Negotiation Update for June 6

As we reported in the previous update (dated May 28 and linked here), our team proposed a new Preamble to the Agreement that prioritizes academic values and the collaborative nature of the university enterprise. (You can view that draft Preamble here in pdf format.)

Initially, as we reported, the administration seemed open to engaging with the ideas and language that our team put forward but later seemed to reconsider. After further discussion, they have now offered to bring to the table their own proposal for a revised Preamble. We are hopeful that it will follow our example to enshrine the values of academic freedom, shared governance, and collaboration between faculty and administration, in order to reflect our mutual commitment to articulating and modeling these values for our students and for the benefit of the institution. We will of course keep you informed about what develops.

The administration’s team has also presented a proposal that would make substantial changes to Article 12: Grievance Procedure. In their draft, they propose to collapse the distinctions between the various types of grievances described in the current Agreement. At present, four types of grievances are described in §8.1- §8.4 of Article 12:

  • Type A, cases involving “dismissal for cause, suspension, or other financial penalty.”
  • Type B, involving “appointment, reappointment, termination, layoff, tenure, or promotion.”
  • Type C, comprising “all other grievances not designated as Type A, B, or D.”
  • Type D, “layoff grievance involving seniority.”

We believe that faculty rights should be stated as clearly, transparently, and unambiguously as possible and that revising Article 12 to remove the descriptions of potentially grievable situations would run counter to that goal. Further, deletion of the language in the description of the Type B grievance would result in the faculty’s loss of an existing right to a hearing in cases involving “appointment, reappointment, termination, layoff, tenure, or promotion.” In other words, the administration’s proposed revision would essentially eliminate the faculty member’s first step in our long-established grievance process.

The administration has also proposed to strike from Article 12 the faculty’s right to arbitration in cases of what the Agreement calls “dismissal for cause.” In our view, this is a clear encroachment on the fundamental right to due process.

Most of you will not need to be reminded about the case last year of a faculty member whose wrongful termination was reversed as the result of successful arbitration brought by the WMU-AAUP. Thanks to the arbitrator’s ruling, he has been fully reinstated to his faculty position. Without the right to arbitrate his dismissal, this colleague would still be out of a job, even though the arbitrator found that the dismissal had not in fact been “for cause” and that the faculty member’s contractual rights had been violated by the administration.

(You can read more about this case in the WMU-AAUP Bulletin, Summer 2013, Issue 2, linked here in pdf format.)

Without the right to take cases like these to arbitration, it would be far more difficult, expensive, and time-consuming for faculty members to challenge such wrongful terminations and for the Chapter to do so on their behalf. Our team’s counter-proposal for Article 12 therefore retains all existing faculty rights. It also adds to them the right to arbitration in Type D grievances, “layoff grievances involving seniority.” Type D grievances are currently the only type not subject to arbitration.

Our conversations with faculty in departments across WMU over the past several months, along with the preliminary results of the faculty survey, make clear that our colleagues place a high value on improving the campus climate and want to see a real commitment to shared governance and administrative transparency on our campus. The administration’s proposal for Article 12 suggests that they are moving in the wrong direction. But our team is making a strong case for faculty values, will not give up any faculty rights, and will continue to fight to expand these rights.

Cynthia, Bilinda, Onaiwu, and Tom continue to meet frequently and are spending most of their time when they are not at the table conducting meticulous research on the issues that matter most to the faculty and crafting proposals and responses. They have been working tirelessly on the faculty’s behalf and are phenomenally well prepared for this project. The hours are long, but their spirits remain high. Your messages of solidarity are a wonderful source of support.

You can continue to expect regular updates as the bargaining process goes on. And you can catch up any time on negotiation news by following the WMU-AAUP on Facebook and Twitter and of course by visiting us here on the blog.

As always, we invite your questions and feedback. The team appreciates your calls and emails, and they encourage you to keep them coming, along with your notes, tweets, and Facebook posts to express your support and solidarity.

Also, we hope to see you and your families at the ice cream social and negotiation rally at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 17, at Montague House. Enjoy ice cream sundaes from Cold Stone Creamery while you show your solidarity, get the latest negotiation news, and cheer on our team as they return from the bargaining table. (More info about the event is here.)

Our team is doing an outstanding job, but their best leverage comes from the visible and vocal support of the faculty. A good turnout for the ice cream social and rally on the 17th will help to send the message that the faculty is behind the team and paying close attention to what is happening at the table. We hope to see you there!

#GoWMUAAUP                          #StrongerTogether

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