Fall 2014 WMU Wellness Program Update

You may have received a letter recently from the WMU Office of Human Resources inviting you to participate in a new WMU “wellness program,” which offers a small financial incentive for university employees, including faculty, in return for participation in the program. (The WMU-AAUP first reported on the plans for this program last year and again over the summer during negotiations.)

Now that letters from HR have begun arriving to invite our participation in the new wellness program, we want to share with you what we know about it in the hope that you’ll be able to make the best decision for yourself and your family about whether to participate.

Here is how the new wellness program works:

  • University employees (including faculty) will receive a small financial incentive in return for participating in the wellness program.
  • Your participation in the wellness program is voluntary. However, it is required in order to qualify for the incentive.
  • The incentive totals $240 annually in the form of a per-pay period reduction to the employee’s share of the health insurance premium.
  • If you choose to participate, the incentive will reduce your share of the premium by $9.23 per pay period (after taxes) for those on 26 pays or by $13.33 per pay period (after taxes) for those on 18 pays.
  • In order to qualify for the incentive, you must complete a “health risk assessment” and biometric testing.

What the incentive would look like for you:

  • If you are on the employee-only plan: Your annual premium for 2014 is $954. The wellness-program incentive would reduce that annual premium by $240, resulting in a new annual premium of $714, a discount of 25.1 percent.
  • If you are on the two-person plan: Your annual premium for 2014 is $3970. The wellness-program incentive would reduce that annual premium by $240, resulting in a new total annual premium of $3730, a discount of six percent.
  • If you are on the family plan: Your annual premium for 2014 is $5664. The wellness-program incentive would reduce that annual premium by $240, resulting in a new total annual premium of $5424, a discount of 4.2 percent.

What about privacy and confidentiality?

  • To qualify for the financial incentive, participants in the wellness program are required to submit to biometric testing and to complete a “health risk assessment” survey.
  • The “health risk assessment” survey contains a number of questions about your private health information. These questions are personal, and some are presumptive and intrusive (e.g., “Have you been annoyed when others say you have had too much to drink?” and “During the past 4 weeks, how much did your health problems affect your productivity while you were working?”).
  • The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) includes a privacy rule that prevents healthcare providers from sharing an individual’s health information with their employer. However, HIPAA rules may not apply to “wellness” program vendors who are not technically healthcare providers.
  • When we raised this question at the bargaining table this summer, Holtyn confirmed that while the company complies voluntarily with HIPAA, it is not compelled by law to do so.
  • Should any conflicts of interest arise (in relation to an insurance claim, for example), it is not clear whether the vendor would be required by law to protect faculty interests over those of our employer (who is also their employer), or if not required, whether they would choose to do so.

Is the incentive worth it?

  • Under the Affordable Care Act, federal law allows employers to offer incentives for wellness program participation of up to 30 percent of the employee’s share of the premium.
  • The incentive on offer to us amounts to 4.2 percent of the family premium for 2014, six percent of the two-person premium, and 25.1 percent for the employee-only premium.
  • University employees (including faculty) are being asked to provide a lot of private information in exchange for what would be a relatively small incentive, especially for those on the two-person or family plans.

In addition to the information provided herein, we are available to help you with any questions you might have as you consider whether participation in the wellness program is the right choice for you. Call us (345-0151), email us (staff@wmuaaup.net), or stop by Montague House (814 Oakland Drive).

Uncompensated Summer Work and Faculty Rights Under Article 38

Many people outside the university community (and even quite a few within it) are 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 to perform a variety of work assignments in the summer for which they will not be paid. Some examples include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • work on the Academic Program Review
  • work on strategic planning at the department, college, or university level
  • administration of academic programs within departments
  • 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
  • supervision of student internships
  • training and supervision of graduate teaching and research assistants
  • student recruitment activities
  • other administrative or quasi-administrative activities

Most board-appointed faculty members at WMU have academic-year appointments, although there are also a number of fiscal-year faculty with 12-month appointments and some with 10-month appointments. While some AY faculty choose 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 year round, their “summer pay” was actually earned during the academic year. Other AY faculty opt to be paid their full earnings during the academic year, with their last paycheck until September disbursed on May 6.

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

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, we cannot support practices that do not compensate faculty members appropriately for their work.

Chairs, directors, deans, the provost, and all other administrators, especially those who are compensated for their work all year round, should follow the Golden Rule as their guiding principle. They must respect the academic calendar and honor the academic-year appointments of faculty members who hold them. They must refrain from expecting, requiring, or attempting to compel uncompensated “outside the calendar” work to be performed by AY faculty and from expecting, requiring, or attempting to compel any uncompensated overload work to be performed by any faculty member, regardless of appointment type.

