Higher Education

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About Faculty Forward
At most colleges and universities, contingent faculty are a majority of all teaching population, yet we still face low levels of compensation, no benefits, lack of institutional support for research and scholarship, and exclusion from the governance of our institutions. At the same time, our institutions have shifted resources from instruction to administration, funded by quickly rising tuition, resulting in record levels of student debt. By coming together to form our union, we have the power to do something about this by building a market-wide movement to raise standards for faculty and students alike.

Faculty Forward is a projects of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509, and home to nearly 4,000 unionized faculty who have won improvements in pay, job security, evaluation processes, and access to retirement benefits. Together, the campaign has united non-tenure-stream faculty to address the crisis in higher education — and the troubling trend toward a marginalized teaching faculty that endangers our profession. SEIU Local 509 represents part- and full-time faculty at at Bentley, Boston University, Brandeis, Lesley, Northeastern and Tufts.

Read more about the The High Cost of Adjunct Living in Massachusetts.

Tufts Grads Op-Ed: Support graduate workers

Letter to the Editor: Support graduate workers


May 20, 2018

We are the graduate workers at Tufts. As we pursue degrees in our fields, we also work for the university as instructors, TAs and research assistants. We teach and mentor undergraduates, grade exams and papers, write grant proposals and work hand-in-hand with faculty on crucial research. Our long hours keep Tufts running.

Yet despite the work that we do for the university, we struggle to pay rent and access healthcare. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a living wage for a single adult in Middlesex County is $29,547 a year, but many graduate workers at Tufts make significantly less than that. Even a small apartment in the area can cost two-thirds of our income. Many of us have to work second and third jobs just to get by. Additionally, our healthcare plan is very limited: we face steep barriers to getting mental healthcare and often have to skip the dentist entirely because it’s too expensive.

Our working conditions are also precarious. Some of us aren’t told what we’re teaching until after the semester begins; this keeps us from adequately preparing for our jobs and giving students the instruction they need. Others face dangerous conditions that the university refuses to fix. For instance, one office used by graduate workers sprung a leak near an electrical outlet; the outlet eventually caught fire, and still, the university took more than a year to stop the leak.

This is why last May, we came together and voted to form our union. We want an end to precarity—enough pay to support ourselves, and the conditions to do our work safely and well.

We are not alone. Since 2016, graduate workers at Harvard, Brandeis and other private universities have also formed unions to fight for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Tufts advertises its commitment to inclusion, social justice and active citizenship. But these values ring hollow if the university doesn’t pay its workers a living wage and guarantee them safe and stable working conditions. It’s time for Tufts to recognize that both the university’s brand and continued success depend on a fair union contract for graduate workers.

Click here to link to the Tufts Daily article.

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Congratulations 2018 SEIU 509 Scholarship Winners!


Each year, our SEIU Local 509 Scholarship Program funds 20 educational scholarship awards for fellow members and their dependents. Each of these scholarships range from $1,000 to $1,500 — many awards are based on member’s demonstrated commitment to the union’s growth over the last calendar year. From this pool of qualified applicants, winners are drawn at random. First we contact recipients directly, then we announce the full list here at seiu509.org.

Congratulations to our winners:

James Tremblay, DCF
John Follit Award
Jennifer Renzi, CSO
Linda Silva/Deborah Ann D’lorio
Memorial Award
Lynn Mourao, DCF
Luis Vega Memorial Award
Teresa Vazquez, DCF
Zevorah Bagni Memorial Award
Margarita Ramos,
Family Child Care
Membership Benefit
Insurance Scholarship


Christine Fowle, DMH
Colonial Insurance Scholarship
Donna DiNapoli,
Mass Coalition for the Blind
Membership Benefit Insurance Scholarship
Felicia Morgan, CHL
Ginny Steinberg Award
Maura Synder, DCF
Meredith Miller Memorial Award
Stephen Forcha-Beloa, Bridgewell
& Shea/Prout Award
Jocelina Pires, DDS
Kenneth Gorman
Memorial Award
Frances Ransum-Canning,
Department of Education
Membership Benefit
Insurance Scholarship
Elysa Monseratte, DMH
Colonial Insurance Scholarship
Paula Habersang, CCES
Martin Martinian Memorial Award
Lynette Littles, DMH
Bill Greene Memorial Award
Ruth Dresser, MRC
& Shea/Prout Award
Walter Tetreault, Eliot
Flynn Insurance Scholarship
Deborah Visocchi, DDS/MRC
Colonial Insurance Scholarship
Tiffany Goffer-Fitz, DDS
Officer’s Award
Karl Toth, Brandeis University
Mt. Washington Bank Scholarship


