Letter to the faculty: Take your fall break October 17-19

photo of forest with tall trees, sun peeking through, and red autumn leaves

October 16, 2018

Dear colleagues:

We’ve been receiving inquiries about whether faculty are required to report for work during the fall break, which takes place Wednesday through Friday of this week.

The answer, for both fiscal-year and academic-year faculty, is NO.

The fall calendar change this year, with the earlier academic-year start date, was negotiated in 2017 at the bargaining table and constituted a significant trade-off for us. What we got in return was (1.) a little more money than what had been on the table thus far and (2.) fall break. A deal is a deal. Faculty should absolutely take these three days off.

We encourage all faculty to take advantage of the fall break, not only because you deserve it (which of course you do), but also because the best way to protect the rights and benefits that have been negotiated and won at the bargaining table, including this one, is by using them. If some faculty show up to work during breaks, it can make it harder for us to enforce the rights of everyone else to take the time off to which all faculty are entitled.

Obviously taking a few days off is one of the easier and more fun ways to defend the contract, so this is a perfect opportunity for all of us to participate in a collective action to protect faculty rights. (And what’s not to love about a five-day weekend?)

In sum, fall break was negotiated at the bargaining table. And as you all know, we don’t get anything for free, including this. So please take it.

If you are being informed that you are obliged to report at any time during the break, please contact us immediately at 345-0151. Our office will be open until 4:30 p.m. today (Tuesday, October 16), after which we will be closed until Monday in observance of fall break. After close of business today, please email chapter officers directly with your concerns. Our contact info is linked here.

#5DayWeekend
#WeAreWorthIt
#StrengthInSolidarity

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University

Fall 2018 academic-year faculty return date: August 29

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick |
August 13, 2018 |

Dear colleagues:

We are receiving reports that some chairs and other administrators have been informing academic-year (AY) faculty (erroneously) that they are required to report back to work for the new academic year on August 15, 2018.

That is not accurate.

For the 2018-19 academic year, AY faculty are not required to report before August 29.

If you are just interested in getting the correct date and don’t want to get into the minutiae of contract language, you can stop right here. Have a great day!

For those interested in the contractual justification for this statement, please read on. If you serve on the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee or Association Council, please read on and please share this information with your chair or director (and dean if necessary). 

The WMU/WMU-AAUP Agreement is explicit on this topic: Article 38 states the return date for faculty on AY appointments as the first day of classes. For Fall 2018, the first day of classes is August 29.

The relevant language appears across several sections of Article 38, including the definition of “academic year” in 38.§4.1 (emphasis added):

38.§4.1 Academic Year. Bargaining unit faculty members on academic or alternate academic year appointments shall not be required to work during the following University recognized holidays and breaks: two (2) days at Thanksgiving; single days for Christmas Eve; Christmas Day; New Year’s Eve; New Year’s Day; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Memorial Day; Independence Day; Labor Day; and a designated Western Spirit Day (none of these days shall be a Saturday or a Sunday); nor during periods between semesters and sessions when classes are not scheduled to meet, except in the limited circumstances envisioned in 38.§2 of this Agreement.

Additionally, 38.§2 uses the term “outside the calendar” for periods of time when AY faculty “shall not be required to work” per 38.§4.1. It explicitly defines the following periods of time as “outside the calendar”: “before the fall semester begins, between the fall and spring semesters, and after the spring semester ends.”

Appendix D of the Agreement articulates the specific dates for each year of the contract (2017-20) for all periods of time referenced in Article 38, including all university holidays, breaks, and other important dates. Excerpts from that calendar are listed below:

  • August 29 Wednesday – Classes begin at 8 a.m.
  • September 3 Monday – Labor Day recess
  • October 17-19 Wed.-Fri. – Fall Break
  • November 21 Wednesday – Thanksgiving recess (noon)
  • November 26 Monday – Classes resume
  • December 10-13 – Final examination week
  • December 15 Saturday – Semester ends – commencement

There are a few exceptions. Article 38.§2 provides for limited exceptions for matters that legitimately require attention at times that are contractually “outside the calendar.” However, these provisions may be used only in accordance with the constraints outlined in that section. A general early-return requirement does not meet the contractual criteria.

Please note also that pay period dates set by the payroll office have no bearing on the contractual work dates for AY faculty. Pay period dates are set by the payroll office to ensure that faculty are paid on the 5th and 20th of each month, per the twice-monthly pay schedule established in 2015, beginning with the first AY pay date of September 5. To honor the September 5 pay date, the first pay period of the 2018-19 AY begins on August 15.

However, some administrators may be using the pay-period start date to try to compel faculty to return on August 15. This is an error on their part.

The date that a pay period starts (or ends) has no relation to the academic calendar as defined in the contract nor to our contractual obligations, except to ensure our timely paychecks in relation to the academic calendar. The payroll office has simply set up its schedule so that we can be paid on time (which we all appreciate). But that is the extent of it.

The administration is required to follow the legally binding contract language regarding the academic calendar, period. For the 2018-19 academic year, faculty are not required to report prior to August 29, 2018.

We are assuming that once your chairs and directors (and deans) are informed about the contractual start date, any claims of an August 15 start date, or other early start date, will be retracted in order to avoid a violation of the contract.

Please contact the WMU-AAUP Chapter immediately if you are an AY faculty member who is being instructed to report earlier than August 29.

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

 

 

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