By Scott McLennan
P rior to a concerted organizing effort by the Professional Staff Union at UMass Boston, there
were “no rules” when it came to ESL
instructors on campus.
That’s the assessment offered
by UMass Boston PSU President
Tom Goodkind, who described how
instructors of English as a second
language were subject to arbitrary pay
rates and ineligible for any benefits,
The PSU filed a grievance in
January 2012, arguing that at one time
the university had recognized an ESL
instructor as a member of the PSU.
After that instructor left the university,
however, ESL instructors were no
longer considered eligible for union
The issue had come to a head in
2011, Goodkind recalled. That was
when former ESL instructors promoted
to bargaining unit positions informed
him that ESL teachers, who are part
of the College of Advancing and
Professional Studies, had no benefits
and poor pay. There were a “whole
bunch” of instructors in the same
predicament, Goodkind was told.
With an influx of foreign students
accepted to UMass Boston but needing
greater English proficiency — plus
an agreement between the university
and the Massachusetts International
Academy in Marlborough to have
university ESL instructors help prepare
the students — the number of ESL
teachers had been on the rise.
Goodkind, PSU Vice President
Anneta Argyres and staff member
Mary Jo Connelly, working closely
with Maura Sweeney and Katie
D’Urso of the MTA Division of Higher
Education, spent months crunching
data that bolstered the argument
that the instructors were eligible
for union membership. The PSU
crafted a package of benefits and pay
commensurate with the work done by
While that work was going on, the
ESL instructors organized themselves.
Gabe Hedemann and Louis Frank
stepped up as leaders on the Boston
campus, and Kristen Forrelli and
Jennifer Schmotzer became the main
organizers in Marlborough.
The instructors circulated petitions
asking for support for their unionizing
efforts and wore stickers proclaiming
“We all deserve benefits; We all
deserve a union.” They also sought
consensus and highlighted concerns
that ultimately shaped a settlement
agreement between the union and the
“It was good old-fashioned
organizing,” Argyres said.
The 21 ESL instructors entering
the PSU have seen a boost in pay, an
agreement to receive retroactive pay
and access to benefits.
“For a lot of us, we are working
full time,” Hedemann said. “It’s what
we do for a living, and to finally have a
chance to get benefits is amazing.”
PSU Vice President
PSU President Tom
Goodkind and ESL
Frank, left to right,
go over membership
Photo by Scott McLennan
Meet with a benefits counselor to learn how voluntary benefits can help
support your financial forecast. Call 877.401.4083 or visit mtabenefits.com
to find out when we’ll be visiting your school.
Disability Insurance Enrollment
Every day is a
breeze when you
Short-Term and Long-Term
Disability Insurance pay a
percentage of your salary to ensure
you a continuous income if you become
disabled and cannot work. MTA members
can obtain both short-term and long-term
disability coverage without having to
answer medical questions.
Critical Illness Coverage pays a lump-sum benefit for heart attacks, strokes
and other covered serious illnesses.
The MTA disability open-enrollment
period allows you to obtain a new policy
or change your current coverage.
Insurance products underwritten and services offered by
the subsidiaries of Unum Group. Website: unum.com.