Labor Day negotiation update and chapter meeting Friday, Sept. 5

Please plan to attend a special chapter meeting this Friday, September 5, at 1:30pm, to discuss negotiations. We will meet in rooms 105-107 of the Bernhard Center.

As most of you know, the administration presented their compensation proposal last week:

  • Across-the-board salary increases of 1.5, 1.5, and 1.75 percent over the next three years.
  • Substantial increases to faculty healthcare premiums.
  • Reduction in the employer contribution to retirement from 11 percent to 9 percent without a 3 percent faculty contribution.

In other words, they are asking us to accept a substantial pay cut.

And when the teams returned to the table this morning for a special Labor Day session (accompanied by a large contingent of faculty, students, alumni, retirees, and staff), the administration brought a new healthcare proposal that would increase our costs even more significantly than their initial proposal. They threatened to impose this new plan if our team does not agree to the reduction and eventual elimination of employer-supported retiree healthcare.

The message from the administration is clear:

They intend to cut our overall compensation in the 2014-17 contract.

The subtext is just as clear: They have little respect for what the faculty contributes to Western Michigan University.

We cannot not allow their plans for a pay cut to go forward. And we must insist that the faculty of this university be respected. But the team can’t do it without your support.

There are several opportunities this week to show your support for our team and for what the faculty means to the university:

  • Annual BBQ on Tuesday at Montague House, 5-7 p.m.
  • Special chapter meeting on Friday at 1:30 p.m. in rooms 105-107 of the Bernhard Center.

Please also be on the alert for additional calls to action this week. Email can be slow and unreliable, so please follow the WMU-AAUP on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to the blog. In other words, stay connected. Talk to your colleagues.

We have to be ready to act quickly.

#StrongerTogether              #GoWMUAAUP

labor_day1WMU-AAUP Labor Day Rally, September 1, 2014
Photo by Allison Hart-Young

Letter to University Relations

Letter to University Relations on the use of official WMU publications
to promote the administration’s perspective on negotiations

WMU Today


To: Ms. Cheryl Roland, Executive Director of University Relations
Cc: Dr. Nancy Mansberger, Director of Academic Collective Bargaining; Ms. Jan Van Der Kley, Vice President for Business and Finance; Dr. John M. Dunn, President of Western Michigan University
From: Lisa Minnick, President of the WMU of the American Association of University Professors
Date: September 1, 2014

I am writing today to request that the Office of University Relations discontinue the practice of presenting the administration’s negotiation updates in university communications as if they are an objective report of progress at the table, which they are not.

As in the example enclosed below, these missives are labeled neutrally in the WMU Today electronic newsletter as “The latest update on contract negotiations between WMU and the WMU-AAUP.” However, the updates represent a perspective limited to one side and based on that side’s agenda and interests.

The administration may be eager to take advantage of its access to university resources and to use them to try to frame the issues according to their own interests, simply because that possibility is available to them. However, because Western Michigan University is an institution of higher learning, we are all held to a higher standard. All of us who are engaged in this enterprise are obliged to promote and model the practices and values that are fundamental to our common mission. These include collaboration, the promotion of free inquiry, and the advancement of human knowledge and understanding. As tempting as access to official university mouthpieces and publications might be for the administration, using those media to present a one-sided view of the negotiation process, and especially without identifying it as such, conflicts with the values and principles we are all obliged to uphold. By deliberately representing as fact that which is very much a subjective point of view, as well as by excluding alternative viewpoints, the core academic values we all share in common are subverted.

Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that the administration’s team should not present their perspective. They absolutely have that right, and there is no reason they should not exercise it. And as you are undoubtedly aware, we exercise the same right by publishing the perspectives of the WMU-AAUP. We have no wish to censor, and in fact we welcome the opportunity to participate in the free and open exchange of ideas, viewpoints, and perspectives. This is at the heart of the free inquiry we have collectively made our lives’ work. Our objection is simply to the use of university publications to present the perspective of the administration’s team as if it is the only perspective.

If fairness and neutrality are the objectives, I would suggest presenting WMU-AAUP updates alongside those that represent the administration’s views. For example:

“The latest updates on contract negotiations between WMU and the WMU-AAUP are now available online. The administration’s update can be viewed here: http://www.wmich.edu/acb/negotiations/. The WMU-AAUP’s update can be viewed here: http://wmu-aaup.com/2014/08/30/update-labor-day/.”

