julie Kushner, UAF-UAW’s Ellen Martins and Tess George, Mary Francis Drake, Barbara Madeloni and Paul Georges from the Merrimack Central Labor Council. Chants demanded contracts with equal pay and benefits, while speakers spoke to incite and inspire the crowd and the conference goers. The rally closed by specifically calling on Jacqueline Moloney to end the hypocrisy that is at the heart of the mistreatment of Lowell’s adjunct faculty. A group of the rally’s leaders took an open letter demanding fair treatment at the drawing table into the conference center to present to Moloney.
This rally is not the last time that the UMass Lowell Administration will hear from the adjunct faculty and its supporters, who will continue to demand a fair and equitable contract.