MSCA Rallies for Wage Increase

On Friday, December 1, Bridgewater State University witnessed a large turnout of faculty and staff coming together to bring attention to the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) provision in the supplemental budget that was stalled in the Massachusetts legislature. The wage adjustment was the result of 95 collective bargaining agreements between the state and its public sector unions in an effort to combat the rising cost of living due to high inflation. Earlier in the year, members of the Massachusetts State Colleges Association (MSCA) were told their 8% wage increase would be granted as of November 2023 with the passing of the bill. However, disagreement between House and Senate Democratic leadership over a portion of the budget concerning Massachusetts’s shelter system caused significant delays.

“We are committed to serving our community,” stated Dr. Hegbloom, vice president of the MSCA. “But we are also struggling, our wages have not kept pace with inflation, and we have fallen behind in our abilities to afford basic necessities of life.” Dr. Ann Brunjes of the English department attended the rally on Friday, stating she was there “because the legislature is withholding [the] negotiated pay increase,” adding “I couldn’t tell you when we last had a pay increase.” Dr. Joseph Spencer (he/him) of the philosophy department attended the rally and commented it is important for students to be aware of the issue because “student learning conditions are based on the faculty’s ability to make a living, to be here, to show up, to do our jobs.” Adding, “if we can’t adequately do our jobs then that’s going to harm our students as well.” The demonstration came alongside protests from frustrated workers across the state, including a parallel gathering at UMass Amherst (Daily Hampshire Gazette) and a demonstration at the State House earlier in November.

On December 4, the nearly $3.1 million budget bill finally passed the legislature and was signed by Governor Maura Healey, closing out the 2023 fiscal year and providing money for programs with insufficient funds identified by the governor’s office (WBUR). Included was over $300 million set aside for salary adjustments for state employees, which a letter from Republican legislators indicated has bipartisan support (MassLive). The $250 million for the state’s emergency shelter system was much more controversial, and ultimately held up the bill’s passage. The state has struggled to accommodate homeless families along with increasing numbers of migrants and surpassed its cap of 7,500 families in November (CBS). The House leadership wanted to reserve $50 million dollars for the opening of an overflow site, while the Senate wanted the governor to have more discretion with how the money was spent, reports Lisa Kashinsky for Politico. This disagreement meant that the legislature failed to pass the budget before the end of the formal session on November 15. A deal was reached, with the $50 million provision intact, but the Republican minority blocked its passage in a call for reforms to limit migration (the Associated Press). They delayed the budget during the informal session (in which there is no debate) three times until Democrats were able to gather a quorum.

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