FAQs: What is “work to rule”?

What is a “work to rule” labor action?

If the two bargaining teams do not reach a tentative agreement by midnight on September 5, 2017, all WMU-AAUP faculty will be called on to withdraw immediately from all work outside our contract and letters of appointment, effective at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6.

“Work to rule” means that we will continue to do what we are hired and paid to do – the “rule” is our union contract along with our letters of appointment – but that we would suspend – immediately and indefinitely – the extensive volunteer work that we donate to the institution. We will continue to comply fully with the contract.

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.

What kinds of work is this type of action likely to involve?

All faculty members can list examples of extra work they perform, a lot of it routinely and some for limited periods of time. Since faculty disciplines as well as department and college cultures can vary so widely across WMU, you may be asked or expected to participate in uncompensated overload work activities that colleagues in other departments or colleges have never been asked to do, and vice versa. This makes it difficult to provide examples that will apply to everyone, although the list below is probably general enough to give you an idea of what this kind of work can look like. From there, you can identify a list that applies to you individually along with other examples that may be characteristic of (and possibly unique to) your department and/or college.

Some general examples of the kinds of work many faculty members have been expected to perform (and that most if not all of us do perform) and that are therefore appropriate to suspend under a “work to rule” action include the following:

  • We will not respond to emails, phone calls, text messages or other communications from our chairs, deans, or other administrators outside regular business hours, despite expectations from some that faculty are or should be available and responsive at all hours of every day. For many of us, these communications are excessive, intrusive, and burdensome, and the pressure to respond immediately has become a significant factor in work-related stress.
  • We will not volunteer to serve on committees or otherwise provide professional service to the institution in excess of our contractually agreed-upon workloads.
  • We will not participate in fundraising, marketing, recruiting, strategic planning, or accreditation activities on behalf of the institution, nor in any other administrative initiatives, when these tasks would exceed our full contractually agreed-upon workloads.
  • Any and all work that constitutes overload but is not compensated, even if it is work that would be acceptable as part of a contractual workload, will be suspended under work-to-rule.

How would a “work to rule” action impact our students?

We expect that the impact on students would be minimal. Here’s why:

While much of the uncompensated work of faculty (as well as staff) is performed for the direct benefit of our students, we understand and appreciate that most faculty and staff would never withdraw from work that serves students directly, including under a work-to-rule action.

However, it is disappointing that instead of honoring our dedication to our students, many members of the administration have come to expect and some may even feel entitled to the generous contributions of faculty (and staff) time, energy, and labor, including the extensive and often difficult emotional labor, that go far beyond what we are hired and paid to do but that many of us perform regularly in the course of our service to our students. We recognize that much of this labor results from insufficient support systems and resources to meet the needs of our students and to support the work of faculty and staff and call on the administration to do better at prioritizing these needs.

However, we are also asked or expected to perform many uncompensated tasks for which our withdrawal will have minimal or zero impacts on students, and it is these activities we call on all members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit to withdraw from if a tentative agreement is not reached by the deadline.

Is it safe for pre-tenure and term-appointed faculty to participate in a work-to-rule action? How can tenured faculty help to protect those who don’t have tenure?

It is important to emphasize again that “work to rule” is a lawful labor action. It is not a strike, not a work slowdown, and not a work stoppage.

However, we can appreciate the possible apprehension of colleagues who are not protected by tenure. And while we believe that the more faculty who participate in any labor action, the safer all of our colleagues will be, regardless of tenure status, we understand that term-appointed faculty may feel especially vulnerable to nonrenewal as a consequence of their participation. We condemn any kind of retaliation against those who would participate in lawful, peaceful labor actions and wish our colleagues did not feel that they should have to fear for their jobs. The job insecurity experienced by term-appointed faculty (as well as our part-time faculty colleagues) is ultimately as unhealthy for the institution as it is for these individuals.

