January 2019 WMU-AAUP leadership transition

Photo of outgoing WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

Leadership Transitions + Lame-Duck Legislation:

The More Things Change… 

Letter to the faculty
from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick (2013-18) |

December 7, 2018 |


Dear colleagues,

Last week when I started thinking about what I would say in this message, I was thinking about how much has changed over the last six years, particularly since December 11, 2012, when Gov. Rick Snyder signed Michigan’s so-called “right to work” (RTW) bills into law. The legislation had been introduced during the lame-duck session that year, amid massive protests outside the Capitol building in Lansing. It passed along party lines without public hearings by a majority party that knew it would not have the votes when the new legislature convened in January 2013.

What I had been thinking last week that I would write about was how far Michigan has come since that terrible, blustery day in Lansing in December 2012, when I protested alongside faculty colleagues and members of WMU’s AFSCME and AFT locals, along with thousands of other people from all across the state. It seemed surreal that this kind of legislation could even be on the table in Michigan, let alone that it could pass. But it did, and here we are.

There will be no turning the clock back on the effects of RTW in Michigan, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision earlier this year in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which effectively nationalized RTW laws. Still, there are all kinds of other ways to improve the labor climate at the state level, provided that there is the political will to make it happen.

We have not seen much of that kind of political will in Lansing in recent years. Many of the values we share as the faculty of a public university, and as union members, have not been priorities for the majority party. Under their legislative and executive leadership, we have seen higher education funding decline and anti-labor legislation proliferate. In addition to RTW, we have witnessed the repeal of Michigan’s prevailing wage laws and ongoing attacks on the rights and benefits of K-12 educators.

But last month, Michigan voters elected an unapologetically pro-labor governor, Gretchen Whitmer. That means starting next month, while we still won’t have a labor-friendly legislature, Lansing will start to feel a little less unfriendly. In last month’s election, the labor-unfriendly folks lost five seats – and their supermajority – in the state Senate and another five seats in the state House. Should they pass anti-union legislation or bills that would harm public higher education in the next session, we can count on Gov. Whitmer to veto it.

There are still any number of challenges ahead of us, I was thinking I would write, on campus and beyond, but for the first time almost a decade, the balance of political power in Michigan feels like it may be moving in a pro-labor, pro-education direction. With significant majorities of voters saying yes last month to the ballot initiatives to end gerrymandering and make voting and registration easier and more accessible, there is good reason for even more optimism in the next few years.

That’s what I was thinking about last week. And it’s all still true. But now that the Michigan legislature’s lame-duck session is underway, things are getting a little more complicated.

As in North Carolina in 2016 and more recently in Wisconsin, Michigan is now also the scene of what appear to be anti-democratic power grabs by a party whose legislative dominance was reduced (although not reversed) and who lost control of the offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state when Michigan voters repudiated their candidates last month. They are now using bills introduced in the lame-duck session to try to limit the powers of those offices and also to weaken the anti-gerrymandering and voter-access initiatives, both of which voters favored overwhelmingly last month. Additionally, bills that would harm workers by cutting back planned minimum wage increases and paid sick leave protections have already passed both houses of the legislature and await the outgoing governor’s signature.

Several anti-union bills are also in the lame-duck mix, including Senate Bill 1260, which would require public-sector labor unions (like ours) to hold a recertification election every two years. It appears that the goal of SB 1260 is to try to neutralize union participation in electoral politics. The WMU-AAUP does not fund political candidates or ballot initiatives, so we are not a target for the bill’s sponsors, but that wouldn’t matter if this bill becomes law, because we would see the same increased demands on our resources as any other public-sector union, which would make it harder for us to do the work we are here to do: defend the contract and protect faculty rights.

When we came back to school after the holidays in January 2013, we had no way to know how the RTW laws would affect our chapter or our professional lives as university faculty and union members. Our contract was set to expire on September 5, 2014, after which date Western Michigan University would become a RTW campus.

We know now that we have not only survived RTW but have built significantly on the strength of our chapter and increased faculty engagement in union activities over the past six years. That doesn’t mean RTW wasn’t a serious blow to us after 40 years as an agency shop. It absolutely was. But more than anything, the continuing health and success of our chapter is a tribute to the more than 800 dues-paying members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit. Many of you took up the difficult but essential work of old-fashioned, on-the-ground, one-on-one union organizing and helped to plan and roll out our year-long contract campaign for the 2014 negotiation cycle. You’re the reason we’re still here, stronger than ever.

