If this contract signing felt a bit more weighty than others, it’s because it was the first contract for the Plymouth State University Teaching Lecturers United.
On Wednesday afternoon, members of the university and union bargaining teams signed the contract and reflected on the bargaining process and their relationship going forward. The Teaching Lecturers organized with the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 in December 2011, and ratified this contract two years later, on Dec. 13, 2013.
Krisan Evenson, the chapter president, said she was proud of what they’d accomplished in a relatively short period of time.
“I can’t believe this happened so fast,” she said. “It didn’t seem that way in the middle of it, but when you look back and realize that we accomplished things in about half the time other universities have gone through the process, it’s a testament to the collaboration we’re looking for.”
SEA President Diana Lacey said she was excited about the contract and the kind of collaboration it took to get to that point.
“I know the members here have worked very hard with the university, and there’s been some great discussion,” Lacey said. “Our organization is squarely focused on that kind of collaboration. We can work through a lot of things if we keep that in mind.”
Jay Knower, a member of the bargaining team said he was proud of what both bargaining teams accomplished.
“It’s been a long process, but I think it’s been beneficial for all of us,” he said. “Just for me, personally, I learned so much.”
Like Knower, fellow bargaining team member Philip Inwood said he was proud of what they’d accomplished. Everyone involved, Inwood said, showed “amazing resolve to get things done and always consider all the different possibilities.”
Inwood also made a point to thank the SEA for its efforts in the process.
“They made themselves hugely open to us and our needs — they didn’t try to fit us into theirs,” Inwood said. “It was a really good experience for me.”
Bargaining team member John Lennon thanked Evenson and fellow bargaining team member Burrett McBee for getting the ball rolling on unionization several years ago, but said it’s a whole new collaborative process going forward.
“We’re starting a new ball rolling from this day forward,” Lennon said.
Robin Bowers, who himself once served as provost of the university but helped negotiate the contract as a member of the Teaching Lecturers, agreed with Lennon’s sentiment.
“I think this is the beginning of a new era, and I want to wish everybody the best,” Bowers said. “We’ve got a long way to go. Thank you for working together with us.”
The university’s current provost and vice president, Julie Bernier, was effusive in her praise for the Teaching Lecturers.
“We’re very fortunate to have you on campus, and our students are very fortunate,” Bernier said. “You are professionals, you are wonderful colleagues, and it was a good experience in that respect. I thank you for your continued work.”