Tentative agreement reached just before midnight

A tentative agreement was reached between our WMU-AAUP bargaining team and the administration’s team just before midnight on Tuesday, September 5. Details are forthcoming, but for now, we all desperately need some sleep, and most of us have to go to class tomorrow, so your patience is appreciated.

Please join us in thanking Cynthia, Whitney, Bruce, Jeremy, and Mike for their extraordinary efforts at the table over the past nearly six months.

And to everyone who came out to the chapter meeting, BBQ, and rally today, who attended previous events and rallies, who helped boost our signal on social media, and who volunteered and participated in this collaborative effort in the many ways required for a project of this magnitude: Many, many thanks to you for your time, talent, creativity, intelligence, and collegiality.

The news tonight means that we do not have to invoke the “work to rule” labor action we had planned in the event that a TA was not reached. But we believe that all faculty should give serious thought to the extent to which they donate their time, energy, and labor to an institution that does not always recognize our value the way they should. We are worth it.

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WMUAAUP2017

Contract Negotiations and “Work to Rule,” by Allison Hart-Young

From: Allison Hart-Young |
Sent: Tuesday, September 5, 2017 2:18 p.m. |
To: Regena Nelson, Chair, Department of Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies
Cc: Ming Li, Dean, College of Education and Human Development I
Cc: Susan Stapleton, Interim Provost and VP for Academic Affairs |
Subject: Work to Rule Labor Action |

Dear Regena,

I am writing to inform you that I will be among the tenured faculty members who will participate fully in the WMU AAUP’s “work to rule” action scheduled for Wednesday, 6 September 2017 beginning at 12:01am, should a tentative agreement is not met in the final round of negotiations prior to the expiration of the current contract.

I will absolutely continue to fulfill all of my contractually mandated responsibilities. As you are well aware, my commitment to students is my primary concern. Thus, I will be mindful of my teaching duties so that students will not be impacted by my participation in the action. As I understand it, “work to rule” is not a strike, stoppage, or slow down. It is a legal action that helps to convey the idea that WMU expects its faculty (and other employees) to do significant uncompensated work on a regular basis. It is particularly concerning because this institution has expressly denied its responsibility to fairness and equity for its employees. As a tenured, full professor, I feel it critically important to shoulder this burden so that my untenured and part-time colleagues, as well as staff members, do not have to compensate for this action.

I have taught at WMU for 21 years. It is my home and I have committed my entire professional life to this institution and its students. As you know, I have served over 4,200 students in my career – I care very much for these students and the programs that serve them. In this regard, I feel that the best way I can advocate for the continued success of this institution is to stand with my colleagues across campus in solidarity with this action.

Please let me know if you have any concerns. I will be more than happy to discuss them with you.

Sincerely,
Allison Hart-Young, Ph.D.

Secondary Education Program Unit Coordinator
Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies
College of Education and Human Development
Western Michigan University
4121 Sangren Hall
1903 W Michigan Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

 

 

Work to Rule Labor Action, by Gwen Athene Tarbox

From: Gwen Athene Tarbox |
Sent: Tuesday, September 5, 2017 10:41 a.m. |
To: Nicolas Witschi, Chair, Department of English |
Cc: Carla Korestsky, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences I
Cc: Susan Stapleton, Interim Provost and VP for Academic Affairs |
Subject: Work to Rule Labor Action |

Dear Nic:

The Agreement between the WMU-AAUP and the WMU administration is set to expire at tonight at midnight. If the teams are unable to arrive at a tentative agreement, I will follow the directive of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee by participating in a legal labor action called “work to rule,” withdrawing “from all work outside our contract and letters of appointment, effective at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 2017” (“Sept 6 Work to Rule Notice to WMU-AAUP Faculty,” WMU-AAUP Blog, 8/31/17). Work to rule actions include all voluntary labor that a faculty member provides to the institution. As Dr. Lisa Minnick, President of the WMU-AAUP points out, without the uncompensated labor of the faculty, “it would be impossible for the institution to honor its commitments and its mission.” Work to rule is designed to demonstrate the value of the faculty to the institution.

