CALL TO ACTION: Contract expires Sept. 5; stand with our team!

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

August 30, 2017

Dear colleagues:

As most of you are aware, our three-year agreement with the administration will expire next Tuesday, September 5, at midnight. Of course, Tuesday is also the first day of classes for the 2017-18 academic year. This means that we faculty have a lot happening on the 5th, not to mention a lot on our plates already as we prepare our classes and get ready to meet our students.

But I am asking you today – all of you — to take on just a little more. Our WMU-AAUP bargaining team needs your support as they prepare for the last few bargaining sessions before the contract expires next week. They will need it especially as they head back to the table on the evening of Tuesday the 5th for the final scheduled session in advance of the midnight deadline.

Our team has been negotiating with the administration’s team for more than five months and has already achieved a lot on our behalf. But as we all know, the last issues left to resolve are also among the most contentious: compensation and healthcare. And we are going to need to use our leverage — that means acting collectively to support our team — to help them get us the kind of outcome we want and deserve.

To make this happen, here is where our team needs you to be next Tuesday, September 5:

1. SPECIAL CHAPTER MEETING (3:30-4:30 p.m., 157 Bernhard) to discuss the status of our contract negotiations along with possible labor actions if the teams do not reach a tentative agreement by midnight on the 5th. If you don’t have to teach at that time, please do whatever you can to arrange your schedule so that you can attend the meeting. (Note: This meeting is for all bargaining-unit members, not just your department and college reps.)

2. FALL BBQ (5-7 p.m., Montague House, 814 Oakland Drive). Come over to the BBQ straight from the chapter meeting or stop home to pick up your family on the way. If you aren’t teaching Tuesday evening, we need you at Montague House. We’ll have Big Moe’s BBQ, lots of vegetarian sides, yummy desserts, fun for the kiddos, and of course lots of refreshing adult beverages, which we’re probably going to need, especially if the negotiations continue late into the night as they have in past negotiation cycles.

3. RALLY (6:20 p.m., Montague House). If you’re already planning to be at the BBQ, this is an easy one. But whatever your plans, unless you’ll be in class, please make a point of showing up for the rally. We will assemble at Montague House and then accompany our team across the street for their 6:30 p.m. bargaining session, the last session before the 2014-17 contract expires at midnight.

Despite the many demands and challenges of this lengthy and grueling negotiation cycle, Cynthia, Whitney, Bruce, Jeremy, and Michael have not let up, and they have assured the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee that they have no intention of slowing down now. The important and encouraging gains they’ve made at the table in recent weeks are evidence of that.

But to finish strong, they are going to need us to turn out for them next Tuesday like never before.

Thank you for all you’ve done to support our team up to now and in advance for doing everything you can to turn out for them on Tuesday. Your vocal, visible support – in the largest numbers possible – is what it’s going to take to get the contract we want and deserve. Together, we can make it happen.

See you on September 5.

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WMUAAUP2017

In solidarity,
Lisa

P.S. As we wrote last week, we all want very much for this contract to be resolved by the deadline. However, we are going to need to be prepared for possible actions to take on September 6 in the event that the two teams do not reach a tentative agreement by midnight on on the 5th. We will be sending you more information about this tomorrow.

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University
814 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008
(269) 345-0151

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Faculty (and staff) claps back at admin’s midnight email blast

Photo by Kent Baldner, Department of Philosophy

Since the administration’s mass email arrived in our inboxes just after midnight on Saturday, August 19, we have been hearing from our colleagues about what they think of the administration’s proposals and what they are looking for in our next contract. We share here some of what they had to say.

(Got something to add? Comment on this post or email us!)

A faculty colleague in the Haworth College of Business writes:

“That email from the admin actually makes me feel so much better about your efforts. I have even more energy and support for our union.

“How much did the admin spend on the renovation to Heritage Hall? How much in the negative does our athletic department run? How much were we willing to pay PJ Fleck to stay another 10 years? I bet all these answers are 20 million plus or close to it. It is all about priorities.

“The email from the admin makes them look misguided. They have lost their way. The WMU experience begins and ends and revolves around the faculty. We are the bridge to our students, alumni, employers, etc., and all other constituents. The admin is supposed to support and reward us and often they do neither.

“I will be fine either way. I just feel terrible for the majority of my colleagues who really struggle to maintain a quality of life that should be had with our profession. We need a gesture of good faith from the admin to end this nonsense and set a new tone for a better relationship where we can move forward together.

“I will see you on Wednesday!”