What we learned is that our model worked. Chapters in other states are following it now. They need to because the Janus v. AFSCME decision means that a lot of them are now where we were in 2013. Since RTW, we have had to direct more of our time and more of our chapter resources into organizing, outreach, and retention, no question. But we knew that was what it would take. We made a plan, we got ourselves trained, and most important, we collaborated. In small groups and large, within and across departments and colleges, on campus and in the community, the faculty showed up, had the conversations, and did the work. We did it with the understanding that in this new world of RTW, that work must be ongoing. And it has been.

After the election last month, I felt for the first time in six years a noticeable shift in the political energy in this state and the real possibility that positive change is in the offing. These lame-duck shenanigans, along with word of another anti-union case that is likely to end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court next year, have been an unwelcome reminder of how vigilant we are still going to have to be. In a country where for most of its history, citizens have mostly been able to count on peaceful transitions of power, these egregious attempted power grabs in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and now Michigan suggest that we may no longer be able to take for granted that the will of the electorate is going to be honored. Additionally, there is still well-funded, well-organized opposition to unions in this country and no chance that they will just give up and stop trying to ban collective action in the workplace and silence the voices of working people. If anything, they are emboldened by a string of recent victories in court and in state legislatures.

So, rather than a farewell message in which I say Yes! We have done all right! We are going to be OK! Things are going to get better! – although I still think all that is true – instead I will sign off my last message to the faculty as WMU-AAUP president with, perhaps appropriately, all things considered, a call to action:

First, we are going to need to be able to count on your continuing vigilance, your help to keep building strength and solidarity, and most of all, your visible and vocal engagement in the union. That means answering the call when you are needed, showing your allegiance proudly and unapologetically, and finding ways to support the organization that fit your schedule, your interests, and your skills. The WMU-AAUP has good work for everyone, a lot of it inspiring and even fun and all of it meaningful. Please plan to do more of it in 2019. (Bonus: It counts as professional service for tenure and promotion.)

Second, and this one’s more urgent: Please call, email, tweet at, post on their Facebook pages, and/or otherwise contact your state legislators and tell them to vote NO on these union-busting, anti-worker, anti-democratic lame-duck bills. Since unfortunately all are likely to pass both houses (at this writing, some already have), please also contact Gov. Rick Snyder and urge him to do the right thing by vetoing these terrible bills. At this point, he is going to be the only one who can stop any of this.

(Scroll down or click here for links to more information about the bills and contact information for our elected officials.)

While we’re on the subject of electoral politics, I will say that while I am generally opposed on principle to term limits, I am happy to make an exception in the case of our chapter leadership. Identifying and developing emerging leaders, and then standing back so that they can lead, are essential elements for ensuring the health and evolution of an organization like ours. I am excited about the deep bench of incoming and upcoming chapter leaders and proud of the work we have been doing over the past six years to build it.

In that spirit, I am also very much looking forward to handing over the reins (to coin a phrase) to WMU-AAUP President-elect Carol Weideman when she takes office officially on January 1, 2019. Thanks to Carol, VP-elect Mark St. Martin, and contract officers Robert Trenary and Natalio Ohanna, who will both continue in their positions into the new year, the WMU-AAUP will be in excellent hands going forward. I am excited about the new directions Carol and her team will take us, and I know I can count on all of you to make sure she knows you have her back the way so many of you have always had mine.

It has been a delight to work with Carol, Robert, and Natalio, and with chapter secretary Tim Michael and treasurer Betsy Aller. It has also been a privilege to serve alongside our many other fine officers over the years, all of whom deserve to be recognized by name (and I apologize for not doing that here). The same goes for the dedicated members of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee, our college-level reps, whose labor on the faculty’s behalf is tireless and indispensable. That is also true of the WMU-AAUP Association Council, our department reps, who are some of the savviest, most engaged union activists on our campus. What a joy it has been to work with you. And speaking of people with whom it is a joy to work, our chapter staff, Susan Esman and Lori Maguire, belong at the top of that list. Their loyalty to the faculty, institutional memory, and just straight-up awesomeness are invaluable to the success of the chapter. They have made my job unimaginably easier in more ways than I can count and probably in more ways than I even realize.

This is not the easiest job in the world and can feel damn near impossible at times. But it also comes with some incredible rewards (alas, not of the remunerative kind). What stands out the most for me is the opportunities I’ve had to meet and work with colleagues in every college and nearly every academic unit, many of whose paths I might never have crossed were it not for this job. I never stop being blown away by the innovative, important, and brilliant work you are doing as researchers, scholars, artists, and teachers; how much you give of yourselves to make sure our students thrive; how quietly, humbly, invisibly, and selflessly you do much of your work as professors; and what extraordinarily wise, thoughtful, generous, and (best of all) incredibly kind human beings you are. I am proud to work alongside you as your faculty colleague, and it has been an honor beyond anything I can express in words to have served as your WMU-AAUP president. Thank you for trusting me with this responsibility and this privilege.