As you know, over the years, I have provided significant uncompensated labor to the Department of English. For instance, I have worked with many students over the summers, even though I serve on a 9-month appointment. This voluntary labor has helped ensure that our PhD students complete their degrees in a timely manner and enjoy success on the academic job market, earning tenure track positions at California State University-Northridge, Shippensburg University, West Chester University, and the University of Texas-Dallas, among others. I have also met in the summer to help undergraduates with their successful applications to graduate programs at institutions such as Harvard University, the University of Michigan, The Ohio State University, and Syracuse University.

Just as I have willingly undertaken uncompensated labor to help my students, I also appreciate the importance of honoring my commitments to my faculty colleagues in our efforts to receive a fair contract. Currently, WMU faculty members earn lower salaries than faculty members at many of the schools included on WMU’s Peer Institution list. WMU faculty members deserve respect for our contractual labor, not to mention our uncompensated labor. Hopefully, this legal, peaceful work to rule action will underscore our positive contributions to the institution.

Of course, I will be actively teaching this week and starting on the administrative tasks that we agreed I would handle as part of my contractual workload, and I will make sure that my undergraduate students and my doctoral advisees continue to receive timely instruction and advice. I am proud to be a part of our department and our college, and I know that we are at the beginning of what will be a productive and engaging academic year. I am also proud to be a member of our union, and I am optimistic that we will have a mutually beneficial contract in place soon.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions regarding the work to rule process. I have attached a paper copy of this letter, with my electronic signature, as well.

Best wishes,
Gwen

Dr. Gwen Athene Tarbox
Professor
Department of English
Western Michigan University
1903 W. Michigan Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5331

Website: http://gatarbox.wixsite.com/home

Work to Rule statement, by Chris Nagle

From: Christopher Nagle |
Sent: Tuesday, September 5, 2017 8:12 a.m. |
To: Nicolas Witschi, Chair, Department of English |
Cc: Carla Korestsky, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences I
Cc: Susan Stapleton, Interim Provost and VP for Academic Affairs |
Subject: Work to Rule statement |

Dear Nic,

I write this letter to inform you that I will be one of those tenured faculty members who will participate fully in the WMU AAUP’s “work to rule” action, beginning on Wed., 9/6/17 at 12:01am, if a tentative agreement is not met in the final round of negotiations prior to the expiration of our current contract.

I hasten to add that I will continue to fulfill all of my contractually mandated responsibilities, and will be especially mindful of my duties to my students, who should not be impacted by this commitment. My understanding is that “work to rule” is completely different from a strike, stoppage, or slowdown, and that it is legal, permissible, and in my judgment, ethically necessary in an environment where an institution such as WMU continues to expect its employees to do significant uncompensated work on a regular basis–especially when that institution expressly denies its responsibility to fairness and equity for its employees. It seems equally vital to me that untenured and part-time colleagues, as well as staff members, are not asked to shoulder an additional burden to compensate for this action.

I love and respect this school and have committed the entirety of my postgraduate professional life to it. I believe the best way that I can continue to show my support for its success, both at present and into the future, is to stand with my colleagues across campus in solidarity with this action.

Please let me know if you have any concerns, and I certainly will do my best to address them.

Respectfully,
Chris

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Christopher C. Nagle
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5331
p: (269)387-2591
f: (269)387-2562
e: christopher.nagle@wmich.edu
w: http://www.christophernagle.com
Pronouns: he/him/his

 

Why I will WORK TO RULE if we don’t have a contract by midnight tonight, by Berni Proeschl

From: Bernard S. Proeschl |
Sent: Tuesday, September 5, 2017 12:13 a.m. |
To: Richard W Zinser, Chair, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences |
Cc: Ming Li, Dean of the College of Education and Human Development |
Cc: Susan Stapleton, Interim Provost and VP for Academic Affairs |

Hi Rick,

I am writing this as a show of support for my colleagues that are negotiating for an equitable contract. As I’m sure you are well aware, if there is not a tentative agreement by midnight September 5, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee has requested 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.