For those of us who enjoy the protection of tenure, it is critically important that we join together to protect our pre-tenure and term-appointed colleagues. We will need to make sure these colleagues remain free from unreasonable and noncontractual additions to their workloads during our work-to-rule action, should we have to engage in one. We will also need to protect from retaliation those who participate in the action. We remind everyone that the first would be a violation of Article 42 our contract, while the second would be illegal. The WMU-AAUP Chapter will actively pursue all available remedies should any such violations occur against any of our bargaining-unit members.

Finally, if you are tenured, in the event that we do end up having to implement work-to-rule because the two teams do not reach a TA by the deadline, please be prepared to inform your chair or director, dean, and the interim provost on Wednesday, September 6, of what you are doing and why. Please also draw their attention to the importance of not burdening untenured colleagues, staff, or part-time faculty with extra work to try to compensate for our labor action. And please emphasize to them the importance of not risking the appearance of retaliation (or actual retaliation) against untenured colleagues or any other faculty who participate in this or any other lawful labor actions. Note: There is of course no need to be confrontational in these contacts. Our objective is simply to educate and inform.

Got more questions? Call us at 345-0151, drop us an email, or just comment below.

Click here for WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick’s August 31 work-to-rule letter to the faculty. 

Quick negotiation update and 6/23 happy hour invitation

Our WMU-AAUP bargaining team has been focused these past few weeks on the critical issues of workload and overall compensation, including salary and health care. While the work is arduous and movement on these contentious issues can be slow at times, our team is slowly but steadily making progress toward securing a strong contract for the faculty.

We will have more to report on these issues in the next few weeks, but here is a quick update on what’s been happening at the bargaining table:

Article 42: Work of the Unit. 

The teams are close to a tentative agreement on Article 42, including new language that reinforces institutional support for faculty working with students with documented disabilities. The need for support has become a significant issue for faculty and students, and our team has worked hard to address it in the contract. They have also negotiated successfully to protect current contract language on workload maximums, which are preserved in the tentative agreement.

Articles 32 and 33: Economic Compensation and Health Care Benefits.

The two teams have presented their initial proposals for economic compensation and health care benefits. Given the complexity of these articles – perhaps especially health care, in light of recent and ongoing congressional activity – the teams remain far apart on both. However, our team is continuing their research into these issues and building a strong case at the table. Since these articles were introduced several weeks ago, our team has been standing strong and working determinedly to reach agreement on fair economic compensation and contain healthcare costs for faculty, and they have no intention of backing down.


We will have more information for you on these important topics soon. In the meantime, please keep those messages of support coming. Bargaining is intense, grueling work, and while most faculty members don’t have to spend much time thinking about it, our team has been living it 24/7 for months. It means a lot to them to hear from you and to be reminded that you have their backs. You can find the WMU-AAUP on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or just reply to this email with your message for the team.

Fourth Friday Happy Hour on June 23 at Arcadia

To catch up in person with members of our team, chapter officers, and Exec Committee members, or just to relax and have some fun, please join us tomorrow (Friday, June 23), 5-6pm, for the WMU-AAUP Fourth Friday Happy Hour at Arcadia Brewing Co. (701 E. Michigan Avenue). Dues-paying members: As always, your first drink’s on us. See you there!

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WMUAAUP2017

Uncompensated Summer Work and Faculty Rights Under Article 38

Many people outside the university community (and even quite a few within it) are often surprised to learn that WMU faculty on academic-year (AY) appointments who are not assigned to summer teaching are not compensated by Western Michigan University for work performed in the months of May, June, July, and August.

Yet many AY faculty are called upon during the summer to perform a variety of work assignments on behalf of the university for which they will not be paid. Some examples include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • work on strategic planning at the department, college, or university level;
  • administration of academic programs within departments;
  • department meetings and retreats;
  • independent studies, including those for which students pay tuition and receive credit;
  • lab and research supervision of graduate and undergraduate students;
  • graduate and undergraduate advising;
  • participating in doctoral exams and dissertation defenses;
  • supervision of student internships;
  • training and supervision of graduate teaching and research assistants;
  • student recruitment activities;
  • a multitude of other service, administrative, or quasi-administrative activities.