He adds: 

“I am assuming whoever sent this email in the middle of the night was intoxicated. The administration owes us an apology for sending an emotionally charged email on the weekend in the middle of the night and on a Sunday morning. It is very rude, inappropriate, and unprofessional. It speaks to how they value the faculty, but still, no excuse. They may as well have knocked on my door Saturday night.”

From the College of Fine Arts:

What Do We Want?

“An employment agreement that enhances the quality and character of the faculty and the institution!”

A CFA union rep agrees: “There’s something to get behind!”

A faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences writes:

“I can only imagine what other faculty are going to have to do in order not to go under water financially if this current offer is accepted in any form. The Michigan economy is on an uptick. In spite of insane things happening in Washington, D.C., the overall economy is strong. There is no reason for this to be happening.

“I know that the team must have worked their butts off and be feeling really demoralized by the admin. I support the team’s efforts, and am grateful for all that the team has done!”

An administrative staff colleague writes:

I’m a staff member. I took a pay cut 18 years ago to come to WMU for the great benefits. I hope I don’t regret that decision.

Contract expires September 5, demonstration at Seibert August 23

Teams still far apart on compensation and healthcare
Demonstration at Seibert admin building Wed. 8/23 at 1 p.m.

After 29 bargaining sessions and with fewer than three weeks left before the contract between the WMU-AAUP and Western Michigan University expires, our team is still hard at work negotiating a fair contract that protects faculty rights and moves us forward economically. At this point in the negotiations, they have accomplished a great deal. They have successfully negotiated and reached tentative agreements on 10 contract articles with a handful of articles still open but close to resolution.

The two teams have had lengthy discussions about health care insurance costs. In response to the administration’s team’s proposal to change the design of our health insurance plan, our team has worked with the administration to model the effects of these changes on premiums. We recognize that health care costs are uncertain and that they are likely to increase over the next three years. Based on feedback from our members, our position has always been that the cost of our premiums must be contained. Therefore, to control these costs, our team was willing to consider the administration’s proposals for plan design changes.

On August 8, the administration’s team presented their proposal for Article 33: Health Care Benefits and Insurance. They propose raising premiums in 2019 and 2020 and increasing deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket maximums, as well as adding 10 percent “coinsurance,” meaning that instead of receiving 100 percent coverage, we would be expected to pay 10 percent of the total cost of a service or office visit after deductible is met up to the annual out-of-pocket max. In addition, they propose decreasing faculty benefits at Sindecuse by reducing the pharmacy discount and eliminating the no-copay no-deductible services available at Sindecuse and at the Unified Clinics. Their proposal also includes cutting the number of covered chiropractic visits per year by half and implementing prescription drug preauthorization in some cases (“step therapy”).

Given the extent of these proposed changes, our team has insisted that if we were to accept them, then the faculty must receive salary adjustments that more than offset these increased costs. However, the administration’s most recent proposal for Article 32: Economic Compensation, which they brought after we worked in good faith with the administration to significantly narrow the gap on health insurance costs, would increase across-the-board raises by only 0.25% more than their previous proposal. Moreover, their proposal included zero adjustments to salary minima, overload rates, and promotion increments.

This is where you come in:

Stand with our team and demand a fair contract!
WMU-AAUP demonstration at Seibert on Wednesday, Aug. 23, at 1 p.m.

As you read these words, we are less than three weeks away from the expiration of our contract on Tuesday, September 5, at midnight. The negotiations will almost certainly continue right up to the 5th. In the coming weeks, the team still has a lot of work to do to win a healthcare package and salary increases that will move the faculty unequivocally forward. They have been at it for months and have made a powerful and well-informed case based on research, data, and logic.

But because contract negotiations are inherently asymmetric, making the stronger case is not always enough. The university administration is management, and as management, they control the resources.

However, they don’t control the 900 of us, and that is where we come in. Our leverage is in our numbers, and the time has come for us to deliver on our team’s behalf and make sure our voices are heard loudly and clearly.

What our team needs now, and what we all need now, is for YOU to do everything YOU can to show your support, loudly and publicly. We need YOU to engage in the important work that has to happen away from the table to ensure our team’s success at the table. The way we keep up the pressure on the other side is with our visible, vocal support. The time is NOW.

All board-appointed faculty colleagues are strongly urged to attend, as are family members, retirees, and colleagues from other WMU employee groups who want to stand in solidarity because they understand that we are all in this together.

We also welcome students, alumni, community members, and other allies who value the work we do on behalf of Western Michigan University and on behalf of this community.

