MSCA President Markunuas Urges Legislators to Support Fair Salaries

MSCA Perspective, March 2001

On March 13 MSCA President Patricia V. Markunas testified before the Joint Committee on Education Support in support of S299: A Resolution to Direct the Board of Higher Education to Support State College Faculty and Librarian Salary Schedules Equivalent to Peer Institutions. This bill was filed by Senator Richard Moore at the urging of the Bridgewater Chapter (see related story, News from Around the Campuses, page 2). Excerpts from Markunas's testimony follow:

...Some recent history on our salary structure vis a vis national salary studies will put the need for this resolution in context. In the late 1980s, the MSCA and our employer at the time, the Board of Regents, made a concerted and cooperative effort to address several serious problems in the salary structure of state college faculty and librarians...

Members of the Committee, I am proud to say that this cooperative effort on the part of both parties to the contract was successful. Class action lawsuits alleging sex discrimination in salary were settled out of court. An equitable salary structure for faculty and librarians was established for the term of that contract. The average state college faculty salary reached the 80th percentile for comprehensive institutions according to the 1989 annual AAUP salary study.

Eleven years later, the average state college faculty salary is equivalent to the 20th percentile for comprehensive institutions. This means our salaries are in the bottom 20% of state college faculty nationwide. A recent study conducted by the State College Council of Presidents documents that state college faculty are paid approximately 15% to 20% less than faculty at peer institutions. This disparity is worse for faculty at the upper academic ranks and with more years of service. If the cost of living in Massachusetts were considered, these salary disparities would be much greater.

Unlike the cooperative effort that characterized the relationship between the MSCA and the Board of Regents in the late 1980s, there has been no attempt at cooperation in this round of negotiations. Our current employer, the Board of Higher Education, has used this round of negotiations to attack contractual benefits and working conditions that provide for quality education for our students. Contract negotiations in 1986-87, including the joint effort on the salary issues, took about ten months. Members of the Committee, March 18th will mark the third-year anniversary of the commencement of the negotiations for the current state college agreement. Two one-year contract extensions have been executed, but the 3% salary increase included each year was less than annual salary increases granted to faculty nationwide. During record high state revenues and budget surpluses, our members have been stalemated at the bargaining table and have not reaped the economic rewards that we deserve for our work on behalf of the Commonwealth.

This situation has been demoralizing for our members and devastating for our colleges. Resignations of recently hired faculty and librarians are at an all-time high. Recruitment of quality faculty is getting difficult in disciplines where the job market is soft and becoming impossible in hot disciplines where faculty have greater mobility. The long-term negative impact of the depressed state of our salaries and the continued slow progress at the bargaining table cannot be understated.

For these reasons, my colleagues at the Bridgewater State College Chapter of the MSCA approached Senator Moore for sponsorship of this resolution... This resolution represents basic fairness and respect for our membershipÕs work with our students. A favorable recommendation on S299 would help us in our struggle at the bargaining table and provide a much-needed shot in the arm for morale at the state colleges. Thank you for your attention and your consideration of S299.