The majority of Board-appointed faculty members at WMU have academic-year appointments, although there are also a number of fiscal-year (FY) faculty with 12-month appointments and some with 10-month appointments.

While most AY faculty are eligible to participate in a deferred-compensation pay structure, in which a portion of each paycheck throughout the academic year is withheld for disbursement over the summer, resulting in equal installments throughout the calendar year, their “summer pay” was actually earned during the academic year. This structure is often misunderstood as AY faculty’s being paid for summer work, but that is not the case.

It can be beneficial for AY faculty to receive their pay in equal disbursements throughout the calendar year rather than going 14 weeks in the summer without a paycheck. It can also benefit the university’s cash flow to withhold approximately a quarter of the pay earned by the hundreds of participating AY faculty during the academic year and disburse it in the summer after the AY concludes. It is a symbiotic arrangement.

Other AY faculty are paid their full earnings during the academic year, with their last paycheck until September 5 to be disbursed on May 19.

Article 38 of the Agreement articulates the terms under which AY faculty are employed in relation to the academic calendar: “Bargaining unit faculty on academic year appointments shall not be required to work . . . during periods between semesters and sessions when classes are not scheduled to meet” (38.§4.1).

It expressly defines “outside the calendar” as “before the Fall semester begins, between the Fall and Spring semesters, and after the Spring semester ends” (38.§2).

Exceptions are permissible only in “limited circumstances,” which must be “legitimate responsibilities of academic-year faculty (e.g., registration, department orientation/organization meetings, retreats, committee assignments, and grading situations).” Additionally, the contract requires that “Western will follow present procedures to cover these assignments. If Western is unable to ensure faculty coverage for such legitimate responsibilities, Western will notify the Chapter before assigning faculty to such tasks” (38.§2).

In recent years, however, many AY faculty have been experiencing significant increases in uncompensated summer work assignments, as well as increases to their regular workloads that make it difficult to complete within the academic year all the work for which they are responsible. They report increasing pressure – to which pre-tenure faculty are especially vulnerable –  to work in the summer without compensation in ways that appear to extend the definition of “limited circumstances” well beyond the spirit of the Agreement.

The institution is becoming increasingly dependent on free faculty labor, and it is time to break this exploitative cycle.

The “legitimate” work of faculty on academic-year appointments can and should be performed during the academic year, within the bounds of reasonable faculty workloads. If there is work that is sufficiently critical to the functioning of the institution that cannot be done during the academic year but must be performed in the summer, that work must be compensated.

Faculty members themselves are best situated to determine whether assignments they are asked (or expected) to perform outside the calendar constitutes legitimate use of their time during parts of the year when they are not being paid for their work.

Therefore, it is the Chapter’s position that all assignments of work “outside the calendar” must be compensated, offered without coercion, and accepted or declined without penalty at the discretion of each individual faculty member.

Additionally, fiscal-year faculty rights to a reasonable workload must not be infringed. FY faculty must not be burdened with additional assignments, including work that would be “outside the calendar” for AY faculty, without overload pay. Such assignments must be compensated, offered without coercion, and accepted or declined without penalty at the discretion of each individual faculty member.

If the administration believes that any particular task or initiative is sufficiently urgent to require “outside the calendar” faculty attention, their proposals should be brought to the Chapter, pursuant to Article 38.§2, for consideration on a case-by-case basis. In principle, however, the WMU-AAUP cannot support practices that do not compensate faculty members appropriately for their work.

We ask that chairs, directors, deans, the provost, and all other administrators, especially those who are compensated for their work all year round, follow the Golden Rule as their guiding principle: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The academic calendar must be respected, and the academic-year appointments of faculty members who hold them must be honored. It is not appropriate to expect, require, or attempt to compel uncompensated “outside the calendar” work to be performed by AY faculty or expect, require, or attempt to compel any uncompensated overload work to be performed by any faculty member, regardless of appointment type.