Wishing everyone a joyous and restorative holiday season and a happy, healthy new year.

With gratitude and in solidarity,

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP

Guide to lame-duck legislation and contact info for elected officials:

  • Other worker-unfriendly bills (SB 1171 and 1175) that would significantly reduce the previously approved minimum wage increase and paid sick leave requirements:

Contact info for elected officials:

  • State house, 60th District (City of Kalamazoo, part of Kalamazoo Township and part of Portage): Rep. Jon Hoadley (517-373-1785). Rep. Hoadley has already voted against bills that would gut the previously approved minimum wage increase and paid sick-leave provisions and told me last week that his vote on SB 1260 is “definitely NO.” He has been a consistent fighter for higher education and labor rights, so please take a minute to give him a call to thank him if you are so inclined.
  • State house, 61st District (City of Portage, Townships of Oshtemo, Prairie Ronde, Schoolcraft and Texas): Rep. Brandt Iden (517-373-1774). Rep. Iden has already voted in favor of reducing the minimum wage increase and paid sick-leave requirements approved earlier this year. I don’t know that there is much hope here, but he definitely needs to hear from his constituents who are union members before SB 1260 goes to the House for a vote.
  • Gov. Rick Snyder: (517) 373-3400. When you call, please leave your name and your city, and state your request that the governor VETO Senate Bill 1260 and all lame-duck bills whose passage would harm working people, public education, and the democratic process in Michigan.

WMU-AAUP Chapter
814 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008
(269) 345-0151

Web: http://wmuaaup.org

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Photo of protestors outside the Michigan state capitol building

Protestors outside Michigan state capitol on December 11, 2012. (Photo: Paul Sancya, AP)

Photo of protestors outside Michigan state Capitol, December 11, 2012.

Protestors outside Michigan state capitol on December 11, 2012. (Photo: CNN)

IUP faculty union president: Why I will strike

Thoughtful and important piece by Dr. Nadene A. L’Amoreaux, president of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania chapter of APSCUF, the statewide union of faculty members and coaches.


Nadene A. L'Amoreaux, Ph.D., president of the IUP chapter of APSCUF, the statewide union of faculty members and coaches. Nadene A. L’Amoreaux, Ph.D., president of the IUP chapter of APSCUF, the statewide union of faculty members and coaches.

By Nadene A. L’Amoreaux

INDIANA – Next week, faculty members and coaches at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and our sister universities across the commonwealth will vote on whether to authorize a strike. We will vote in the face of a threat to college education in the state of Pennsylvania.

We grow increasingly discontented with a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education that has failed to implore the General Assembly to adequately fund higher education. That has allowed tuition increases across the State System to place greater financial burden on students and their families, thereby making the possibility of higher education to become further out of reach for our students.

Pennsylvania ranks third highest in the nation for student loan debt. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, funding…

View original post 870 more words

April 22: Rep. Jon Hoadley to speak at WMU on state support for higher education

Michigan State Representative Jon Hoadley will discuss state budget appropriations for higher education and other legislative issues of interest to the faculty and the university community on Friday, April 22, 2-3:30 p.m. in 157-159 Bernhard Center on the Western Michigan University campus.

Rep. Hoadley represents the 60th district in the Michigan House of Representatives, where he serves on the House Appropriations Committee and Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. The 60th district includes Kalamazoo and parts of Portage and Kalamazoo Township.

This event is free and open to the public.

Click on image to enlarge.


WMU-AAUP Remarks to the Board of Trustees

Remarks by WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick
On state divestment from higher education
March 23, 2016

One thing everyone in this room has in common is our shared investment in higher education as a public good. We can all agree, I hope, that students benefit when faculty and staff are equipped with the tools we need to provide the quality instruction, individual attention, and opportunities for learning and growth that our students need and deserve.

State divestment from public education impacts the lives of students as well as the health of our society. As we speak, one of the jewels in the crown of American public higher education – the University of Wisconsin System – is being deliberately and methodically dismantled before our eyes.

And in Illinois, universities have seen no state funding since July 2015 and are bracing for layoffs and, in the case of Chicago State University, even possible closure – at a cost of 900 jobs – while the governor and legislature posture and draw lines in the sand. Eastern Illinois University announced on March 11 that it will lay off 177 employees.

