Emerson Staff Union hopes for ‘more of a voice’ in second contract

The+Emerson+College+staff+union+logo.

The Emerson College staff union logo.

By Adri Pray, News Editor

Representatives of Emerson’s staff union held a virtual town hall Tuesday night to discuss the negotiation of its second contract with the student body.

“Our overarching goal is to bring more equity to how staff are treated at Emerson and to ensure that the staff have more of a voice in decisions that are directly affecting our working conditions,” said Assistant Registrar Amanda Wade, who serves as the union’s vice-chair. 

The union ratified its first four-year contract in 2018, which was extended after its expiration earlier this year. According to Wade, the second contract will hopefully be ratified later this year and will include diversity, equity, and inclusion benefits—a point that is “important to the world.”

Wade said the staff union’s proposals concerning diversity, equity, and inclusion will directly affect staff’s working conditions, as it is an important issue in all sectors of the college.

“I don’t have power everywhere,” she said. “I have power at Emerson as a union member. It’s a problem that the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion is a problem pretty much everywhere, but this is what we can do.”

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The union also hopes to gain clear and transparent hiring criteria, a minimum education requirement to join Emerson’s staff, easier paths to promotion, the implementation of staff-wide bias training, and a general attitude of “commitment, not demonstration” from the college.

Addressing the “chronic understaffing” at the college and adding a staff member as a representative to the Board of Trustees are also goals of the staff union, according to union representative Ilona Yukhayev.

Between 2018 and 2020, student enrollment in both the graduate and undergraduate programs grew by 13 percent. The number of staff working at the college dropped by two percent, according to calculations derived from the college’s Factbook.

Adding a staff representative to the Board of Trustees, Wade continued, would further diversify the voices that contribute to the college’s decisions. She pointed out that faculty and students are both represented in Emerson’s Board of Trustees, but staff is not.

“We don’t expect to have ultimate decision-making power, we don’t expect that it’s going to be a huge shift, but staff should have a voice in how Emerson is run because we’re the ones who make those things happen,” Wade said.

That shift will only occur with help from students, Wade said. The union decided to co-sponsor its town hall with Emerson’s chapter of Democratic Socialists of America to foster student relationships, according to Wade, but the union has also developed relationships with students and student-run organizations during its campaigns.

Wade and Yukhayev hope to ignite a relationship with more students as negotiations continue.