Some thoughts on Labor Day

by Lisa Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP

Who are we? That’s a good question. (Western Michigan University promotional image)

September 4, 2017

Our contract expires at midnight on Tuesday, September 5. As I publish this, that is less than 36 hours from now. And our team needs us more than ever to stand with them and fight for a fair contract that respects our contributions to the institution by moving us forward rather than backwards.

The faculty and staff have been expected time and time again over the last several contract cycles to take one for the team. And we have done it. Repeatedly. By now, we have take so many for the team for so long that a lot of us are starting to feel that we’re not actually considered part of the team by some of the university’s senior leadership.

Most of us have reached the limit of sacrifices that we can reasonably make or should reasonably be asked or expected to make. Many of our faculty and staff colleagues at the lower end of the salary spectrum reached that limit long ago. These are personal sacrifices I’m talking about, financial hits that affect the lives of real people and their families. Faculty and staff have been called upon again and again, year after year, to make personal sacrifice after personal sacrifice.

Many of our bargaining-unit members and staff colleagues are feeling real pain as a result. They can’t afford their insurance premiums. They are struggling to make their student loan payments (PhDs are expensive). They are having a hard time making their mortgage payments. They’re afraid that they won’t ever be able to retire, that they will have to keep working until they are physically or cognitively incapable of working any longer. And then they fear the very real possibility that they will live out their elder years in permanent financial distress.

Meanwhile, the people across the table from our team enjoy a mean salary of $190,000. One of them even got a $25,000 cash bonus in March 2017, which is of course unheard of for faculty and staff. Where are their sacrifices?

So, to my WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit colleagues: I am asking all of you in advance for your forgiveness, because I am no longer interested in being polite and saying please. We have real people, faculty and staff, who every single day give everything they’ve got to Western Michigan University. We do this out of our deep love for this institution, for our students, our alumni, this community, our academic disciplines, learning and knowledge (including for its own sake), and for our work as professors, teachers, researchers, scholars, artists, and mentors. These gifts, which go way beyond what we are hired or paid to do, are always happily (if not humbly) accepted by the institution. The university administration understands as well as we do that both our actual compensated work (as defined by the contract and in our letters of appointment) and our goodwill donations of labor are essential to keeping this whole enterprise afloat.

But still they refuse to compensate us fairly. Sometimes I like to try to imagine what they’d get out of us if we felt appreciated, including when we open our paychecks. Imagine what we could all achieve if taking care of the people who do the work of the university was among its highest priorities. I wonder if that is something they ever think about.

At this point, I don’t think trying to be nice about it (“Please sir, can I have some more?”) is something that would work (it never has), nor is it sufficiently worthy of our dignity. I am hoping that instead, our showing up to tomorrow’s events in large numbers and demanding that the administration finally start doing right by the faculty and staff will be the action it takes to close the deal in a way that appropriately honors the work we do.

I am preparing for tomorrow’s events (the chapter meeting at 3:30 in 157 Bernhard, BBQ 5-7 at Montague House, and rally at 6:20 at Montague House), still optimistic that these actions will result in a contract deal we can agree to by the midnight deadline Tuesday night.

But if they don’t, I am fully prepared on behalf of the chapter to mobilize the faculty and launch the work-to-rule labor action at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6.

I do think that one thing the faculty and administration can agree on is that we would all prefer not to have the 900 members of the Board-appointed faculty starting the new academic year without a contract. I believe that we all want a tentative agreement by the deadline.

But we will not agree to a contract that is beneath our dignity. We will not stand for the quality of our professional lives, the economic security of the 900 families we represent, or the morale of the faculty and staff of Western Michigan University to be eroded and degraded any further.

Join me.

In solidarity,
Lisa

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WMUAAUP2017

LABOR ACTION: Sept 6 Work to Rule notice to WMU-AAUP faculty

Letter from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

August 31, 2017

Dear colleagues:

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. [1]

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!

#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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Note:

[1] 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.

 

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

“Like” the WMU-AAUP on Facebook.
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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.
Follow us on Instagram.

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

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

Negotiation Update: TAs reached on several articles, economic articles now on the table

On May 9, our WMU-AAUP negotiation team returned to the table following the semester break. The teams have been at the bargaining table every Tuesday and Thursday, with our team also meeting frequently away from the table to draft and respond to proposal language and to consult with the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee.

Cynthia, Whitney, Bruce, Jeremy, and Mike have been working tirelessly for months, and they’ve made a lot of progress at the table since negotiations got underway on March 13. That means there’s a lot to report, including great news about intellectual property rights and protections, major improvements to the tenure and promotion process for Faculty Specialists, and updates on key issues now on the table.