While the total harm that these actions will visit upon Illinois students is incalculable, some of its costs can be quantified. This year, 130,000 students in Illinois are losing need-based financial aid as the state’s Monetary Award Program, which provides grants for low-income students, remains frozen as the budget impasse continues.

These examples, extreme though they are, should not be considered unimaginable in Michigan. Sadly, they are all too imaginable in a state that has itself seen significant cuts in public funding for higher education and for other programs and resources that serve the public good. There was a time not long ago when we all would have found unimaginable the idea that the population of an American city could have been drinking poisoned water for over a year while officials in the governor’s office knew about it but did nothing.

But this is the kind of thing that happens when private profits are valued over the public good. The situation in Flint is a particularly horrific and tragic example of what can happen when state governments ill-serve the people whose well-being they exist – and are paid – to protect.

What’s happening in Wisconsin, the hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to their public university system and the attacks on tenure, is not an accident. The higher education crisis in Illinois is not an unintended consequence. Neither is this year’s billion-dollar budget shortfall in Louisiana, where universities and other state services have been decimated by years of funding cuts along with massive corporate tax cuts.

Some might suggest that these examples are simply the logical conclusion of a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment in recent years against the funding of resources that exist to serve the people. But that is disingenuous. What we are seeing is the result of an orchestrated nationwide campaign to shift public resources into private pockets. Well-fundedthink tanks” and interest groups push for legislation across multiple states, with defunding public education, dismantling social safety nets for our most vulnerable citizens, and weakening unions among their top priorities. Our states are unwitting participants in a political experiment to reduce or even eliminate public resources as we know them.

In Michigan, the governor and the legislature threaten to withhold state funding and punish the institutions whose students are among the least privileged to begin with. Do they not realize that these measures affect students of color and lower-income students disproportionately? Or do they not care?

Governor Snyder recently announced a plan to “increase” university funding in Michigan, to “increase” it back to where it was five years ago when he took office, before he cut higher education funding by 15 percent in the first place in his first budget as governor.

The cuts we’ve endured at Western and other universities in the state have had real costs, including to students who have not been able to continue their studies but also to the ones who stay with us here at WMU but find fewer resources available to them.

The governor cut our budget. And the university has suffered as a result. What a surprise. When you starve the beast for five years, you don’t get to blame the beast for starving. Yet that is exactly the kind of thing we keep hearing from Lansing.

But worse, it’s also what we are hearing from our own senior leadership at WMU. President Dunn has rightly spoken out against the zero-sum measures favored by the governor and the majority party in the legislature. I appreciate that. But then his provost imposes the same kinds of measures on us. Retiring faculty are not replaced. Programs and even entire departments are targeted for closure, although we don’t really know because that whole process seems to be conducted in secret. We are called incessantly to account for ourselves, for our time, for our credit hour production, in new and creatively time-consuming ways. Worst of all, we are being pitted against one another – faculty, staff, departments, programs, and colleges – in a battle for resources in which none of us have been filled in on the rules of engagement.

Enrollment is down, enrollment is down, enrollment is down. That is what we keep hearing, and most of us are in fact seeing the effects of that first hand. When we will talk openly and honestly about why that is and what we can do about it? When will we talk about why enrollment continues to be robust at Central Michigan and Grand Valley but not here? At what point will the senior leadership of this university be called to account for what is happening to our enrollment numbers on this campus, not to mention what has happened to faculty and staff morale?

Last month marked three years since I first stood before you, ladies and gentlemen of the Board. Since that time, I have been moved around the agenda and finally moved off it entirely and into public comments, as of course you know. Although I have been given a variety of vague explanations for why that has happened, I think we all know that the real reason is that some of you would prefer not to hear some of the things I have to say. I have been silent for over a year about the disrespectful and unprofessional treatment I have received in this venue. But I have seen first hand the debilitating effects that a culture of secrecy and silencing can have, not only on members of the university community but on members of the human family. I cannot be complicit in that any longer.

I am asking you today, as I have asked you many times before, to take seriously the things that I and other faculty, staff, and students have to tell you, regardless of how you feel about the messenger. Step out of the carefully controlled environment you spend most of your time in when you are on campus and really listen to the people who work and go to school here. Stand with us to protect this university from external forces who want to see us fail. We are on the same side of this battle.

At least I hope we are.