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Brandeis University graduate workers rally for a fair contract

Dozens of Brandeis University graduate student workers rallied on the steps of the campus’ Rabb Graduate Center on Tuesday, May 1, at 12 p.m. to demand that the administration bring them an offer for a fair contract. After over six months of bargaining, the administration hasn’t responded to several of the union’s most important issues, including compensation, benefits, and workload.

The workers spoke about why having a fair contract is so important to them and what has led them to this point. Issues such as food insecurity, safety, and the inability to meet basic needs like housing and transportation were frequently mentioned.

Following their rally, they and their supporters marched to the offices of President Ronald Liebowitz and Provost Lisa Lynch. There, they submitted over 200 cards of support from students and parents, letters written by undergraduates about the role graduate assistants have played in their education, a petition signed by dozens of graduate students, and a letter of support signed by more than 50 Brandeis faculty members. There was one unifying theme behind all of these messages: a demand for a fair contract—now!

Graduate student workers at Brandeis voted overwhelmingly to form a union one year ago. The two sides are scheduled to meet again on Wednesday, May 2, on the anniversary of the union’s election. The workers hope that they will be celebrating a complete and fair contract in the near future.


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SEIU 509 Higher Education Chapter: Schools Should Be Gun-Free

For Immediate Release

Friday April 20, 2018


Virginia Tech University, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are the sites of the three deadliest mass shootings in U.S. educational institutions since 2000. Even one student, teacher, administrator, or staff member dead by gun violence on school grounds is too many, but already hundreds have died and scores have been injured. Enough is enough.

As teachers, and teachers of teachers, we, the elected Higher Education Chapter Executive Board representatives of Local 509 of the Service Employees International Union, join the AAUP, AFT, AAC&U, the students of #MarchForOurLives, and many other individuals and groups, in affirming that in these United States guns have no place in classrooms or on college and university campuses. We reject the idea that teachers carrying guns will increase anyone’s safety. Our position is both a workplace issue and a human rights issue.

As a workplace issue, it has three key interrelated dimensions: our ability to fulfill our responsibility to facilitate our students’ learning; our commitment to the unfettered, critical discussion of ideas, a principle of both academic freedom and democracy; and our working conditions. The presence of guns in schools would damage academic exchange, with students and faculty alike fearful of violent reactions to conversations about ideas. Additionally, it would create unsafe working conditions and make unreasonable demands on workers to fulfill duties contrary to our educational mission.

As a human rights issue, sensible gun policies permit students to exercise their right to an education, which has been pursued as policy in the United States since the establishment of our first public schools and is protected under Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Moreover, we are mindful that, given the deeply entrenched racism of our society, guns in schools will present heightened risk to teachers, students, administrators, and staff of color.

For these reasons, we also endorse the 2015 Statement Opposing ‘Campus Carry’ Laws put forth by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB). We stand behind the Statement, which notes in part: “Colleges and universities closely control firearms and prohibit concealed guns on their campuses because they regard the presence of weapons as incompatible with their educational missions. College campuses are marketplaces of ideas, and a rigorous academic exchange of ideas may be chilled by the presence of weapons.”

As a nation we must protect our educational system from pre-school to university, a system that shapes us and should serve to unite our citizens. We categorically reject the idea of adding guns to our schools and campuses. Sensible gun laws and their careful implementation are overdue.

Norah Dooley

Nina Kammerer

Drew Flanagan

Steve Benson

Eleanor Roffman

Celia Morris

Peter Lert

Melissa Wolter-Gustafson

Laurie LaPorte

Sarah Slavick

Elizabeth Lemons

John Maslanka



Matt Dauphin

SEIU 509 Higher Education Coordinator

(774) 843-7509 x1231


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On Eve of Strike, Tufts University Part-Time Faculty win contract settlement with administration

Faculty & students were scheduled to walk out tomorrow in a massive strike action

Five-year agreement between part-time faculty union and Tufts University improves wages and teaching conditions for approximately 240 Lecturers

MEDFORD, MA – One day before a massive faculty walkout, part-time faculty at Tufts University reached a tentative agreement on their second contract with the administration. SEIU Local 509 represents 240 part-time lecturers at Tufts, ever since they voted to unionize in April 2014. After seven months of negotiations between the administration and the faculty union, the proposed five-year contract achieves fairer pay, better job security, more paid professional development opportunities, and other benefits.