 I. The teams have reached tentative agreements (TAs) on the following articles:


Articles 17 and 18
Tenure Policies and Procedures and Promotion Policies and Procedures

    • Tenure and promotion procedures for Faculty Specialists. In previous contracts, tenure and promotion have been two separate processes for Faculty Specialists, requiring two separate reviews. (For traditionally ranked faculty, tenure and promotion reviews have been – and will remain – concurrent.) The teams have reached TA on new language proposed by our WMU-AAUP team: Effective with the new contract, Faculty Specialists will be automatically promoted to Faculty Specialist II with the granting of tenure.
    • Streamlining of tenure and promotion review process prior to the final tenure review. Tenure reviews other than the final review that receive positive recommendations at the levels of DTC, chair, and dean will now conclude at the dean’s office rather than being sent to the provost for review and approval. If a review is negative at any level of the review process, it will go forward to the provost according to current and established contractual practices outlined in Article 17, as will all final reviews.
    • Standards for promotion to full professor. For promotion to full professor, option (a) in Article 18.3.7 currently requires faculty to “have: (a) achieved outstanding professional recognition and a satisfactory record of professional competence.” In the new contract, “satisfactory” will be replaced by “significant” for professional competence.

Article 26: Sabbatical Leave

Later due date for sabbatical proposals (October 1). A new due date for sabbatical proposals will go into effect with the new contract. This will provide faculty with much-needed extra time to prepare their proposals beyond the previous deadline of September 15.

Article 43: Intellectual Property (formerly Discoveries, Patents, and Copyrights)

  • Stronger intellectual property protections. New language expands and strengthens faculty copyright ownership and protection for their course materials, scholarly work, and creative work, in addition to existing protections for discoveries, patents, and copyrights. The article title is being updated for the new contract to reflect this expansion of protections.


II. On the table: Paid parental leave, workload,
and evaluation of professional competence.


Our WMU-AAUP team has presented a strong proposal for paid parental leave (Article 27: Leaves of Absence). The teams continue to negotiate this topic along with proposals on Article 42: Workload and Article 16: Evaluation of Professional Competence. These have been contentious issues on our campus, so please stand by for calls to support our team as needed.


  • III. The latest: Compensation and health care


At the bargaining sessions on May 16 and 18, the administration’s team and their representatives presented reports on the university’s budget and projected health care costs. Our team reviewed the documents carefully and compared them with analyses conducted for and by the WMU-AAUP. On May 23, after consulting the Executive Committee, the team presented the chapter’s proposals for Article 32: Economic Compensation and Article 33: Health Care Benefits.

These proposals will be discussed in upcoming sessions, so stay tuned for more information and calls to action that may become necessary as the dialogue on these critical issues moves forward.


Cynthia, Whitney, Bruce, Jeremy, and Mike have been giving their all at the table, and it is paying off for the faculty in the improved contract language and impressive progress they’ve made so far (and so quickly) in achieving tentative agreements.

But bargaining at the table is not all they do. Many colleagues may not realize the time commitment or the amount of energy and dedication their service on the bargaining team demands. Yes, they spend long hours at the table, including in high-pressure situations that can be intense and exhausting. But they also spend many more hours away from the table conducting research into key issues (such as healthcare and compensation), drafting contract language and proposals, meeting with faculty to get input and guidance, consulting frequently with the WMU-AAUP leadership and Executive Committee, working with the chapter attorney and other experts, and many other tasks, large and small. This work requires team members to put aside other things in their lives that are important to them. They make this choice because they’re committed to improving the professional lives of the nearly 900 members of the WMU-AAUP.

So, please take a moment to drop them a note of thanks, or a shout-out on social media, to tell them how much you appreciate them. (The WMU-AAUP is on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.)

And when the call comes to stand up, show up, and speak up, we need you to be ready to do it. Our 2017 team is one of the strongest and best prepared in the chapter’s history, and they are giving 100 percent every day. But without the visible, vocal support of the faculty, there is only so much that anyone can achieve at the bargaining table. Our leverage is in our numbers. Faculty support for our team is what keeps the pressure on the other side.

We will get the contract we show up for and demand.
Be ready to stand with our team when they need you.

Image of sign that reads "WMU-AAUP: Fighting for WMU's Future"


Save the date: June 23
Join us at 5 p.m. on June 23 for the next Fourth Friday Happy Hour. Build solidarity and enjoy the company of faculty colleagues in a fun and family-friendly environment. As always, your first drink’s on us if you’re a dues-paying member. Arcadia Brewing Company, 701 E. Michigan Ave.


Previous negotiation updates:

Issue #4 – March 17
Issue #3 – February 15 
Issue #2 – February 1
Issue #1 – January 30