Please also note that AY faculty members who accept summer teaching assignments are compensated for teaching only. Summer teaching stipends do not entitle chairs or other administrators to additional faculty service beyond the teaching of summer courses and the responsibilities associated with this work.

Faculty members who feel that they are being expected or required to perform uncompensated summer work or uncompensated overload assignments (and especially those who feel they are being pressured into doing so) are urged to contact the WMU-AAUP office by calling 345-0151 or emailing staff@wmuaaup.net.

A culture in which people are expected to work without pay is unacceptable. And we believe that it should be a high priority for all parties to the Agreement to work together to honor and defend it.

Faculty Workload Reporting per Article 42.§6.2

Equity, Transparency, and Work Assignment Notification per Article 42.§6.2


By now, all bargaining-unit faculty should have received Spring 2016 work assignment notifications from their chairs, reporting the workload assignments for all faculty in their respective departments.

We believe that chairs want to honor the contract and do right by their faculty, but faculty in some departments are reporting the following concerns:

  • Department chair is not reporting all faculty work assignments to the full faculty.
  • Department chair is not reporting any faculty work assignments to the faculty.
  • Department chair is not reporting accurate or complete measurements of work assignments.

The rationale for reporting workload assignments to the faculty is to ensure transparency in workload assignments and to ensure the equitable distribution of work assignments. That is why Article 42.§6.2 of the 2014-17 Agreement explicitly calls for department chairs to inform all WMU-AAUP faculty in their respective departments of the workload assignments for all department faculty:

42.§6.2 Work Assignment Notification. As soon as possible prior to the start of fall and spring semester, the department chair will distribute to the department the scheduled workload assignments of all department bargaining unit members, recognizing that these may be subject to change as the academic year progresses.


Workload Reporting Fast Facts:


  • Chairs are required to report the workload assignments of all WMU-AAUP faculty to all WMU-AAUP faculty in their respective departments.
  • These reports must be distributed to the faculty “as soon as possible prior to the start of fall and spring semester.”
  • Chairs may not opt out of providing this information to their department faculty.
  • Reporting each individual faculty member’s assignments to him or her does not meet the contractual requirement for work assignment notification.
  • Research, scholarship, creative activity, service, and other non-teaching work assignments are included in faculty workloads, per Article 42.§5, and therefore must be accounted for in work assignment notification.
  • The intent of work assignment notification is to ensure transparency in workload assignments and equity in workload distribution.

If your chair needs more information about workload reporting, please share this information with him or her. If you need assistance, please call the WMU-AAUP office at 345-0151 or email staff@wmuaaup.net

 visual image of chapter logo "stronger together"

Uncompensated Summer Work and Faculty Rights Under Article 38

Updated May 3, 2017.

Many people outside the university community (and even quite a few within it) are often surprised to learn that WMU faculty on academic-year (AY) appointments who are not assigned to summer teaching are not compensated by Western Michigan University for work performed in the months of May, June, July, and August.

Yet many AY faculty are called upon during the summer to perform a variety of work assignments on behalf of the university for which they will not be paid. Some examples include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • work on strategic planning at the department, college, or university level;
  • administration of academic programs within departments;
  • department meetings and retreats;
  • independent studies, including those for which students pay tuition and receive credit;
  • lab and research supervision of graduate and undergraduate students;
  • graduate and undergraduate advising;
  • participating in doctoral exams and dissertation defenses;
  • supervision of student internships;
  • training and supervision of graduate teaching and research assistants;
  • student recruitment activities;
  • a multitude of other service, administrative, or quasi-administrative activities.

The majority of Board-appointed faculty members at WMU have academic-year appointments, although there are also a number of fiscal-year (FY) faculty with 12-month appointments and some with 10-month appointments.

While most AY faculty are eligible to participate in a deferred-compensation pay structure, in which a portion of each paycheck throughout the academic year is withheld for disbursement over the summer, resulting in equal installments throughout the calendar year, their “summer pay” was actually earned during the academic year. This structure is often misunderstood as AY faculty’s being paid for summer work, but that is not the case.