Click on image to enlarge and visit the Young Invincibles Student Impact Project for more information about state investment in higher education.Image of Young Invicibles 2016 Report Card: Michigan Budget Support for Higher Education

WMU-AAUP passes resolution opposing repeal of Michigan’s prevailing wage laws

The WMU-AAUP has passed the following resolution in an electronic vote by the faculty, concluded on June 25, 2015, with 94.5% voting to approve.

Click here to read more about the process leading up to the faculty vote.

Click here for more information about the repeal bills and links to additional information about prevailing wage laws, including scholarly studies on economic impacts that informed the language of the resolution.

APPROVED: WMU-AAUP Resolution Opposing Repeal of Prevailing Wage Law

WHEREAS our investigation into potential costs and benefits shows that there is strong evidence presented by labor and employment economists that repealing prevailing wage laws results in adverse economic impact to workers and families;

Whereas researchers have documented significant losses in earnings for workers in states that repeal prevailing wage laws and project similar losses in states considering repeal;

Whereas average total compensation for all workers is higher in states with prevailing wage laws than in states that have never had prevailing wage laws or have repealed them;

Whereas economists forecast significant job losses in states considering repeal of prevailing wage laws;

Whereas lost wages in the construction industry cause ripple effects throughout the state’s economy, including adverse economic effects for citizens in non-construction sectors;

Whereas states that repeal prevailing wage laws experience decreased income and sales tax revenues;

Whereas repeal of prevailing wage law would result in substantial direct and indirect costs to the citizens of Michigan that would far outpace any theoretical savings that repeal proponents claim would accrue;

Whereas occurrences of occupational injuries are significantly higher in states without prevailing wage laws, causing economic hardship to families and economic costs to the state in the form of increased worker compensation claims;

Whereas construction costs in states without prevailing wage laws are comparable to or higher than those in states with prevailing wage laws;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Western Michigan University chapter of the American Association of University Professors opposes the repeal of Michigan’s prevailing wage laws.

Draft Resolution Opposing Repeal of Prevailing Wage Law

WMU-AAUP Draft Resolution
Opposing Repeal of Prevailing Wage Law

Updated July 1, 2015: Resolution PASSED.

At a meeting of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee on June 5, WMU Board of Trustees Chair Jim Hettinger asked the WMU-AAUP to consider passing a resolution opposing the repeal of prevailing wage laws in Michigan. Prevailing wage laws require that workers employed on state-funded construction projects be paid union-scale wages and benefits. Repeal measures are now making their way through the state legislature.

After researching the issue, the Executive Committee has voted to recommend to the faculty that the chapter pass such a resolution. This issue is relevant for us as collective-bargaining faculty because the repeal legislation is part of a larger national project of union-busting and disempowerment of working people, including university professors, that we’ve become sadly accustomed to seeing here in Michigan as well as in other states.

All dues-paying members will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed resolution via electronic ballot. Please look for communications from the WMU-AAUP in your wmich emails later this week.

The draft resolution appears below.

(Click here for more information about the repeal bills now under consideration in the state legislature and for links to additional information about prevailing wage laws, including scholarly studies on the economic impacts of repealing these laws. These studies are the sources for the information cited in the draft resolution.)

WMU-AAUP Draft Resolution
Opposing Repeal of Prevailing Wage Law

WHEREAS our investigation into potential costs and benefits shows that there is strong evidence presented by labor and employment economists that repealing prevailing wage laws results in adverse economic impact to workers and families;

Whereas researchers have documented significant losses in earnings for workers in states that repeal prevailing wage laws and project similar losses in states considering repeal;

Whereas average total compensation for all workers is higher in states with prevailing wage laws than in states that have never had prevailing wage laws or have repealed them;

Whereas economists forecast significant job losses in states considering repeal of prevailing wage laws;

Whereas lost wages in the construction industry cause ripple effects throughout the state’s economy, including adverse economic effects for citizens in non-construction sectors;

Whereas states that repeal prevailing wage laws experience decreased income and sales tax revenues;

Whereas repeal of prevailing wage law would result in substantial direct and indirect costs to the citizens of Michigan that would far outpace any theoretical savings that repeal proponents claim would accrue;

Whereas occurrences of occupational injuries are significantly higher in states without prevailing wage laws, causing economic hardship to families and economic costs to the state in the form of increased worker compensation claims;

Whereas construction costs in states without prevailing wage laws are comparable to or higher than those in states with prevailing wage laws;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Western Michigan University chapter of the American Association of University Professors opposes the repeal of Michigan’s prevailing wage laws.

Information about Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Laws

Information about efforts to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law
in support of the WMU-AAUP Draft Resolution Opposing Repeal
(June 2015)

Updated July 1, 2015: Resolution PASSED.