If fairness and neutrality are not the goals, then I would ask that the administration’s team re-read the preamble to which they have recently agreed and review the language in Article 13 that we worked together to codify in the 2011-14 Agreement. These are not just words to us. They are ideals and values that we take very seriously and follow as guiding principles. In 2011 and again in 2014, the administration agreed to do the same. Please join us, then, in this endeavor to honor and model free inquiry in our academic community and reconsider the use of university publications to advance the perspective of a single campus constituency above and to the exclusion of all others.

Sincerely,

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP

Negotiation update and call to action: Labor Day rally

Photo by David Topping

Photo by David Topping

Many thanks to everyone who came out on Thursday for the demonstration. The robust turnout – we were about 150 strong – sent a clear message that the faculty is behind the WMU-AAUP negotiation team. It also sent a strong message to our team. They were inspired, energized, and tremendously moved by your support, your determination, and your numbers. (See pictures from Thursday’s demonstration here.)

We are writing today with an update and to call upon you once again to stand up for our team at a rally at 10 a.m. on Monday morning, September 1 (yes, Labor Day), at Montague House.

After promising to present their economic proposal on Thursday (but not delivering), the administration presented it yesterday. The two teams will return to the table on Monday.

Here is a summary of the administration’s proposal:

1. Compensation:

Proposed across-the-board increases:

  • 2014-15:        1.5%
  • 2015-16:        1.5%
  • 2016-17:        1.75%

2. Retirement:

The administration has proposed to reduce the university’s TIAA/CREF retirement contribution for all faculty from the current 11 percent of salary to 9 percent without faculty contribution. If the faculty member contributes 3 percent, the university will contribute 11 percent. For our colleagues who can’t afford to make the required contributions, this amounts to a 2 percent pay cut that would disproportionately affect lower-paid faculty members.

3. Health care:

As we reported on August 19, the administration has proposed shifting a greater share of health insurance costs onto us by way of substantial increases to our premiums, which would result in reductions to our overall compensation. (Read more about the healthcare proposal here.)

Please join us at Montague House on Monday, September 1, at 10 a.m., to share your thoughts on the administration’s proposal and to demonstrate your support for our team once again. From there, we will accompany the team across the street to Walwood Hall for a specially scheduled Labor Day bargaining session to begin at 10:30 a.m.

What the administration is proposing would continue to move us in the wrong direction. As we reported in December 2013, WMU faculty are significantly out-earned by our colleagues at nearly every one of the 11 schools the administration has identified as our “peer” institutions. WMU faculty salaries among these ostensible peer institutions rank 8th for full professors, 9th for associate professors, and 10th for assistant professors. That is 8th, 9th, and 10th out of 11. Additionally, in the annual national survey of faculty salaries published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, salaries at WMU rate as “far below” the national median year after year. For 2013-14, our salaries came in at the 14th percentile nationally for full professors, the 13th percentile for associate professors, and the 9th for assistant professors. If the administration’s proposal were implemented, any improvement in our rankings would be virtually impossible.

Our team has proposed a comprehensive package that combines across-the-board increases with adjustments to overload rates and promotion increments and that sets aside additional funding to address compression, inversion, gender inequity, and other pay disparities that persist on our campus. Cynthia, Bilinda, Tom, and Onaiwu have made clear at the table that the faculty intends to achieve an overall gain in the new contract after years of moving backwards on both salary and healthcare costs, that our sacrifices deserve to be honored and our work fairly compensated, and that we are not interested in a shell game in which ostensible salary increases are more than offset by ballooning healthcare costs.

As the administration’s team noted in their email last night, the two teams are far apart on compensation. While this can be frustrating for everyone, our team does not believe that it justifies unprofessional behavior. But unfortunately, the administration’s team crossed some lines at the table yesterday. When our team made clear that they would need to take the compensation proposal back to the Executive Committee for reflection and discussion, as they have done with every proposal, and as is long-standing WMU-AAUP custom, several members of the administration’s team became antagonistic and even engaged in verbal mockery and bullying, in an apparent effort to try to pressure our team into rushing into agreement on the unacceptable proposal on offer. Our team felt that they could not in good conscience engage in a discussion on these terms, respectfully adjourned the meeting, and walked out.