It can be beneficial for AY faculty to receive their pay in equal disbursements throughout the calendar year rather than going 14 weeks in the summer without a paycheck. It can also benefit the university’s cash flow to withhold approximately a quarter of the pay earned by the hundreds of participating AY faculty during the academic year and disburse it in the summer after the AY concludes. It is a symbiotic arrangement.

Other AY faculty are paid their full earnings during the academic year, with their last paycheck until September 5 to be disbursed on May 19.

Article 38 of the Agreement articulates the terms under which AY faculty are employed in relation to the academic calendar: “Bargaining unit faculty on academic year appointments shall not be required to work . . . during periods between semesters and sessions when classes are not scheduled to meet” (38.§4.1).

It expressly defines “outside the calendar” as “before the Fall semester begins, between the Fall and Spring semesters, and after the Spring semester ends” (38.§2).

Exceptions are permissible only in “limited circumstances,” which must be “legitimate responsibilities of academic-year faculty (e.g., registration, department orientation/organization meetings, retreats, committee assignments, and grading situations).” Additionally, the contract requires that “Western will follow present procedures to cover these assignments. If Western is unable to ensure faculty coverage for such legitimate responsibilities, Western will notify the Chapter before assigning faculty to such tasks” (38.§2).

In recent years, however, many AY faculty have been experiencing significant increases in uncompensated summer work assignments, as well as increases to their regular workloads that make it difficult to complete within the academic year all the work for which they are responsible. They report increasing pressure – to which pre-tenure faculty are especially vulnerable –  to work in the summer without compensation in ways that appear to extend the definition of “limited circumstances” well beyond the spirit of the Agreement.

The institution is becoming increasingly dependent on free faculty labor, and it is time to break this exploitative cycle.

The “legitimate” work of faculty on academic-year appointments can and should be performed during the academic year, within the bounds of reasonable faculty workloads. If there is work that is sufficiently critical to the functioning of the institution that cannot be done during the academic year but must be performed in the summer, that work must be compensated.

Faculty members themselves are best situated to determine whether assignments they are asked (or expected) to perform outside the calendar constitutes legitimate use of their time during parts of the year when they are not being paid for their work.

Therefore, it is the Chapter’s position that all assignments of work “outside the calendar” must be compensated, offered without coercion, and accepted or declined without penalty at the discretion of each individual faculty member.

Additionally, fiscal-year faculty rights to a reasonable workload must not be infringed. FY faculty must not be burdened with additional assignments, including work that would be “outside the calendar” for AY faculty, without overload pay. Such assignments must be compensated, offered without coercion, and accepted or declined without penalty at the discretion of each individual faculty member.

If the administration believes that any particular task or initiative is sufficiently urgent to require “outside the calendar” faculty attention, their proposals should be brought to the Chapter, pursuant to Article 38.§2, for consideration on a case-by-case basis. In principle, however, the WMU-AAUP cannot support practices that do not compensate faculty members appropriately for their work.

We ask that chairs, directors, deans, the provost, and all other administrators, especially those who are compensated for their work all year round, follow the Golden Rule as their guiding principle: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The academic calendar must be respected, and the academic-year appointments of faculty members who hold them must be honored. It is not appropriate to expect, require, or attempt to compel uncompensated “outside the calendar” work to be performed by AY faculty or expect, require, or attempt to compel any uncompensated overload work to be performed by any faculty member, regardless of appointment type.

Please also note that AY faculty members who accept summer teaching assignments are compensated for teaching only. Summer teaching stipends do not entitle chairs or other administrators to additional faculty service beyond the teaching of summer courses and the responsibilities associated with this work.

Faculty members who feel that they are being expected or required to perform uncompensated summer work or uncompensated overload assignments (and especially those who feel they are being pressured into doing so) are urged to contact the WMU-AAUP office by calling 345-0151 or emailing staff@wmuaaup.net.

A culture in which people are expected to work without pay is unacceptable. And we believe that it should be a high priority for all parties to the Agreement to work together to honor and defend it.