View the resolution here.


Status of bills in Michigan State Legislature

Three bills that would repeal Michigan’s prevailing-wage laws (Senate Bills 1, 2, and 3) passed the Michigan Senate on May 14, 2015. All 10 Democratic state senators voted against the repeal, along with five Republicans who broke ranks to oppose the measure, while 22 Republican senators voted in favor of repeal. Prevailing wage laws require that workers employed on state-funded construction projects be paid union-scale wages and benefits.

While Gov. Snyder has not announced unequivocally that he will veto the bills, he has expressed strong opposition to them. MLive reported in May that the governor believes that “repealing the prevailing wage law. . . could hurt his plan to build the state’s skilled trades workforce.” 

Despite the possibility of a veto, these bills could still become law. Anticipating a veto, organizations who are pushing for repeal have announced a petition drive that would end-run the governor. MLive reports:

Michigan’s Constitution provides a path for citizens to send bills to Lansing. Once there, the Legislature has 40 days to enact a measure into law by way of a majority vote in each chamber — or let it go to the statewide ballot.

But a ballot proposal isn’t in the cards. [House Speaker Kevin] Cotter and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, both want to complete the repeal process in the state Legislature by the end of the year.

Although the Detroit News reported on June 15 that “More than 59 percent of likely voters support maintaining Michigan’s prevailing wage, a more than 2-1 advantage over the 25 percent of voters who want the law scrapped, according to a statewide poll,” supporters of the repeal have deep pockets and powerful friends and could easily collect the required 250,000 signatures.

Links to news articles and other information about the repeal legislation

Poll: Voters want to keep prevailing wage law
Detroit News, June 16, 2015

In next strike against unions, GOP states go after wage laws
Associated Press, June 15, 2015

Debate rages on whether ‘prevailing wage” repeal would save state money
Bridge Magazine/Crain’s Detroit Business, June 15, 2015

Republican leaders ready to go around Gov. Rick Snyder on prevailing wage repeal
MLive, May 28, 2015

Prevailing wage supporters plan defense as repeal petitions are approved for circulation
MLive, May 27, 2015

Senate votes 22-15 to repeal prevailing wage laws
Detroit Free Press, May 14, 2015

Prevailing wage and repeal legislation language
(Source: Michigan Legislature, Michigan Compiled Laws)

Who is behind the effort to repeal prevailing wage laws?

Prevailing Wage Repeal Act
Model Legislation, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

ALEC, NFIB Push Prevailing Wage Repeal
PR Watch, March 24, 2015

Studies of economic impacts of repealing prevailing wage laws

Duncan, Kevin, and Alex Lantsberg (2015). “How Weakening Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage Policy Would Affect Public Construction Costs and Economic Activity.” Smart Cities Prevail.

Kelsay, Michael P., James I. Sturgeon, and Kelly D. Pinkham (2011). “The Adverse Economic Impact from Repeal of the Prevailing Wage Law in Missouri.” Council for Promoting American Business.

Mahalia, Nooshin (2008). “Prevailing Wages and Government Contracting Costs: A Review of the Research.” Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper #215.

Manzo IV, Frank, and LeNee Carroll (2014). “Self-Sufficient Construction Workers: Why Prevailing Wage Laws Are the Best Deal for Taxpayers.” Illinois Economic Policy Institute.

Manzo IV, Frank, and Robert Bruno (2014). “Labor Unions, Prevailing Wage Laws, and Right-to-Work Laws in the Construction Industry.” Illinois Economic Policy Institute.

O’Leary, Sean (2015). “West Virginia’s Prevailing Wage: Good for Business, Good for Workers.” West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

Philips, Peter (2006). “Quality Construction, Strong Communities: The Effect of Prevailing Wage Regulation on the Construction Industry in Iowa.” University of Utah.

Philips, Peter (1998). “Kansas and Prevailing Wage Legislation.” Kansas Senate Labor and Industries Committee.

Price, Mark, and Stephen Herzenberg (2011). “The Benefits of State Prevailing Wage Laws: Better Jobs and More Productive Competition in the Construction Industry.” Keystone Research: Policy Ideas for Pennsylvania in the New Economy.

Quesada, Alison Dickson; Frank Manzo IV, Dale Belman, and Robert Bruno (2013). “A Weakened State: The Economic and Social Impacts of Repeal of the Prevailing Wage Law in Illinois.” University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana School of Labor and Employment Relations.

Vincent, Jeff (2005). “Analysis of School Construction Costs in Ohio and Indiana.” Institute for the Study of Labor in Society, Indiana University.