#StrongerTogether
#GoWMUAAUP

Rally for our team any time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @wmuaaup. They appreciate your messages of support!

 

Rally for healthcare and compensation July 25

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa C. Minnick


Rally for Healthcare and Compensation: Tuesday, July 25
Meet at Montague House (814 Oakland Drive) at 1 p.m.
We’ll walk our team across the street to Walwood for their 1:30 session.


July 21, 2017

Dear colleagues,

If you care about your healthcare costs and overall compensation, now is the time to stand with your team.

Please plan to attend a rally next Tuesday, July 25, at Montague House. We will gather at 1 p.m. for an update from our WMU-AAUP bargaining team and then accompany them across the street to Walwood for their negotiation session at 1:30.

The administration wants to shift a greater share of the costs of health insurance onto us, escalating a trend that has been underway for a number of years at WMU. The cost-shifts they are proposing would affect premium equivalents, copays, deductibles, and annual out-of-pocket maximums. Everything we can be made to pay more for, they want us to pay more for it. They are also proposing to reduce coverage and access. In other words, they would like for us to pay more to get less.

As faculty know all too well, escalating employee costs for insurance already cause financial hardship to members of our bargaining unit, especially those with salaries on the lower end of the scale whose insurance premiums eat up a significant percentage of their annual earnings.

The faculty has been adamant that we will not accept an increase to the cost burden we already bear and equally adamant that we are not open to taking a pay cut.

Now the administration needs to hear it directly from you.

As I wrote to you on May 31, our 2017 team is one of the strongest and best prepared in the chapter’s history, and they are giving 100 percent on our behalf every single day. But without the visible, vocal support of the faculty, there is only so much that any five people are going to be able achieve at the bargaining table.

Bottom line: Labor relations are inherently asymmetrical. Our leverage is in our numbers, period. And when we turn out in large numbers, we are very, very powerful. I am sure everyone – including the administration and the Board of Trustees – remembers how that worked in 2014.

On May 31, I asked you all to be prepared to be called to action. This is that call, or at least the first of these calls. Please carve out an hour of your time on Tuesday, bring your family, and help us make it clear to the administration that we have no intention of moving backwards.

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WMUAAUP2017

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University
814 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008
(269) 345-0151

“Like” the WMU-AAUP on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.
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Image of faculty members marching and carrying signs in support of WMU-AAUP bargaining team (2014).

Join protest against “imminent” Saudi executions of 14 young men, including WMU student

Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat. (Source: Reprieve, a British human rights organization.)


We join our colleagues at AFT-Michigan, along with our AFT-affiliated colleagues here at WMU, the Professional Instructors Organization (PIO) and Teaching Assistants Union (TAU), in condemning in the strongest possible terms the death sentence of admitted WMU student Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat. We are horrified and outraged by the grotesque human rights violations that his arrest, imprisonment, and especially his imminent execution constitute.

A citizen of Saudi Arabia, Mr. Al-Sweikat was admitted to Western Michigan University to begin classes in the fall of 2013 but has never attended the university. In 2012, when he was 17, he was arrested at the airport on his way to the United States. He was charged with participating in pro-democracy demonstrations, convicted, and sentenced to death. He has been in prison ever since.

Reports are now coming out that his execution is “imminent,” according to the London-based human rights advocacy organization Reprieve.

PLEASE CALL THE WHITE HOUSE AT (202) 456-1111 to urge the president, who has developed a close relationship with the Saudi king, to use his influence with the king to try to stop this horrific miscarriage of justice and heinous violation of human rights.

Please also consider signing the petition linked here as a way to stand in solidarity with Mr. Al-Sweikat and 13 other young men sentenced to death along with him for participating in peaceful demonstrations.

Read more about Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat:

From AFT:

From Reprieve:

Rally on Monday, April 24, to support our bargaining team


Monday, April 24, at 2:30 p.m.
Montague House — 814 Oakland Drive


The semester is winding down, but contract negotiations are heating up!

Take a break from your grading, bring your signs, and let’s show our WMU-AAUP bargaining team that we have their backs!

Before the faculty disperses for the summer, we need a strong show of support for our team as they prepare to bargain economic articles in May. A large turnout will send a strong message to the team that the faculty is behind them and alerts the administration that we are ready to take action as needed. All bargaining-unit faculty should plan to attend this important event. We also welcome retired faculty as well as students, staff, alumni, family, friends, and other allies.

Join us!

Easy parking at Walwood Hall and WMU Lot 10 or 11 (the Little Theater). Please don’t park at the medical school. Their management is not nice about it.

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Click to enlarge flier.