WMU-AAUP passes resolution opposing repeal of Michigan’s prevailing wage laws

The WMU-AAUP has passed the following resolution in an electronic vote by the faculty, concluded on June 25, 2015, with 94.5% voting to approve.

Click here to read more about the process leading up to the faculty vote.

Click here for more information about the repeal bills and links to additional information about prevailing wage laws, including scholarly studies on economic impacts that informed the language of the resolution.

APPROVED: WMU-AAUP Resolution Opposing Repeal of Prevailing Wage Law

WHEREAS our investigation into potential costs and benefits shows that there is strong evidence presented by labor and employment economists that repealing prevailing wage laws results in adverse economic impact to workers and families;

Whereas researchers have documented significant losses in earnings for workers in states that repeal prevailing wage laws and project similar losses in states considering repeal;

Whereas average total compensation for all workers is higher in states with prevailing wage laws than in states that have never had prevailing wage laws or have repealed them;

Whereas economists forecast significant job losses in states considering repeal of prevailing wage laws;

Whereas lost wages in the construction industry cause ripple effects throughout the state’s economy, including adverse economic effects for citizens in non-construction sectors;

Whereas states that repeal prevailing wage laws experience decreased income and sales tax revenues;

Whereas repeal of prevailing wage law would result in substantial direct and indirect costs to the citizens of Michigan that would far outpace any theoretical savings that repeal proponents claim would accrue;

Whereas occurrences of occupational injuries are significantly higher in states without prevailing wage laws, causing economic hardship to families and economic costs to the state in the form of increased worker compensation claims;

Whereas construction costs in states without prevailing wage laws are comparable to or higher than those in states with prevailing wage laws;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Western Michigan University chapter of the American Association of University Professors opposes the repeal of Michigan’s prevailing wage laws.

Supreme Court decision on marriage equality and its impact on your WMU benefits

WMU-AAUP letter to the faculty on the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality:

July 1, 2015

Dear colleagues:

As you know, the Supreme Court of the United States has struck down all remaining state bans on same-sex marriage (including Michigan’s).

The Supreme Court decision, announced last Friday, has implications for the benefits available to faculty colleagues in same-sex marriages.

Previously, same-sex spouses were eligible to be on faculty health insurance policies under the DEI (designated eligible individual) provisions in the Agreement. However, all faculty spouses are now eligible for spousal coverage, which has considerable tax advantages over DEI coverage.

If you wish to to change your spouse’s existing DEI coverage to spousal coverage; if you wish to add your spouse to your health insurance for the first time; or if you have married since last week’s court decision, please contact your department’s Human Resources representative as soon as possible to get your spouse the coverage to which your family is entitled.

As always, we are here to help you navigate this process as needed. Please call 345-0151 or email staff@wmuaaup.net for assistance.

Congratulations to all whose marriages and families are at long last gaining the legal recognition they deserve, in Michigan and nationwide!

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University
814 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008
(269) 345-0151

Revisiting the WMU Employee Wellness Program

Last fall, the WMU-AAUP circulated information to faculty about the WMU employee wellness program. Recently, a number of faculty members have contacted us with questions after receiving email messages encouraging them to participate in the program. Because it is important that faculty have the information they need to make informed decisions, we are publishing the information again.

If you have questions after reviewing this information, please contact us at 345-0151 or via email at staff@wmuaaup.net.

Here is how the new wellness program works:

  • The WMU wellness program is VOLUNTARY. Participation is NOT MANDATORY. (But please see this recent news article: When Does Workplace Wellness Become Coercive? NPR, June 24, 2015.)
  • University employees (including faculty) will receive a small financial incentive in return for participating in the wellness program.
  • While your participation in the wellness program is voluntary, it is required in order to qualify for the incentive.
  • The incentive totals $240 annually in the form of a per-pay period reduction to the employee’s share of the health insurance premium.
  • If you choose to participate, the incentive will reduce your share of the premium by $9.23 per pay period (after taxes) for those on 26 pays or by $13.33 per pay period (after taxes) for those on 18 pays.
  • In order to qualify for the incentive, you must complete a “health risk assessment” and biometric testing.