Faculty members who feel that they are being expected or required to perform uncompensated summer work or overload assignments (and especially those who feel they are being pressured into doing so) are urged to contact the WMU-AAUP office ASAP.

It is long past time to send the message that a culture in which people are routinely expected to work without pay is unacceptable.

Meet Your New Officers

Meet Your New Grievance Officer and Contract Administrator for 2013-15

At the Chapter meeting on April 19, 2013, the faculty approved the appointments of two new Chapter officers: John Saillant (Departments of English and History) was named grievance officer, effective April 19, 2013, and Marilyn Kritzman (School of Communication) will assume the office of contract administrator on September 1, 2013, when our current contract administrator, Paul Wilson, will step down to enjoy his well-deserved retirement after an extraordinary tenure of service to the Chapter and to the faculty. Both John’s and Marilyn’s terms will run through August 2015.

John Saillant: Your new Grievance Officer

John Saillant

John is a joint-appointed Professor of English and History who joined the faculty at WMU in 1997. An active teacher and scholar, he specializes in early American history and literature, African American studies, and American religion. He brings to his new position extensive knowledge of the complex political developments surrounding higher education and unions in Michigan as well as experience on numerous governance committees at WMU.

Since assuming office in April, John has impressed all of us (and especially the faculty members he has assisted) with his commitment to academic freedom and shared governance and with his meticulous, analytical approach to problem-solving. This is a guy who does his homework and then some. His preparedness, his smarts, his calm, steady demeanor, and his unshakeable sense of justice are enormous assets to the Chapter and to the faculty. We are lucky to have him on board. Welcome, John!

Marilyn Kritzman: Your new Contract Administrator

Marilyn Kritzman

Marilyn is a tenured Faculty Specialist II in the School of Communication with 30 years of service at WMU. A trained mediator who has also completed more than 200 hours of training in contract and grievance law for labor organizations, Marilyn brings with her an impressive set of skills and long record of service to the WMU-AAUP. She has served as her department’s Association Council representative and as Executive Committee rep for the College of Arts and Sciences (Humanities) in addition to her work on numerous WMU-AAUP committees, several of which she has chaired. She currently serves as Chapter treasurer.

When she assumes the office of contract administrator on September 1, 2013, Marilyn will bring to it an encyclopedic knowledge of the WMU-AAUP Agreement and of state and federal labor law, a razor-sharp intellect, and an unyielding commitment to faculty rights and due process. She’s already working hard this summer to prepare for her new position, and there is no doubt that the faculty will be in very good hands come September. Thank you, Marilyn!

Related: When to call your grievance officer or contract administrator

When to Call Your Grievance Officer or Contract Administrator

(269) 345-0151

Have you been summoned to a meeting with your chair or other administrator? CALL US NOW! 

Especially if you have not been fully informed about the subject of the meeting (but even if you have), we strongly recommend the following to all faculty members:

  • Do not attend such a meeting alone.
  • Consult with us as soon as possible after receiving a summons (whatever the form the summons takes – letter, email, phone, in-person contact, etc.).
  • Until you’ve talked to us, do not respond in writing to anything that you suspect (or you know) is related to disciplinary charges that may be filed against you.

Are you being pressured to accept extra work in addition to your normal workload? CALL US NOW!

Even if you are being offered compensation for extra work, we encourage all bargaining-unit members assigned additional work to call us and get our interpretation of whether what you’re being assigned and/or offered is appropriate under the contract.

Are you experiencing unexplained (or unconvincingly explained) changes in your workload, teaching schedule, or other responsibilities? CALL US NOW!

Are you facing what you believe may be punitive actions from your chair (or other administrator) for challenging decisions you feel are unjust? CALL US NOW!

Is your chair bypassing WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit faculty and using part-time faculty to staff summer classes? CALL US NOW!

Not sure whether your concern is a union issue? CALL US NOW!

If you find yourself in anything like any of these situations, or in any other situation that does not feel right to you or otherwise calls for clarification (and possibly support), call us! We are here to help you and to protect your rights.

You don’t have to wait until you’re in trouble to call us,
but if you think you might be in trouble, DON’T WAIT TO CALL US!


Grievance Officer: John Saillant
Contract Administrator: Paul Wilson (until 08/31/13)
Contract Administrator: Marilyn Kritzman (effective 09/01/13)