New AAUP Executive Director Brings Collective Bargaining Cred

The AAUP national organization has appointed Julie Schmid its new executive director, effective October 2013. Julie comes to the AAUP from AFT-Wisconsin, where she has worked since 2008 and served as chief of staff since 2012. She brings to her new post extensive experience in higher education, collective bargaining, and the legislative issues that affect both, experience that includes serving on the front lines of defense against the legislative attacks on public-sector collective bargaining in Wisconsin in 2011.

As senior program officer in the AAUP’s Department of Organizing and Services (2002 to 2008), Julie helped to lead the successful organization of faculty bargaining units at Michigan Tech and the University of Akron. In 2008, she became the director of AFT-Wisconsin, and in that role she was instrumental in the campaign to unionize the faculty and staff of the University of Wisconsin system.

Julie rejoins the AAUP at a critical time and is uniquely poised to understand the challenges faced by bargaining-unit chapters like ours. At a time when Gov. Rick Snyder and the state legislature seem bent on bringing the Scott Walker agenda to Michigan — an agenda designed to decimate public-sector unions (and the middle class), dictated largely by ALEC (which has already been busy here in Michigan) and pushed by organizations like the Mackinac Center that are funded heavily by the Koch brothers and the DeVos family — Julie’s appointment is good news for such chapters, many of which have been frustrated in recent years by the national organization’s apparent lack of interest in supporting the collective-bargaining work on our campuses or helping us stand up to legislative overreach.

In her statement, Julie speaks to many of the key issues on the minds of our own faculty here at WMU. Here is an excerpt:

I am excited to serve as the AAUP’s executive director because this is where the fight is. US higher education is in crisis. We are four decades into a radical defunding of state institutions of higher education. Faculty salaries are stagnant, while students are asked to pay more and more for their education. The overuse and exploitation of contingent faculty and graduate student employees continues. Academic freedom is under attack, and faculty senates have seen their voices diminished—sometimes because of administrative overreach and sometimes because the faculty has not exercised the power it has. And collective bargaining—which in many instances has proven to be an important means for bettering the working conditions of faculty members and academic professionals and for maintaining academic quality—is now under attack.

The AAUP is the conscience of the profession. For nearly a century, the AAUP has defined professional standards for higher education and vigorously defended those standards when they have come under attack. And for nearly half that time, the AAUP has epitomized faculty unionism by organizing strong collective bargaining chapters and by enshrining AAUP principles and policies in collective bargaining agreements.

You can read the statement in its entirety here and learn more about Julie here.

Survey says…

So far, 75 members have participated in the WMU-AAUP’s informal online survey of the faculty about their priorities for discussion at this week’s Chapter meeting (and over the longer term) and about their communication preferences. Thank you to all who managed to carve out some time to participate in the survey in the midst of your many responsibilities and obligations, especially at this hectic time of year.

Our goal is to continue to work as hard as we can on your behalf, to respond to your concerns, and to find new ways to make your membership in the WMU-AAUP more meaningful, useful, and relevant to you. Your participation in the survey, and the ideas, suggestions, and feedback you share with us in other ways, are extremely helpful and valuable to us. And your willingness to collaborate with us in this way is very much appreciated. We are all stronger when we work together.

We hope to see you at the last Chapter meeting of the academic year, which is tomorrow, Friday, April 19, at 1:30 p.m., in rooms 157-159 of the Bernhard Center. Now, without further ado, please read on for the survey results!

April 2013 WMU-AAUP Faculty Survey

1. Please select from the list below the topics that you feel are most important to address at the Chapter meeting on April 19. (Check all that apply.)

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2. Are there any topics not listed above that you would like to see added to the Chapter meeting agenda?

Summary of most frequent responses:

  • Equity, including gender equity, but also disciplinary and time-in-service equity (i.e., salary compression and inversion).
  • How to keep current faculty engaged in the WMU-AAUP and develop outreach program for new hires.
  • Increasing reliance on contingent faculty and overall loss of tenure lines campus-wide.
  • Disparity in health insurance costs compared to other employee groups on campus?

Q3. Thinking longer term, what do you feel are the most pressing issues in your professional life? In other words, what are the issues that you believe the WMU-AAUP ought to address on your behalf as we go forward ?