I honestly thought President Montgomery and his administration would want to usher in a meaningful regime change rather than promote the current environment that devalues the contributions of faculty and staff alike. It would have been a wonderful gesture to communicate to faculty that, after years of compromise and sacrifice on our part, there would be a significant shift in university priorities to be reflected in our new contract. That opportunity has been lost. Unless maybe there is to be a dramatic last-minute surprise entrance at the negotiating table tomorrow?

Tomorrow morning at 9am, with a smile (and I am not a good morning person), I will start another year of teaching my undergraduates about all things design. They are young, and it would be irresponsible of me to try to share with them the soul-crushing reality of an administration that truly does not give a damn about our faculty, our staff, and our resources. Despite being told more times than I care to remember that my program is simply not a priority, and despite the fact that there are no longer any other tenured or tenure-track colleagues in my program (I thought for sure that I would be a mentor at this point in my career), I am prepared as always and willingly accept my responsibilities as a teacher.

Again, I write this to go on record voicing solidarity for those that have worked so hard on my behalf, and not as a personal affront.

Best Regards,
Berni

SEPT. 5 DAY OF ACTION: Contract expires TONIGHT – Stand with your team today!

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick |

September 5, 2017 |

Dear colleagues,

Welcome to the 2017-18 academic year! Wishing everyone a great first day and a productive, fulfilling year.

Obviously this first day of classes is different from most others, because our contract will expire at midnight tonight. Our bargaining team has been fighting hard for nearly six months to make our case at the table, and they have been doing an outstanding job. But they get their leverage and their power from the rest of us. And it is on us to make sure they can count on us to bring it.

That means mobilizing your colleagues to attend the chapter meeting this afternoon (3:30 p.m. in 157 Bernhard) and turning out tonight for the BBQ (5-7 p.m. at Montague House) and the rally (6:20 p.m. at Montague House).

We need a large turnout for all these events so we that can increase the pressure on the administration by using the leverage of our numbers. Let’s make sure that when this is all over, we can say to ourselves, to one another, and to our team, that we are 100 percent sure that we did everything we possibly could to support and honor their efforts at the table, keep the pressure on the administration, and win ourselves the contract we want and deserve.

Our team has been doing its part. Now it comes down to whether the faculty will return the favor today.

We continue to be optimistic that the two teams will reach a tentative agreement (TA) by tonight’s deadline. But we are also prepared to launch the Work to Rule labor action, as we announced last week, if a TA is not reached by midnight tonight. While I think we can all agree — on both sides — that settling the new contract by the deadline tonight would be a positive outcome, under no circumstances can the faculty agree to a contract that is beneath our dignity.

That means we need to be prepared for the possibility that this won’t be over tonight, that we might have to keep fighting for a while longer, that we might be going in to work tomorrow without a contract, and that we might be working-to-rule — indefinitely — beginning just after midnight tonight.

Because appeals to logic, equity, and fairness do not always work at the table, where there is an inherently asymmetric balance of power, the faculty’s responsibility is to make it clear that we support our team and will not stand for anything that moves us backwards or even keeps us where we are, i.e., far below the national median for faculty salaries and below our colleagues at most of the institutions that the WMU administration has identified as our peers.

Many thanks to all of you for your work on what has been a truly collaborative effort to support our team and mobilize our colleagues. Please don’t give up now.

We’ll talk at the chapter meeting this afternoon about the latest news from the bargaining table and discuss the work-to-rule labor action we’re planning if we don’t reach a tentative agreement tonight. For now, and as always, thank you again for all you’ve done to support our team and for doing everything you can to turn out for them today.

#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

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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