The tentative agreement is hard won; today’s settlement was achieved after public pressure on the Tufts administration to reach a fair contract and the imminent threat of tomorrow’s massive walkout. At the end of September, the part-time faculty union announced their intention to walk out on October 11, with the support of other Tufts faculty, students, alums, and community allies. The same day they announced their plans, Tufts students rallied in support of the faculty to demand that the administration come to the table with a fair contract proposal.

Among the historic gains in the contract, highlights include:

  • Significant pay increases: Over half of the part-time faculty will see a raise of 22.5% over the life of the contract. Others will receive a minimum 12.5% pay increase during this contract.

  • Job Security and Professional Courtesy: There will be stronger provisions governing the review and appointment process. Faculty will receive earlier notification if their contract will not be renewed, giving them adequate time to find other employment.

  • Professional Development: Tufts will expand the eligibility criteria to improve access to fund for paid professional development opportunities for faculty.

“I feel very proud of Tufts for recognizing the dignity of our work and its importance to the teaching mission of the University. I am honored to be a part of this community that came together in support of part-time faculty,” said Tanya Larkin, Part-Time Lecturer in English at Tufts University.

“This contract would not be possible without the support of students and the community. The Tufts community submitted over 600 letters to President Monaco. Tufts students rallied and marched in support of a fair faculty contract. By coming together with us, they helped make gains toward fair compensation and just treatment for Tufts part-time faculty,” added Elizabeth Lemons, part-time faculty in Religion at Tufts University.

The tentative agreement at Tufts University is subject to a ratification vote by members of the union. To arrange interviews with faculty involved in contract bargaining, contact Christie Stephenson at (413) 374-6370 or cstephenson@seiu509.org.

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Averting Strike, Boston University Lecturers win contract settlement with BU administration

Three-year agreement between lecturers’ union and BU improves wages and teaching conditions for more than 250 Lecturers
Attention shifts to Tufts University, where adjunct faculty will walk out October 11 for a fair contract

BOSTON, MA – Days before a massive faculty walkout, lecturers and instructors at Boston University (BU) reached a historic tentative agreement on their first contract with the BU administration. Over 250 lecturers at the university are members of SEIU Local 509, having won their union in April 2016. After a year of negotiations between the administration and the lecturers’ union, the proposed three-year contract achieves fairer pay, better job security, paid professional development opportunities, and other major benefits.

The tentative agreement is hard won after a year of bargaining, and after the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against BU for an Unfair Labor Practice. Today’s settlement was achieved amid building public pressure on the BU administration to reach a fair contract. Lecturers announced their intention to walk out in an Unfair Labor Practice strike on October 11, with the support of other BU faculty, students, alums, and community allies.

Among the historic gains in the contract, highlights include:

  • Significant pay increases: All lecturers will see pay increases in every year of the contract. The lowest-paid lecturers will see the greatest increases. On average, union members will receive a 15% pay increase in the first year.

  • Income Security: Lecturers will have their across-the-board raises guaranteed every year.

  • Professional Development: BU will create a fund for paid professional development opportunities for lecturers. BU will also create a significant fund to recognize lecturers with distinguished service, in conjunction with the union, beginning in September 2018.

“Lecturers and instructors are the heart of teaching and learning at Boston University, and our compensation and treatment directly impact the student experience here,” said Jessica Bozek, senior lecturer in the writing program at BU. “Today’s win is the result of years of work to make sure BU values its teaching faculty.”

“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,” added Seaghan McKay, Lecturer in BU’s School of Theatre.

Though a strike was averted at Boston University, plans for a massive faculty walk out at Tufts University on October 11 continue. Adjunct faculty at Tufts are renegotiating their agreement with the administration, in an effort to secure fair pay and job security. Today, during contract bargaining, Tufts students rallied in support of adjunct faculty and to demand that the administration come to the table with a fair contract proposal.