Summary of most frequent responses:

  • Planning and preparing for right-to-work to take effect on our campus. (Members cite need to focus on Chapter finances and resources, faculty outreach efforts to educate colleagues on the benefits of staying in the union, building community and solidarity on campus, and standing up to legislative threats.)
  • Planning for 2014 negotiations.
  • Gender equity.
  • Other salary-equity issues, including compression and inversion.
  • Below-market salaries of WMU faculty, stagnating wages, and increasing faculty costs.
  • Loss of faculty lines campus-wide, inadequate staffing of academic programs.
  • Workload, including unequal distributions of work within and across departments and colleges and significant increases in demands on faculty time.
  • Lack of opportunities for merit increases.
  • Unreasonable limitations on faculty use of sick leave to care for children; issues with annual leave for faculty on 12-month contracts.
  • Corporate versus intellectual values driving the institutional agenda; “creeping expansionism” at the expense of core values.
  • WMU fundraising efforts and resources diverted to medical school.
  • Administrative overreach that compromises academic freedom and shared governance.
  • Problems with evenhandedness and adherence to the contract in tenure and promotion review processes.
  • Faculty relationship with legislature, organizing ourselves and defending WMU against inappropriate legislative interference, apparent administrative willingness to accept legislative micromanagement (in contravention of state constitution).
  • Questions about use of assessment data in tenure and promotion decisions.
  • Administrative priorities and inequitable distribution of resources across colleges and departments.
  • Widespread lack of knowledge about and adherence to the contract on the parts of administrators as well as faculty.
  • Ongoing denial of salary minima to language specialists.
  • Permanent rather than year-by-year funding of the WMU Center for the Humanities.
  • Evaluation of administrators in addition to the provost.

4. What are your preferred ways of getting information from the WMU-AAUP? (Check all that apply.)

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5. Are there other ways you would like to be kept informed by the WMU-AAUP, in addition to (or as alternatives to) the communication options listed in question #4?

7 responses received. Summary of responses:

  • Don’t like getting both email and paper versions of communications; paper version should be discontinued.
  • Concerned that Association Council representatives may not be attending meetings regularly or sharing information with department colleagues.
  • Would like more frequent meetings.
  • Would like copies of approved minutes sent to all Chapter members. 

6. If you would like to be contacted via text message, what kinds of information would you like to receive in this way? (Check all that apply.)

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7. If you would like to be contacted via text message, please type the phone number to which you would like for us to direct our messages to you.

(Don’t worry. We would never share your information.)

8. What are your ideas or suggestions for how the WMU-AAUP can be more effective on your behalf and/or how we can help make your membership more useful, meaningful, and relevant to you?

Summary of responses:

  • Keep focusing on gender equity.
  • Attention to the variety of workload issues on our campus.
  • Work toward all manner of equity: gender, ethnic/racial, disciplinary, teaching loads, service loads, distribution of resources, awarding of sabbaticals, etc.
  • Keep surveying members regularly.
  • Stand up to Lansing. Work for change of personnel in the legislature and against governor’s re-election.
  • Work with other institutions across Michigan to protect higher education as a public good and fend off political encroachment.
  • Fight hard on compensation in 2014.
  • Need a campus-wide conversation on salary compression and inversion.
  • More meetings with different groups of faculty, including Chapter meetings and Association Council meetings, but also meetings with faculty in various colleges and departments and/or in issue-driven groups, to talk about union issues.
  • Communicate actively and frequently with faculty. Provide lots of updates.
  • Make sure officers keep consistent office hours.
  • As we get ready for RTW at WMU once our current contract expires in September 2014, focus on faculty outreach, including regular surveys, marketing/PR campaigns, social events, community-building opportunities, and highlighting of member services and their value.
  • “Maybe a concerted press relations campaign about what faculty do — work load — pressure to raise money for university — etc. If the press understood, and communicated this to general public, there would be more understanding of AAUP and other unions.”
  • “We need to have a larger conversation about the place of the union in Michigan, now a right-to-work state. How can we continue to be relevant to all our faculty? How can we remain relevant to those who probably won’t pay their dues anymore? How can we address and respond to the animosity and resentment that many people in Michigan feel toward unions?”

9. Are you interested in serving in a leadership position in the WMU-AAUP?

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Thank you for the great turnout!

Thank you, colleagues, for showing up to support our PIO colleagues at the meeting of the Board of Trustees earlier today. Turnout was very strong, with PIO, AFSCME, and WMU-AAUP members lining the corridors leading to the meeting room and then packing the room.

A number of faculty members representing PIO and the WMU-AAUP addressed the board and made a powerful case for why WMU must stand up to unconstitutional legislative interference. The discourse was respectful but highly compelling and persuasive.

Now it’s time for the President Dunn and the Board of Trustees to do the right thing and ratify the PIO contract!