What the incentive would look like for you:

  • If you are on the employee-only plan: Your annual premium for 2014 is $954. The wellness-program incentive would reduce that annual premium by $240, resulting in a new annual premium of $714, a discount of 25.1 percent.
  • If you are on the two-person plan: Your annual premium for 2014 is $3970. The wellness-program incentive would reduce that annual premium by $240, resulting in a new total annual premium of $3730, a discount of six percent.
  • If you are on the family plan: Your annual premium for 2014 is $5664. The wellness-program incentive would reduce that annual premium by $240, resulting in a new total annual premium of $5424, a discount of 4.2 percent.

What about privacy and confidentiality?

  • To qualify for the financial incentive, participants in the wellness program are required to submit to biometric testing and to complete a “health risk assessment” survey.
  • The “health risk assessment” survey contains a number of questions about your private health information. These questions are personal, and some are presumptive and intrusive (e.g., “Have you been annoyed when others say you have had too much to drink?” and “During the past 4 weeks, how much did your health problems affect your productivity while you were working?”).
  • The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) includes a privacy rule that prevents healthcare providers from sharing an individual’s health information with their employer. However, HIPAA rules may not apply to “wellness” program vendors who are not technically healthcare providers.
  • When we raised this question at the bargaining table last summer, Holtyn confirmed that while the company complies voluntarily with HIPAA, it is not compelled by law to do so.
  • Should any conflicts of interest arise (in relation to an insurance claim, for example), it is not clear whether the vendor would be required by law to protect faculty interests over those of our employer (who is also their employer), or if not required, whether they would choose to do so.

Is the incentive worth it?

  • Under the Affordable Care Act, federal law allows employers to offer incentives for wellness program participation of up to 30 percent of the employee’s share of the premium.
  • The incentive on offer to us amounts to 4.2 percent of the family premium for 2014, 6 percent of the two-person premium, and 25.1 percent for the employee-only premium.
  • University employees (including faculty) are being asked to provide a lot of private information in exchange for what would be a relatively small incentive, especially for those on the two-person or family plans.

In addition to the information provided here, we are available to help you with any questions you might have as you consider whether participation in the wellness program is the right choice for you. Call us (345-0151), email us (staff@wmuaaup.net), or stop by Montague House (814 Oakland Drive).

News from the 2015 AAUP Annual Meeting

Reposted from AAUP.org

National AAUP Media Release
June 13, 2015

AAUP Censures Four Administrations, Removes Another from Censure

Washington, DC—Delegates to the One Hundred and First Annual Meeting of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) voted on June 13 to place MD Anderson Cancer Center (TX), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Southern Maine, and Felician College (NJ) on the AAUP’s list of censured administrations. Additionally, Yeshiva University was removed from the list. Censure by the AAUP informs the academic community that the administration of an institution has not adhered to generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure. With these actions, fifty-six institutions are currently on the censure list.

Click here for the full list of censured administrations.

Censured at 101st Annual Meeting, June 2015:

MD Anderson Cancer Center for violations of standards of academic freedom and tenure in removing long-serving faculty members without due process.

For more information on this case, please contact Gregory F. Scholtz, AAUP senior program officer, Tenure, and Governance.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for violating principles of academic freedom and tenure in summary rejection of the appointment of Professor Steven Salaita.

For more information on this case, please contact Henry Reichman, AAUP First Vice President; Hans-Joerg Tiede, member of  the AAUP Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure; or Jordan Kurland, AAUP senior program officer, at (202) 737-5900, ext. 3647.

University of Southern Maine for violation of standards of academic freedom and tenure in closing programs and terminating 50 tenured and numerous untenured faculty positions.

For more information on this case, please contact Michael Bérubé, investigating committee chair, 814-404-2178; or Jordan Kurland, AAUP senior program officer, at (202) 737-5900, ext. 3647.

Felician College (NJ) for “deplorable conditions for academic freedom and faculty governance” and the termination of long-serving faculty without due process after unsubstantiated claims of declining enrollment and financial exigency.

