Tenure-track and tenure-track faculty at Eastern Michigan University went on strike indefinitely Wednesday over stalled negotiations for new contracts. Although spent in line, the university instructed students to attend class and wait 15 minutes to see if an instructor would show up. After 91% of faculty voted in favor of Tuesday’s strike, many did not.

Negotiations were underway on Wednesday, but no agreement was reached. By the end of the day, Eastern Michigan had filed a complaint in Washtenaw County Circuit Court seeking an injunction ordering the return of faculty to work. Civil servant strikes are illegal in Michigan, and the university’s complaint cited injuries to students and others.

“Our primary focus is getting faculty back into the classroom so that students can continue their education,” said Walter Kraft, a university spokesperson, in a statement. “We are committed to providing our students with a complete and positive academic experience, especially as negotiations continue today with the assistance of state-appointed mediators. .”

The faculty union affiliated with the Association of American University Professors said the university’s legal efforts would fail, accusing Eastern Michigan of repeating unfair labor practices and exaggerating the impact of the 24-hour strike on students. The university denies violating unfair labor practices.

Mohammed El-Said, professor of engineering and president of the faculty union, said in a statement: student. “

Premium stalemate

The teachers’ union’s previous contract expired a week ago after being extended multiple times since it was first signed in 2015. Difficulties with alternative contracts include health care premiums and shared governance. Undergraduate negotiators also said the university had postponed negotiations, revealing a major offer only after negotiations had already begun this summer. said that he did

Matthew Kirkpatrick, associate professor of English and chair of the undergraduate negotiation team, said: “If you were going to make significant changes to employee benefits, you should have talked about it before you negotiated.”

A Michigan law enacted in 2012 limits the amount a public employee can contribute to an employee’s medical expenses. To comply with this law, agencies must either follow a dollar cap on the amount that an employee contributes to the plan or his 80/20 ratio, where the employer covers 80% of the plan and the employee contributes the rest. A cost-sharing model should be adopted.

As of Wednesday, East Michigan still offers a hard-cap model for teachers’ unions, which union members said would increase medical costs prohibitively for most members — those with families. To compensate, the university offers union members a salary increase of about 6 percent ($5,600) in the first year of their contract, and then incrementally increases each year thereafter. But the union says this is not enough, especially considering her 9% inflation rate. The faculty’s counter offer is an initial additional $3,200 base salary increase and her 80-20 model.

Some context: Under the university’s hard cap proposal, faculty members with families who choose the Blue Cross Blue Shield Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan see their premiums jump 176% from their current contributions. With the 80-20 model option, that employee’s contributions increase by 89%. It’s still steeper, but better than the alternatives from a union perspective. According to information from the union, this increase in families under the hard cap model will be about $5,300 in dollars and about $2,700 under the 80-20 model.

Shared governance and other concerns

Underlying the health care battle is union disapproval of how college spends money. Unions say Eastern Michigan has more managers per full-time employee (including educational staff) than its peers. And while institutions across the board are facing staff cuts in light of declining enrollments since 2016, union data shows that administrative professionals and athletic coach positions are nominally about 1.80 each. % has decreased.

“Our education budgets plummeted. Administrative costs remained the same and even increased in some cases,” says Kirkpatrick. “That’s part of the reason our faculty are so prone to enthusiasm.”

Also of interest to faculty is shared governance on campus. Union president El-Said said negotiators have asked the deal to include a reference to a longstanding joint statement on shared governance by the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and governing boards of universities and colleges. . Of particular importance to the union is that the administration upholds the tradition outlined in the joint statement of following teacher consensus on curricular and educational issues. But so far, the university has rejected the idea, said El-Sayed.

Eastern Michigan now describes its contractual proposal for shared governance as follows: In addition to the terms of the expiring contract, the University shall provide that the Faculty Council and the University establish a Commission that includes the terms of service of its members, the expertise required of its members, and the areas of academic and student affairs for which the Commission shall be responsible. Suggested to re-evaluate. Faculty members are expected to provide their opinion. The process also identifies revisions, consolidations, or obsolescence of existing committees and the creation of new committees. This aims to enhance understanding and communication between the two parties and foster a shared commitment to finding solutions to jointly advance the mission of the university and its students. “

Senators in eastern Michigan voted no confidence in President James Smith last year. His Chief of Staff, Lee Glenden. I’m Mike Valdez, Chief Financial Officer. In doing so, faculty said Smith had not practiced shared governance or transparency, particularly when it came to financial decisions and public-private partnerships.

After the vote, the Senate will send a letter to Smith and the university board to turn the strategic plan into a living document to guide operational and financial decisions, and to adopt and share the Chancellor’s Committee’s recommendations on diversity and inclusion. I asked him to re-promise me. Governance, and generally acting in the public interest.

Marilyn Corsianos, president of the Senate and professor of sociology and criminology, said what the department wanted now was “quite simple. We want fair and equitable contracts with departments.” said.

The administration is proposing some pay raises, but inflation and rising medical costs “will ultimately mean thousands of dollars lost” for the professor, she said.

Beyond salient concerns about compensation and pay equity among professors, Corsianos said, “Faculty should ensure accountability on the part of management and force them to seek meaningful information from faculty on key decisions.” We also want a model of shared governance to be implemented, impacting students, faculty and the campus community.In many cases, we will know important decisions after the fact.”

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