The tentative agreement at Boston University is subject to a ratification vote by members of the union. To arrange interviews with faculty involved in contract bargaining, contact Christie Stephenson at (413) 374-6370 or cstephenson@seiu509.org.


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SEIU 509 Fights for Economic Justice for Adjunct Faculty

Bill would invest in pay equity, economic security, and student learning

BOSTON, MA – Dozens of members of SEIU Local 509, the Massachusetts union for educators and human service workers, are at the State House today to fight back against the corporatization of higher education. With colleges and universities beginning to act more like businesses than like institutions of higher learning, investments in faculty and instruction are disproportionately lower than increases in administrative and other costs. As a result, adjunct faculty — who teach a majority of courses at many area universities — are not paid fairly for their commitment to student learning.

“The question of adjunct pay goes to the heart of the mission of higher education—teaching. That’s what adjuncts do,” said Dan Hunter, an adjunct professor at Boston University. “Adjuncts like me teach more than 50% of the classes nationwide, meeting the same standards as our full-time and tenured colleagues. Yet we receive about 20% of the same pay.”

A first of its kind bill, H.2236 — sponsored by Representative Tom Stanley — addresses the pressing economic issues facing the thousands of adjunct faculty who teach at private higher education institutions across the Commonwealth. The measure ensures pay equity for adjunct faculty and that they receive the same pay per course as their full-time colleagues. Adjunct faculty are gig workers, and often course assignments are routinely cancelled at the last minute, after the instructor has put in weeks or months of preparation. H.2236 would require universities to take responsibility for some of the costs these flexible employment practices impose — by giving sufficient notice of course assignments and paying adjunct faculty a percentage of what they would have earned for the course if it’s cancelled.

“Too often, colleges and universities exploit our passion as faculty, knowing we will maintain high standards because we feel deep responsibility to our students,” said Amy Todd, who has worked as an adjunct at UMass Boston, Northeastern University, MIT, Dartmouth College, Boston University, and Brandeis University. “We also need to earn a living wage and have stability of employment to be the best teachers possible.”


More information about H.2236 is available here. To interview adjunct faculty in the Commonwealth about their commitment to student learning, contact Christie Stephenson at (413) 374-6370.


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NEWS: Tufts Grad Students Make History with Vote to Join SEIU Local 509

‘UNION YES’ vote by Tufts is SEIU’s second Boston-area graduate student unionization win in the last three weeks

Boston, MA — Graduate students at Tufts University have overwhelmingly voted to form a union, deciding by a wide margin to join SEIU Local 509. Tufts graduate students are just the latest Boston-area educators to join SEIU 509 Faculty Forward, which currently represents nearly 4,000 non-tenure-track and adjunct faculty in the area. Graduate student workers at Tufts join their part-time lecturer and full-time non-tenure track colleagues as members of Local 509.

“Coming together to form a union gives Tufts graduate students a clear way to make sure all of us are compensated and treated fairly,” said Anna Phillips, Ph.D. student in Physics at Tufts. “I am proud of today’s win and looking forward to graduate students having a seat at the table for decisions that impact our ability to do the teaching and research that we love.”

The vote at Tufts represents the second successful graduate student unionization vote at a private institution in the Boston area since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)’s August 2016 ruling to allow grad student workers at private institutions to unionize. Graduate students at Brandeis University voted to join SEIU Local 509 on May 2.

“Creating a union allows us not only to advocate for ourselves, but to build understanding across departments and disciplines at Tufts about graduate student working conditions,” said James Rizzi, Ph.D. candidate in English at Tufts. “Today’s election is a win for current graduate students and lays the foundation for those who come after us to build upon.”

The election occurred by mail, and votes were counted today at the Boston office of the National Labor Relations Board.  To arrange an interview with Tufts graduate students leading the movement to unionize, contact Christie Stephenson: (413) 374-6370.