For more information on this case, please contact Diane Zannoni, investigating committee chair, or Greg Scholtz, AAUP senior program officer.

Removal of Censure:

Yeshiva University

For more information on this case, please contact Jordan Kurland, AAUP senior program officer, at (202) 737-5900, ext. 3647.

The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in this country’s colleges and universities. The AAUP is a nonprofit professional association headquartered in Washington, DC.

Reposted from AAUP.org

Draft Resolution Opposing Repeal of Prevailing Wage Law

WMU-AAUP Draft Resolution
Opposing Repeal of Prevailing Wage Law

Updated July 1, 2015: Resolution PASSED.

At a meeting of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee on June 5, WMU Board of Trustees Chair Jim Hettinger asked the WMU-AAUP to consider passing a resolution opposing the repeal of prevailing wage laws in Michigan. Prevailing wage laws require that workers employed on state-funded construction projects be paid union-scale wages and benefits. Repeal measures are now making their way through the state legislature.

After researching the issue, the Executive Committee has voted to recommend to the faculty that the chapter pass such a resolution. This issue is relevant for us as collective-bargaining faculty because the repeal legislation is part of a larger national project of union-busting and disempowerment of working people, including university professors, that we’ve become sadly accustomed to seeing here in Michigan as well as in other states.

All dues-paying members will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed resolution via electronic ballot. Please look for communications from the WMU-AAUP in your wmich emails later this week.

The draft resolution appears below.

(Click here for more information about the repeal bills now under consideration in the state legislature and for links to additional information about prevailing wage laws, including scholarly studies on the economic impacts of repealing these laws. These studies are the sources for the information cited in the draft resolution.)

WMU-AAUP Draft Resolution
Opposing Repeal of Prevailing Wage Law

WHEREAS our investigation into potential costs and benefits shows that there is strong evidence presented by labor and employment economists that repealing prevailing wage laws results in adverse economic impact to workers and families;

Whereas researchers have documented significant losses in earnings for workers in states that repeal prevailing wage laws and project similar losses in states considering repeal;

Whereas average total compensation for all workers is higher in states with prevailing wage laws than in states that have never had prevailing wage laws or have repealed them;

Whereas economists forecast significant job losses in states considering repeal of prevailing wage laws;

Whereas lost wages in the construction industry cause ripple effects throughout the state’s economy, including adverse economic effects for citizens in non-construction sectors;

Whereas states that repeal prevailing wage laws experience decreased income and sales tax revenues;

Whereas repeal of prevailing wage law would result in substantial direct and indirect costs to the citizens of Michigan that would far outpace any theoretical savings that repeal proponents claim would accrue;

Whereas occurrences of occupational injuries are significantly higher in states without prevailing wage laws, causing economic hardship to families and economic costs to the state in the form of increased worker compensation claims;

Whereas construction costs in states without prevailing wage laws are comparable to or higher than those in states with prevailing wage laws;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Western Michigan University chapter of the American Association of University Professors opposes the repeal of Michigan’s prevailing wage laws.

Information about Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Laws

Information about efforts to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law
in support of the WMU-AAUP Draft Resolution Opposing Repeal
(June 2015)

Updated July 1, 2015: Resolution PASSED.

View the resolution here.

Contents:

Status of bills in Michigan State Legislature

Three bills that would repeal Michigan’s prevailing-wage laws (Senate Bills 1, 2, and 3) passed the Michigan Senate on May 14, 2015. All 10 Democratic state senators voted against the repeal, along with five Republicans who broke ranks to oppose the measure, while 22 Republican senators voted in favor of repeal. Prevailing wage laws require that workers employed on state-funded construction projects be paid union-scale wages and benefits.

While Gov. Snyder has not announced unequivocally that he will veto the bills, he has expressed strong opposition to them. MLive reported in May that the governor believes that “repealing the prevailing wage law. . . could hurt his plan to build the state’s skilled trades workforce.” 

Despite the possibility of a veto, these bills could still become law. Anticipating a veto, organizations who are pushing for repeal have announced a petition drive that would end-run the governor. MLive reports:

Michigan’s Constitution provides a path for citizens to send bills to Lansing. Once there, the Legislature has 40 days to enact a measure into law by way of a majority vote in each chamber — or let it go to the statewide ballot.

