President Dunn Must Resist Legislative Interference at WMU


Update #1 at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26 (see below)

Update #2 at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26 (click here)

As many of you are aware, the WMU Professional Instructors Organization (PIO), the bargaining unit for our part-time faculty colleagues, has been in negotiations with the university administration since last November, in advance of the August 1, 2013, expiration of their current contract. Last Friday, the PIO and the administration reached a final tentative agreement, and the PIO leadership submitted it to their members for ratification. The administration’s negotiation team agreed to schedule the ratification vote for the next meeting of the WMU Board of Trustees, on Wednesday, February 27.

However, on Friday evening, the PIO leadership was informed that the administration would not move to ratify the tentative agreement after all because of concerns about a statement issued last week by Rep. Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville), chair of the Michigan House higher education appropriations subcommittee, who has threatened to penalize state universities that extend or renew a non-expiring contract before the new “right-to-work” laws go into effect at the end of March. PIO’s contract is set to expire later this year, and negotiations have been underway for over three months.

The PIO tentative agreement should be taken up for ratification at the Board of Trustees meeting on February 27, as the administration has previously agreed to do. We call on President Dunn and the Board of Trustees to honor that commitment.

We want the PIO to have a ratified contract this week. But we ask that all WMU-AAUP members be ready to stand in solidarity with our PIO colleagues if we are called to do so. And we don’t just mean that metaphorically: We may be called upon to turn out in support of PIO as early as tomorrow.

We further call on President Dunn to resist this inappropriate legislative pressure and to defend WMU against spurious claims on the parts of legislators and some members of the media that negotiations between the university’s administrators and its faculty or staff are in any way underhanded. As you all are aware, the new “right-to-work” laws will go into effect at the end of March. However, they are not yet in effect, and the WMU-AAUP therefore rejects any attempt to try to frame conversations and agreements between WMU faculty and administration, including the PIO negotiations as well as those of our own proposed union security agreement (USA), as if they are illegal or improper. They are not.

To date, President Dunn has refused to meet with Chapter leadership to discuss the USA, citing the passage of the “right-to-work” bills as “the will of the people,” which he says he must respect. The WMU-AAUP rejects that characterization. The bills were passed by a lame-duck state legislature that bypassed the standard committee hearing process and disallowed public comment. Citizens were literally locked out of the Capitol while the bills were debated and voted on. And the bills include an appropriations provision deliberately inserted to make them referendum-proof. This is hardly “the will of the people.”

Like all public universities in Michigan, Western Michigan University has constitutional autonomy, which is the right to self-governance, overseen at WMU by our Board of Trustees. We believe that it is inappropriate for lawmakers to try to subvert this important constitutional provision by threatening to withhold funding if they do not get their way on our campus, and we are deeply concerned about the kinds of control they may try to exert on our institution in the future if we do not stand up to them this time. It is imperative that President Dunn make this case on behalf of WMU, and we pledge to stand in solidarity with him when he does so.

Please stay tuned for updates regarding possible action.

Update (12:30 p.m. on February 26): 

Kevin Wordelman of PIO writes:

PIO leaders are meeting at 4 PM today with WMU’s representatives to find out where we stand. If WMU refuses to ratify, we need to act fast. We are considering ALL options, but we are giving WMU one last chance to do the right thing.

The first Board of Trustees meeting of the year (and the last until April) is tomorrow, Wednesday, at 1 PM in room 157 of the Bernhard Center.

We need you to stand with us at the meeting. If WMU ratifies, we will celebrate victory, if not, we will protest WMU’s failure to keep its promise.

Please clear your schedule tomorrow from 12:30 – 2:30 and join us!

AAUP colleagues, we urge you to come out tomorrow to stand with our PIO colleagues!