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