But a ballot proposal isn’t in the cards. [House Speaker Kevin] Cotter and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, both want to complete the repeal process in the state Legislature by the end of the year.

Although the Detroit News reported on June 15 that “More than 59 percent of likely voters support maintaining Michigan’s prevailing wage, a more than 2-1 advantage over the 25 percent of voters who want the law scrapped, according to a statewide poll,” supporters of the repeal have deep pockets and powerful friends and could easily collect the required 250,000 signatures.

Links to news articles and other information about the repeal legislation

Poll: Voters want to keep prevailing wage law
Detroit News, June 16, 2015

In next strike against unions, GOP states go after wage laws
Associated Press, June 15, 2015

Debate rages on whether ‘prevailing wage” repeal would save state money
Bridge Magazine/Crain’s Detroit Business, June 15, 2015

Republican leaders ready to go around Gov. Rick Snyder on prevailing wage repeal
MLive, May 28, 2015

Prevailing wage supporters plan defense as repeal petitions are approved for circulation
MLive, May 27, 2015

Senate votes 22-15 to repeal prevailing wage laws
Detroit Free Press, May 14, 2015

Prevailing wage and repeal legislation language
(Source: Michigan Legislature, Michigan Compiled Laws)

Who is behind the effort to repeal prevailing wage laws?

Prevailing Wage Repeal Act
Model Legislation, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

ALEC, NFIB Push Prevailing Wage Repeal
PR Watch, March 24, 2015

Studies of economic impacts of repealing prevailing wage laws

Duncan, Kevin, and Alex Lantsberg (2015). “How Weakening Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage Policy Would Affect Public Construction Costs and Economic Activity.” Smart Cities Prevail.

Kelsay, Michael P., James I. Sturgeon, and Kelly D. Pinkham (2011). “The Adverse Economic Impact from Repeal of the Prevailing Wage Law in Missouri.” Council for Promoting American Business.

Mahalia, Nooshin (2008). “Prevailing Wages and Government Contracting Costs: A Review of the Research.” Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper #215.

Manzo IV, Frank, and LeNee Carroll (2014). “Self-Sufficient Construction Workers: Why Prevailing Wage Laws Are the Best Deal for Taxpayers.” Illinois Economic Policy Institute.

Manzo IV, Frank, and Robert Bruno (2014). “Labor Unions, Prevailing Wage Laws, and Right-to-Work Laws in the Construction Industry.” Illinois Economic Policy Institute.

O’Leary, Sean (2015). “West Virginia’s Prevailing Wage: Good for Business, Good for Workers.” West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

Philips, Peter (2006). “Quality Construction, Strong Communities: The Effect of Prevailing Wage Regulation on the Construction Industry in Iowa.” University of Utah.

Philips, Peter (1998). “Kansas and Prevailing Wage Legislation.” Kansas Senate Labor and Industries Committee.

Price, Mark, and Stephen Herzenberg (2011). “The Benefits of State Prevailing Wage Laws: Better Jobs and More Productive Competition in the Construction Industry.” Keystone Research: Policy Ideas for Pennsylvania in the New Economy.

Quesada, Alison Dickson; Frank Manzo IV, Dale Belman, and Robert Bruno (2013). “A Weakened State: The Economic and Social Impacts of Repeal of the Prevailing Wage Law in Illinois.” University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana School of Labor and Employment Relations.

Vincent, Jeff (2005). “Analysis of School Construction Costs in Ohio and Indiana.” Institute for the Study of Labor in Society, Indiana University.

Dr. Cathryn Bailey named new WMU-AAUP Public Relations and Communication Officer

Dr. Cathryn BaileyThe WMU-AAUP Association Council has confirmed the appointment of Dr. Cathryn Bailey, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, to the position of Public Relations and Communication Officer for the chapter. She has previously served as Senior Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and as Director of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program (now Department) at WMU. Her appointment is effective beginning July 2015.

Please join us in welcoming Cathryn!