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!

Demonstration TODAY – Wednesday, February 27

Demonstration TODAY – 12:30 p.m. at the Bernhard Center

Our PIO colleagues learned yesterday that the university administration is delaying ratification of the tentative agreement reached last week until the new “right-to-work” laws go into effect at the end of March.

Please plan to show up at the Bernhard Center TODAY at 12:30 for the Board of Trustees meeting to protest this dishonorable course of action by the university administration and to encourage President Dunn to ratify the PIO contract and resist further legislative interference at WMU.

The administration’s actions raise serious questions as to whether they can be trusted to negotiate in good faith with the bargaining units on this campus, including the WMU-AAUP. A strong turnout this afternoon is essential if we are to send the message that the faculty will not stand for the university’s right to institutional autonomy to be subverted. 

For more information about the PIO contract issue and why it matters to the WMU-AAUP, please refer to the yesterday’s post, “President Dunn Must Resist Legislative Interference at WMU.”

TODAY. 12:30 p.m. Bernhard Center. BE THERE!

Demonstration TOMORROW – Wednesday, February 27

We have just heard from the PIO leadership that the university administration plans to delay ratification of the tentative agreement until the new “right-to-work” laws go into effect at the end of March.

Please plan to show up at the Bernhard Center tomorrow (Wednesday, February 27) at 12:30 for the Board of Trustees meeting to protest this incredibly dishonorable course of action by the university administration and to encourage President Dunn to ratify the PIO contract and to resist further legislative interference at WMU.

The administration’s actions raise serious questions as to whether they can be trusted to negotiate in good faith with the bargaining units on this campus, including the WMU-AAUP. A strong turnout at the board meeting tomorrow is essential if we are to send the message that the faculty will not stand for the university’s right to institutional autonomy to be subverted. 

For more information about the PIO contract issue and why it matters to the WMU-AAUP, please refer to the previous post, “President Dunn Must Resist Legislative Interference at WMU.”

Tomorrow. 12:30 p.m. Bernhard Center. Be there!

President Dunn Must Resist Legislative Interference at WMU


Update #1 at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26 (see below)

Update #2 at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26 (click here)

As many of you are aware, the WMU Professional Instructors Organization (PIO), the bargaining unit for our part-time faculty colleagues, has been in negotiations with the university administration since last November, in advance of the August 1, 2013, expiration of their current contract. Last Friday, the PIO and the administration reached a final tentative agreement, and the PIO leadership submitted it to their members for ratification. The administration’s negotiation team agreed to schedule the ratification vote for the next meeting of the WMU Board of Trustees, on Wednesday, February 27.

However, on Friday evening, the PIO leadership was informed that the administration would not move to ratify the tentative agreement after all because of concerns about a statement issued last week by Rep. Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville), chair of the Michigan House higher education appropriations subcommittee, who has threatened to penalize state universities that extend or renew a non-expiring contract before the new “right-to-work” laws go into effect at the end of March. PIO’s contract is set to expire later this year, and negotiations have been underway for over three months.

The PIO tentative agreement should be taken up for ratification at the Board of Trustees meeting on February 27, as the administration has previously agreed to do. We call on President Dunn and the Board of Trustees to honor that commitment.

We want the PIO to have a ratified contract this week. But we ask that all WMU-AAUP members be ready to stand in solidarity with our PIO colleagues if we are called to do so. And we don’t just mean that metaphorically: We may be called upon to turn out in support of PIO as early as tomorrow.

We further call on President Dunn to resist this inappropriate legislative pressure and to defend WMU against spurious claims on the parts of legislators and some members of the media that negotiations between the university’s administrators and its faculty or staff are in any way underhanded. As you all are aware, the new “right-to-work” laws will go into effect at the end of March. However, they are not yet in effect, and the WMU-AAUP therefore rejects any attempt to try to frame conversations and agreements between WMU faculty and administration, including the PIO negotiations as well as those of our own proposed union security agreement (USA), as if they are illegal or improper. They are not.

To date, President Dunn has refused to meet with Chapter leadership to discuss the USA, citing the passage of the “right-to-work” bills as “the will of the people,” which he says he must respect. The WMU-AAUP rejects that characterization. The bills were passed by a lame-duck state legislature that bypassed the standard committee hearing process and disallowed public comment. Citizens were literally locked out of the Capitol while the bills were debated and voted on. And the bills include an appropriations provision deliberately inserted to make them referendum-proof. This is hardly “the will of the people.”

Like all public universities in Michigan, Western Michigan University has constitutional autonomy, which is the right to self-governance, overseen at WMU by our Board of Trustees. We believe that it is inappropriate for lawmakers to try to subvert this important constitutional provision by threatening to withhold funding if they do not get their way on our campus, and we are deeply concerned about the kinds of control they may try to exert on our institution in the future if we do not stand up to them this time. It is imperative that President Dunn make this case on behalf of WMU, and we pledge to stand in solidarity with him when he does so.

Please stay tuned for updates regarding possible action.

Update (12:30 p.m. on February 26): 

Kevin Wordelman of PIO writes:

PIO leaders are meeting at 4 PM today with WMU’s representatives to find out where we stand. If WMU refuses to ratify, we need to act fast. We are considering ALL options, but we are giving WMU one last chance to do the right thing.

The first Board of Trustees meeting of the year (and the last until April) is tomorrow, Wednesday, at 1 PM in room 157 of the Bernhard Center.

We need you to stand with us at the meeting. If WMU ratifies, we will celebrate victory, if not, we will protest WMU’s failure to keep its promise.

Please clear your schedule tomorrow from 12:30 – 2:30 and join us!

AAUP colleagues, we urge you to come out tomorrow to stand with our PIO colleagues!