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

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

Letter from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

August 31, 2017

Dear colleagues:

With the 2014-17 Agreement between the WMU-AAUP and the WMU Board of Trustees set to expire at midnight on Tuesday, September 5, we remain optimistic that our bargaining team and the administration’s team will reach a tentative agreement (TA) by the deadline.

However, we need to be prepared in the event that the two sides do not reach a TA by midnight on Tuesday.

This message serves as notice to the faculty that if the two teams do not come to a tentative agreement by the deadline, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee requests that all bargaining-unit faculty be prepared to participate in a “work to rule” labor action and withdraw from all work outside our contract and letters of appointment, effective at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 2017.

The teams have been at the table for more than five months now, and our team has worked tirelessly to bring us a fair contract and to complete negotiations in a timely way, even agreeing to start bargaining on the Monday after spring break, which is considerably earlier than usual. If the two teams do not reach a tentative agreement by midnight on September 5, the unresolved issues will be compensation and healthcare.

Faculty salaries at WMU remain below those of our those of our colleagues at peer institutions, while the costs to us for health insurance have increased sharply in recent years for faculty as well as staff. If the administration’s team gets its way, many faculty and staff colleagues will experience significant economic hardship. Some already do as a result of previous insurance premium spikes. Meanwhile, senior administrators prosper, enjoying large salaries, perks, and in some cases even substantial cash bonuses. As a percentage of salary, their insurance premiums, which in dollars are the same as ours, are surely far more manageable. This institutionalized inequity is unacceptable. We do understand the budget and finance challenges facing the institution. But we also know that every institution has choices about how to invest its resources. And we disagree with an administration whose priorities have gone far adrift from our collective academic mission. [1]

As is well known on campus, all WMU faculty (and staff) perform a massive amount of work beyond what we are hired and paid to do. The institution is heavily dependent on these goodwill donations of labor.

In “working to rule,” we demonstrate to the administration, Board of Trustees, campus community, and the public that the faculty and staff of Western Michigan University are its heart, its soul, and its conscience; that we are dedicated to this institution and especially to its students; that it would be impossible for the institution to honor its commitments and its mission without our goodwill donations of labor; that the value of our uncompensated work saves the university far more than it would cost to compensate all of us fairly; and that we are aware of our value to WMU and demand that our contributions and those of our staff colleagues be respected and appropriately compensated.

A “work to rule” labor action is not a strike. Nor is it a work slowdown or stoppage. It is simply a demonstration that we are fully aware of the extent to which our institution not only benefits from but cannot do without the uncompensated work we and our staff colleagues regularly perform. “Work to rule” is a lawful, peaceful labor action. We will continue to comply fully with the contract.

“Work to rule” actions can take different forms and vary widely across industries, institutions, and professions. For us, “work to rule” means that we would continue to do the work we are hired and paid to do (the “rule” is our union contract along with our letters of appointment) but that we would do only that work. We would suspend – immediately and indefinitely – the extensive volunteer work that we donate to the institution.

While by law the WMU-AAUP can bargain only on behalf of the 900 members of the Board-appointed faculty, it is well known on campus that most of WMU’s other employee groups also receive many of the benefits we win at the table and endure the same cuts that are imposed on us.

We will act, then, if a TA is not reached by midnight Tuesday, not only on behalf of the 900 members of our WMU-AAUP bargaining unit but also in solidarity with our staff colleagues, many of whom are not protected by unions and none of whom outside of our unit are protected by tenure.

Click here to learn more about what a work-to-rule action might look like at WMU, including why we believe that the possible impacts on our students will be minimal if any, the kinds of work this type of action is likely to involve, and how tenured faculty can help to protect pre-tenure and term-appointed colleagues during a work-to-rule action (or any other labor action).

Finally, I include here a reminder that all bargaining-unit members should plan to join us for a special chapter meeting on Tuesday, September 5 (3:30-4:30pm in 157 Bernhard) to discuss the status of our contract negotiations and the logistics of a work-to-rule action should the two sides not reach a TA by midnight on the 5th. After the meeting, we hope to see you at Montague House for the WMU-AAUP Fall BBQ (5-7pm), where we will rally for our team at 6:20pm and accompany them across the street to Walwood Hall as they head back to the table for their final scheduled bargaining session before the midnight deadline. (More details about these events are available here.)

If we do not have a contract by midnight on September 5, expect a call from the chapter leadership for all WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit members to withdraw immediately from all the voluntary yet essential work that we regularly perform beyond our full contractual workloads.

Many thanks to all of you for standing with our team throughout this long and grueling negotiation cycle. Your energy, smarts, collegiality, generosity, humor, and dedication to Western Michigan University and especially to our students are inspiring and remind us every day of why what we are fighting for is so important.

Thank you also in advance for bearing with us for a little longer, staying strong until we have a fair contract, and being prepared to work to rule if the teams do not reach a tentative agreement by midnight on Tuesday.

See you on September 5!

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WMUAAUP2017

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University
814 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008
(269) 345-0151

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Note:

[1] The linked documents are extracts from an analysis by Dr. Howard Bunsis, Professor of Accounting at Eastern Michigan University and immediate past chair of the national AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress. Howard’s full analysis is linked here.

 

FAQs: What is “work to rule”?

What is a “work to rule” labor action?

