Letter from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick
August 31, 2017
With the 2014-17 Agreement between the WMU-AAUP and the WMU Board of Trustees set to expire at midnight on Tuesday, September 5, we remain optimistic that our bargaining team and the administration’s team will reach a tentative agreement (TA) by the deadline.
However, we need to be prepared in the event that the two sides do not reach a TA by midnight on Tuesday.
This message serves as notice to the faculty that if the two teams do not come to a tentative agreement by the deadline, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee requests that all bargaining-unit faculty be prepared to participate in a “work to rule” labor action and withdraw from all work outside our contract and letters of appointment, effective at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 2017.
The teams have been at the table for more than five months now, and our team has worked tirelessly to bring us a fair contract and to complete negotiations in a timely way, even agreeing to start bargaining on the Monday after spring break, which is considerably earlier than usual. If the two teams do not reach a tentative agreement by midnight on September 5, the unresolved issues will be compensation and healthcare.
Faculty salaries at WMU remain below those of our those of our colleagues at peer institutions, while the costs to us for health insurance have increased sharply in recent years for faculty as well as staff. If the administration’s team gets its way, many faculty and staff colleagues will experience significant economic hardship. Some already do as a result of previous insurance premium spikes. Meanwhile, senior administrators prosper, enjoying large salaries, perks, and in some cases even substantial cash bonuses. As a percentage of salary, their insurance premiums, which in dollars are the same as ours, are surely far more manageable. This institutionalized inequity is unacceptable. We do understand the budget and finance challenges facing the institution. But we also know that every institution has choices about how to invest its resources. And we disagree with an administration whose priorities have gone far adrift from our collective academic mission. 
As is well known on campus, all WMU faculty (and staff) perform a massive amount of work beyond what we are hired and paid to do. The institution is heavily dependent on these goodwill donations of labor.
In “working to rule,” we demonstrate to the administration, Board of Trustees, campus community, and the public that the faculty and staff of Western Michigan University are its heart, its soul, and its conscience; that we are dedicated to this institution and especially to its students; that it would be impossible for the institution to honor its commitments and its mission without our goodwill donations of labor; that the value of our uncompensated work saves the university far more than it would cost to compensate all of us fairly; and that we are aware of our value to WMU and demand that our contributions and those of our staff colleagues be respected and appropriately compensated.
A “work to rule” labor action is not a strike. Nor is it a work slowdown or stoppage. It is simply a demonstration that we are fully aware of the extent to which our institution not only benefits from but cannot do without the uncompensated work we and our staff colleagues regularly perform. “Work to rule” is a lawful, peaceful labor action. We will continue to comply fully with the contract.
“Work to rule” actions can take different forms and vary widely across industries, institutions, and professions. For us, “work to rule” means that we would continue to do the work we are hired and paid to do (the “rule” is our union contract along with our letters of appointment) but that we would do only that work. We would suspend – immediately and indefinitely – the extensive volunteer work that we donate to the institution.
While by law the WMU-AAUP can bargain only on behalf of the 900 members of the Board-appointed faculty, it is well known on campus that most of WMU’s other employee groups also receive many of the benefits we win at the table and endure the same cuts that are imposed on us.
We will act, then, if a TA is not reached by midnight Tuesday, not only on behalf of the 900 members of our WMU-AAUP bargaining unit but also in solidarity with our staff colleagues, many of whom are not protected by unions and none of whom outside of our unit are protected by tenure.
Click here to learn more about what a work-to-rule action might look like at WMU, including why we believe that the possible impacts on our students will be minimal if any, the kinds of work this type of action is likely to involve, and how tenured faculty can help to protect pre-tenure and term-appointed colleagues during a work-to-rule action (or any other labor action).
Finally, I include here a reminder that all bargaining-unit members should plan to join us for a special chapter meeting on Tuesday, September 5 (3:30-4:30pm in 157 Bernhard) to discuss the status of our contract negotiations and the logistics of a work-to-rule action should the two sides not reach a TA by midnight on the 5th. After the meeting, we hope to see you at Montague House for the WMU-AAUP Fall BBQ (5-7pm), where we will rally for our team at 6:20pm and accompany them across the street to Walwood Hall as they head back to the table for their final scheduled bargaining session before the midnight deadline. (More details about these events are available here.)
If we do not have a contract by midnight on September 5, expect a call from the chapter leadership for all WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit members to withdraw immediately from all the voluntary yet essential work that we regularly perform beyond our full contractual workloads.
Many thanks to all of you for standing with our team throughout this long and grueling negotiation cycle. Your energy, smarts, collegiality, generosity, humor, and dedication to Western Michigan University and especially to our students are inspiring and remind us every day of why what we are fighting for is so important.
Thank you also in advance for bearing with us for a little longer, staying strong until we have a fair contract, and being prepared to work to rule if the teams do not reach a tentative agreement by midnight on Tuesday.
See you on September 5!
Lisa C. Minnick
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University
814 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008
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 The linked documents are extracts from an analysis by Dr. Howard Bunsis, Professor of Accounting at Eastern Michigan University and immediate past chair of the national AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress. Howard’s full analysis is linked here.
Thank you Lisa for continuing to recognize WMU staff in your negotiations to protect and improve the compensation and healthcare benefits of faculty for the next WMU-AAUP contract. Efforts of many Staff Compensation System Employees to organize have been unsuccessful, so I, for one, especially appreciate the other unions’ accomplishments that trickle down to us. Keep up the hard work to represent and support our praiseworthy faculty that make WMU a great place to work and study.