If you think they deserve better, and especially if you think we all deserve better than an economic proposal that amounts essentially to a pay cut, please join me at Montague House at 10 a.m. on Monday, on Labor Day, to remind the administration that a national top 100 university invests in its faculty.

#StrongerTogether      #GoWMUAAUP

Pictures from today’s demonstration

Thanks to all who came out today for the WMU-AAUP Demonstration for Solidarity. We enjoyed fantastic weather and the camaraderie of over 140 faculty members, retired colleagues, graduate and undergraduate students, and alumni. Not a bad turnout considering that fall classes haven’t even started yet!

Your enthusiasm and determination really fired up the team, who left the demonstration energized and ready for an intense afternoon at the bargaining table.

Thank you also to those of you who took photos of the event. We will keep adding them to this page and to the WMU-AAUP Facebook page as you send them to us.

Photo by David Topping

Photo by David Topping

Photos by Larry Simon

Photos by Larry Simon

Photo by Mary-Louise Totton

Photo by Mary-Louise Totton

Photo by Mary-Louise Totton

Photo by Mary-Louise Totton

Photo by Gwen Tarbox

Photo by Gwen Tarbox

Photo by Gwen Tarbox

Photo by Gwen Tarbox

Photo by Kent Baldner

Photo by Kent Baldner

Photo by Gwen Tarbox

Photo by Gwen Tarbox

August 28: Demonstration for Solidarity

Thursday, August 28, at 12 noon
Seibert Administration Building

Aug28_flier

With negotiations intensifying and economic issues on the table, the board-appointed faculty will convene at 12 noon on Thursday, August 28, for a demonstration of solidarity in front of the Seibert administration building. We will make the case for honoring commitments, for treating all members of the university community with dignity and respect, and for fair compensation for our work.

All board-appointed faculty colleagues are strongly urged to attend, as are family members, retirees, and colleagues from other WMU employee groups who wish to show their solidarity. We also welcome students, alumni, and community members who value the work we do on behalf of Western Michigan University and on behalf of this community.

The time has come for us to stand up for our WMU-AAUP negotiation team and for the future of Western Michigan University.

Negotiation Update and Call to Action

Letter to the Faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick
August 19, 2014

Negotiation Update and Invitation to Demonstration for Solidarity
THURSDAY, AUGUST 28, 12 NOON

SEIBERT ADMINISTRATION BUILDING

As all good things must come to an end, the days are getting shorter and the end of the summer approaches. Similarly, the spirit of collegiality that we have strived for at the bargaining table since the beginning of our negotiations is becoming strained. After lengthy delays in providing us with the information we requested beginning in January about employee healthcare at WMU (some of which still has yet to be provided), the administration finally brought to the table last week their first specific proposal on the topic of faculty and retiree health insurance benefits. Despite the growing tension, our WMU-AAUP negotiation team continues to approach each bargaining session with the utmost professionalism and with the same thoughtful and meticulous preparation they have demonstrated throughout the negotiation process thus far.

The healthcare proposal that the administration brought to our team last week would shift a much greater share of the costs of our health insurance onto us and away from the employer, escalating a trend that has been underway for a number of years at WMU. As we reported in the July 1 negotiation update, board-appointed faculty already pay the highest insurance premiums of any employee group at WMU, a rate that is the same as what senior administrative officers pay, even though the median and mean salaries of that employee group are of course significantly greater than ours.

Additionally, the administration proposed last week to cut and eventually eliminate retiree health benefits for the overwhelming majority of current faculty and not to offer it at all to new faculty hires beginning in 2015. Today, they reversed their position on current faculty and agreed to continue to provide existing retiree health benefits, as outlined in Article 33, to all current faculty but are still proposing not to offer it to new hires beginning next year. (For information about these retirement health benefits, please see the 2011-14 Agreement, linked here, and scroll to Article 33.)

You can read our summary and analysis of the administration’s proposal here. You can see the administration’s proposal in its entirety here.

Our team has made clear that they cannot in good conscience support what is being proposed. Last Friday, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee, comprising the chapter officers and your elected faculty representatives from each college, in consultation with our team, voted unanimously to reject the proposal.