If the two bargaining teams do not reach a tentative agreement by midnight on September 5, 2017, all WMU-AAUP faculty will be called on to withdraw immediately from all work outside our contract and letters of appointment, effective at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6.

“Work to rule” means that we will continue to do what we are hired and paid to do – the “rule” is our union contract along with our letters of appointment – but that we would suspend – immediately and indefinitely – the extensive volunteer work that we donate to the institution. We will continue to comply fully with the contract.

A “work to rule” labor action is not a strike. Nor is it a work slowdown or stoppage. It is simply a demonstration that we are fully aware of the extent to which our institution not only benefits from but cannot do without the uncompensated work we and our staff colleagues regularly perform. “Work to rule” is a lawful, peaceful labor action.

What kinds of work is this type of action likely to involve?

All faculty members can list examples of extra work they perform, a lot of it routinely and some for limited periods of time. Since faculty disciplines as well as department and college cultures can vary so widely across WMU, you may be asked or expected to participate in uncompensated overload work activities that colleagues in other departments or colleges have never been asked to do, and vice versa. This makes it difficult to provide examples that will apply to everyone, although the list below is probably general enough to give you an idea of what this kind of work can look like. From there, you can identify a list that applies to you individually along with other examples that may be characteristic of (and possibly unique to) your department and/or college.

Some general examples of the kinds of work many faculty members have been expected to perform (and that most if not all of us do perform) and that are therefore appropriate to suspend under a “work to rule” action include the following:

  • We will not respond to emails, phone calls, text messages or other communications from our chairs, deans, or other administrators outside regular business hours, despite expectations from some that faculty are or should be available and responsive at all hours of every day. For many of us, these communications are excessive, intrusive, and burdensome, and the pressure to respond immediately has become a significant factor in work-related stress.
  • We will not volunteer to serve on committees or otherwise provide professional service to the institution in excess of our contractually agreed-upon workloads.
  • We will not participate in fundraising, marketing, recruiting, strategic planning, or accreditation activities on behalf of the institution, nor in any other administrative initiatives, when these tasks would exceed our full contractually agreed-upon workloads.
  • Any and all work that constitutes overload but is not compensated, even if it is work that would be acceptable as part of a contractual workload, will be suspended under work-to-rule.

How would a “work to rule” action impact our students?

We expect that the impact on students would be minimal. Here’s why:

While much of the uncompensated work of faculty (as well as staff) is performed for the direct benefit of our students, we understand and appreciate that most faculty and staff would never withdraw from work that serves students directly, including under a work-to-rule action.

However, it is disappointing that instead of honoring our dedication to our students, many members of the administration have come to expect and some may even feel entitled to the generous contributions of faculty (and staff) time, energy, and labor, including the extensive and often difficult emotional labor, that go far beyond what we are hired and paid to do but that many of us perform regularly in the course of our service to our students. We recognize that much of this labor results from insufficient support systems and resources to meet the needs of our students and to support the work of faculty and staff and call on the administration to do better at prioritizing these needs.

However, we are also asked or expected to perform many uncompensated tasks for which our withdrawal will have minimal or zero impacts on students, and it is these activities we call on all members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit to withdraw from if a tentative agreement is not reached by the deadline.

Is it safe for pre-tenure and term-appointed faculty to participate in a work-to-rule action? How can tenured faculty help to protect those who don’t have tenure?

It is important to emphasize again that “work to rule” is a lawful labor action. It is not a strike, not a work slowdown, and not a work stoppage.

However, we can appreciate the possible apprehension of colleagues who are not protected by tenure. And while we believe that the more faculty who participate in any labor action, the safer all of our colleagues will be, regardless of tenure status, we understand that term-appointed faculty may feel especially vulnerable to nonrenewal as a consequence of their participation. We condemn any kind of retaliation against those who would participate in lawful, peaceful labor actions and wish our colleagues did not feel that they should have to fear for their jobs. The job insecurity experienced by term-appointed faculty (as well as our part-time faculty colleagues) is ultimately as unhealthy for the institution as it is for these individuals.

For those of us who enjoy the protection of tenure, it is critically important that we join together to protect our pre-tenure and term-appointed colleagues. We will need to make sure these colleagues remain free from unreasonable and noncontractual additions to their workloads during our work-to-rule action, should we have to engage in one. We will also need to protect from retaliation those who participate in the action. We remind everyone that the first would be a violation of Article 42 our contract, while the second would be illegal. The WMU-AAUP Chapter will actively pursue all available remedies should any such violations occur against any of our bargaining-unit members.

Finally, if you are tenured, in the event that we do end up having to implement work-to-rule because the two teams do not reach a TA by the deadline, please be prepared to inform your chair or director, dean, and the interim provost on Wednesday, September 6, of what you are doing and why. Please also draw their attention to the importance of not burdening untenured colleagues, staff, or part-time faculty with extra work to try to compensate for our labor action. And please emphasize to them the importance of not risking the appearance of retaliation (or actual retaliation) against untenured colleagues or any other faculty who participate in this or any other lawful labor actions. Note: There is of course no need to be confrontational in these contacts. Our objective is simply to educate and inform.

Got more questions? Call us at 345-0151, drop us an email, or just comment below.

Click here for WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick’s August 31 work-to-rule letter to the faculty.