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. 

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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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.
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Image of faculty members marching and carrying signs in support of WMU-AAUP bargaining team (2014).

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.

Get involved: Contract campaign training with Kira Schuman Feb. 22-23

“Campus Organizing and Building Your Contract Action Team”
Kira Schuman, National AAUP Senior Program Officer


Two sessions (attend either one):

Wednesday, February 22, at 4 p.m.
Thursday, February 23, at 12:30 p.m.

Both sessions are in 207 Bernhard.


Kira Schuman, national AAUP senior program officer, will lead two training workshops on campus next week to help WMU-AAUP faculty develop new strategies for engaging and mobilizing colleagues during our 2017 contract campaign and beyond. Both sessions will focus on:

  • educating colleagues about union issues
  • activating and mobilizing the faculty to get the best contract possible
  • effective messaging for faculty engagement and community awareness
  • building and sustaining campus and community coalitions.

All dues-paying members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit are invited to participate.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about union organizing from one of the best!

Click on flier to enlarge.

kira_flier