As we have noted throughout this process, the members of our team, individually and collectively, are committed to conducting themselves according to the highest standards of professionalism. And from day one they have delivered, basing their proposals on research-based inquiry and evidence-based argumentation, as is appropriate in proceedings at an institution of higher learning. They have not wavered from their commitment to honoring the values that function as our guiding principles as faculty members: free inquiry, academic excellence, shared governance, collaboration, and transparency. And they have made it clear that they have no intention of wavering now or at any time in the future.

Our team continues to insist on mutually respectful proceedings, and this includes when it comes to the nature of the proposals that the two sides bring forward for consideration at the table. The faculty must be treated as the respected members of the university community that we know we are. The university must hold up its end of the bargain by honoring the commitments it has made to all of us, just as we honor our commitments to the institution and to its many stakeholders, often in ways that go far beyond what we are paid or contracted to do and often at significant personal cost. We serve this university because we believe deeply in its mission and in our charge to carry out that mission. We give of ourselves in ways that cannot be quantified or counted but that must never be taken for granted nor cynically exploited. Unfortunately, too often, they are. We are.

Because of the insistence of our WMU-AAUP team on fair and respectful treatment of the faculty, it is possible that negotiations may continue into September before we come to agreement on the remaining contract articles, which include healthcare, compensation, and workload.

Let me be clear about this: A delayed resolution is not what our team wants. (That they also did not want a delayed start to the bargaining and informed the administration in February that they were ready to begin on March 28 would be immaterial, except that the administration’s team would now like to try to hold us responsible for delays in progress at the table. If we would just agree to everything they want, they seem to suggest, we could have finished up months ago.) Like all of us, Cynthia, Bilinda, Tom, and Onaiwu have classes to prepare for, new students to meet, and all the demands of their work as faculty members awaiting their return from the table. But they will not settle for a new contract that chips away at our professional autonomy, places at risk the academic mission of the institution, or imposes a level of compensation that disregards or devalues our role in the success of this university.

But our team needs your help if they are to achieve the goals that we as the faculty have set out for them, and the time has come for us to deliver on their behalf and to begin the process of making sure our voices are heard loudly and clearly.

I am not speaking metaphorically here: I am asking you to join us at noon on Thursday, August 28, for a demonstration of solidarity in front of the Seibert administration building.

All board-appointed faculty colleagues are strongly urged to attend, as are family members, retirees, and colleagues from other WMU employee groups who wish to show their solidarity. We also welcome students, alumni, and community members who value the work we do on behalf of Western Michigan University and on behalf of this community.

After today, to accommodate the vacation plans of a key member of the administration’s team, the two teams will not meet again until August 28. I urge you to join me on that date to make the case for honoring commitments, for treating all members of the university community with dignity and respect, and for compensating us fairly for the work we do here.

When I began work here 10 years ago this month, I could not have been more proud to be a member of the board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University and to be a member of the WMU chapter of the American Association of University Professors. Like many of you, my family and I had to make hard choices and real sacrifices so that we could come here. My husband was generous: He gave up his secure, fulfilling, and good-paying job in Atlanta, one that offered promising opportunities for advancement, so that I could accept my first-choice job offer. He took a significant cut in pay in order to do so. He has since started his own business here in Kalamazoo, and among his employees today is a wonderful WMU alumnus who started when he was an undergraduate student working part time, stayed on through his graduate program, and now works full time with the company.

One of the best things about the job of chapter president is the opportunity to meet and get to know colleagues all over campus with whom I might not otherwise have crossed paths. Having spoken with many of you over the past year, I know that a lot of you have stories like mine, or variations on the theme. Our families – yours, mine, all of ours – have given much to this community and to WMU, most of it completely unknown, unacknowledged, and unsung outside our own homes. For our term-appointed colleagues, the sacrifices are just as great, yet the rewards are fewer. But I know I speak for many of our colleagues when I say that we are proud to serve and to give of ourselves in this way.

But that does not mean we will stand by and allow ourselves to be treated disrespectfully or to be pressured into making bad decisions out of fear. On the contrary, it is all the more reason why we will not and why our team will not give in to unreasonable and insulting demands. We will never stop being respectful or professional. That is who we are. As the board-appointed faculty of this university, we understand the high standards we must uphold and model for our students and for the community, and I am proud to serve and to stand with all of you.

But we will absolutely not stand for it if our respect for this institution is not reciprocated, or if there is any chance that commitments made to us will not be honored.

I look forward to seeing you all on August 28.

#GoWMUAAUP     #StrongerTogether

In solidarity,
Lisa