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NEWS: Brandeis University and Part-Time Faculty Ratify Contract

Brandeis’ part-time faculty, members of SEIU Local 509, have reached their first-ever contract with the Brandeis administration. Among the historic gains in the contract, highlights include:

  • Significant pay increases: All faculty will see pay increases in every year of the contract. The lowest-paid adjunct faculty will see the greatest increases. Those with the most experience will get 25% more over 3 years.
  • Job security and income stability: Part-time and adjunct faculty will be eligible for multi-year appointments and protections against reduction in teaching load — and thus income — from year to year. Class cancellations will not affect eligibility for benefits.
  • Rewarding longevity: Adjunct faculty will have their base per-course rates increased for longevity, in addition to across-the-board raises guaranteed every year.
  • Professional Development: Brandeis will create a $25,000 professional development fund each year. Faculty who have taught at Brandeis for at least one year and are teaching two courses or their equivalent can apply for up to $2,500.

Equally historic, the university and SEIU Local 509 released a joint statement regarding the contract (below). To arrange interviews with faculty involved in the contract bargaining, call (413) 374-6370.


For immediate release
May 10, 2017

Brandeis University and Part-Time Faculty Ratify Contract 

Three-year agreement with SEIU Local 509 improves wages and teaching conditions for more than 280 faculty at the Waltham campus

WALTHAM, MA – Part-time faculty at Brandeis University have ratified a three-year contract with the university, the first since part-time faculty formed a union with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509 in December 2015. The contract addresses improvements in job security, compensation, and professional development. It also represents a key step toward ensuring increased participation of part-time faculty in discussions that affect their work. The agreement is the result of a negotiation process between Brandeis administrators and SEIU Local 509 that was characterized by mutual respect and collegiality.

In a joint statement in the agreement, Brandeis and the union said:

“The Union and the University value and respect the role of the Faculty Members covered by this Agreement as essential contributors to a learning community. Our relationship is characterized by a spirit of professionalism, collegiality, civility, and cooperation toward a common objective of providing an exceptional educational experience for the University’s students.

We believe in communication, mutual respect, and meaningful involvement of part-time Faculty Members in working towards this common objective. The Union recognizes and supports the commitment of the University to provide the best in educational opportunities to all students. The University recognizes and respects the Union’s commitment to advocating for the interests of its members.”

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SEIU 509 State House Alert: 509 Members Speak Out for Educational Opportunity for All

509 educators testifying today in favor of expanding access to early childhood and higher education

BOSTON, MA – Educators and members of SEIU Local 509, the Bay State union for human service workers and educators, are on Beacon Hill today to show support for An Act to Support Educational Opportunity for All during today’s hearing by the Joint Committee on Revenue. The bill would provide much-needed funds to expand access to early childhood education and enable more young people to pursue higher education — both critical priorities for the Commonwealth’s continued economic growth and prosperity.

In order to fund these critical investments in education, the bill includes a modest 2.5 percent duty on private college and university endowments with over $1 billion in assets under management. Nonprofit private colleges and universities are not currently required to pay local, state, or federal taxes on their endowment funds. The excise — which would only impact a handful of the Commonwealth’s richest institutions — would create a new Educational Opportunity for All Trust to help defray the cost of higher education, early education, and child care for lower-income and middle-class residents of the Commonwealth.

“As an early childhood educator, I know firsthand that we badly need to invest more in the Commonwealth’s youngest children during the influential, early years of their education,” said Marites MacLean, a member of SEIU 509 who operates a family child care center in Fitchburg. “But more than that, I see that when we are able to help working class families access child care, it allows them to attend school and work themselves and further contribute to our economy and society.”

“There is overwhelming evidence that we need to invest more in both early education and higher education, but too often these investments are forgone due to scarce budgets and competing priorities,” said Tyler O’Day, a graduating senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “Asking the wealthiest institutions to contribute a modest amount toward expanding access to higher education is a commonsense way to make sure all students can access the kind of world class education I’ve been lucky enough to pursue.”

MacLean and O’Day joined leaders from the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM) to share their expertise and testify in front of the Joint Committee on Revenue in favor of the bill. SEIU Local 509 regularly empowers its diverse, statewide membership to speak out in favor of key legislation that impacts their day to day work as educators and human service workers. Last month, Local 509 held its largest-ever Lobby Day at the State House, where union members spoke with their elected officials about the issues facing them as they educate and care for the Commonwealth’s students and most vulnerable populations.

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SEIU Local 509 represents nearly 20,000 human service workers and educators throughout the Commonwealth. SEIU 509 members provide a variety of social services to elders, at-risk children and people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities — as well as educational opportunities from early learning to higher education. Local 509 is part of the Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing labor union in the United States.

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