Letter to the Editor: Open Letter to the Emerson Community


The Emerson College staff union logo.

By The Emerson Staff Union

Last week we reached out to the Board of Trustees and asked to meet. Our prolonged contract negotiation with management has hit a wall and we’re heading to mediation. We hoped that they would hear us out because they are the leadership of this college, and we know that they care deeply about Emerson. 

In response, they said that they are not interested in meeting with staff, and that we should address our concerns at the negotiation table with management exclusively. That was disheartening to hear because conversations at the negotiation table often go like this:

Staff Union: We believe our members should get cost of living adjustments.

Management: We are not interested in adding COLA to your contract. 

Staff Union: Why not?  The faculty have it in their contracts.

Management: We don’t want them to have it either. 

In negotiations with management, we sit across the table with people who hold a lot of power at this institution, and they are counseled by a law firm to see us as adversaries instead of partners. They can say no ‘just because’ and we’re expected to accept that. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Out on the streets, we feel the support of students and faculty and alumni and parents who willingly engage with us in conversation. We want to believe that similar conversations could be had with the decision makers.

If the Board met with us, we would have told them that we love Emerson with a passion. For us, there is no other school like it. Every day we are inspired by the intellect and creativity of our faculty. Our students are talented and driven beyond their years. We have incredible alumni out in the world producing world-changing, original work. It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of this institution, but we can’t pay our grocery bills with that. 

While Emerson salaries have been low as long as any of us can remember, this pandemic has set us back in a big way. We’ve seen staff leave in record numbers not only because other institutions offered them higher wages. They left because they were not valued here.

The pandemic has brought out the worst in our society. Many have responded to the crisis with fear and greed. At the same time, there have also been communities where people made deliberate efforts to take care of one another. Let’s do that at Emerson. Let’s put our hands together and work to make real change happen here. 

We are not adversaries. We’d like to believe that our leadership’s goals and values align with ours. We want to make Emerson the best place for students to learn, grow and produce incredible work. We want to make it a community where everyone feels respected and included. To accomplish all of that, we also have to make it the best place to work, and it will take more than just the union, more than just the Board of Trustees and management. It will take all of them and all of us.