Faculty Contract Negotiations Begin This Week; What Do You Want?

EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller sent around an email about contract negotiations set to begin this week. Bargaining Council has been meeting since May 1 and has “around 30 proposals ready to take to the table” (more on that in a moment), there’s a “kick off picnic” on Tuesday, and negotiations proper begin on Thursday.

The “motto” for this year (I’m not sure this is a motto so much as it is an advertising tag line, but whatever) is “United We Stand– Divided We Beg,” and the EMU-AAUP has been making some modest efforts at branding, PR, and social media. Check out the Facebook group, for example.  Some of this I like quite a bit– for example, I like the idea of the interviews about why the EMU-AAUP. So far, I’ve only seen this one of Howard Bunsis:

On the other hand, I am not at all a fan of the motto, I suppose because while I am a firm believer and advocate of collective bargaining for faculty for all kinds of reasons, I don’t see the alternative of the union as “begging.” Rather than a message of “If you’re not with us, you’re screwed,” I’d prefer a message along the lines of “We are stronger with a union” or “Look what the union has done for you before.” Or something like that.

And I really don’t like this:

Ick.

But I digress: this bargaining season also reminds me that the end of EMUTalk is approaching in a couple of months– September at the latest, and, assuming a happy end to the negotiations this time around, maybe earlier. Long-time readers will undoubtably remember that EMUTalk.org started as the result of what I think everyone agrees was the absolute ugliest negotiations ever in 2006, when the administration’s team walked away from the table, when we were out on strike for about 12 or so days, and when the contract wasn’t decided until it went to a “fact finding” and arbitration process that wasn’t really settled until well into 2007.

After that mess, contract negotiations have been a lot more productive and quite frankly, the last contract we got– which, among other things, lead to more funding for research and a process for a raise and promotion after the full professor rank– was probably the best deal I’ve seen since I’ve been here. And while I have no inside knowledge at all– I just have heard some rumors– I’m cautiously optimistic about this go-around too.

The administration has pretty much the same negotiating team at the table as they had last time, the EMU-AAUP’s team is pretty similar, EMU’s finances and state support seem reasonably solid (at least as far as I can tell), and I think there are good reasons for both sides to make a fair deal and to make it quick and with as little controversy as possible. After all, EMU is also about to start a search for a new president, not to mention a new VP for the graduate school and a new dean for our largest college, Arts and Sciences. We want to attract the best candidates possible for these positions, and the last thing the administration needs at a time like now is some kind of ugly and protracted fight with its faculty. At the same time, the whole “right to work” bullshit puts the faculty union in sort of an awkward position too– or at least a less certain one. So in a way, there’s a sort of “mutually assured destruction” thing going on here. And I think that’s a good thing.

I don’t know what is included in the 30 or so proposals coming out of bargaining council (and if anyone does know, that’d be interesting to hear), but I’m pretty sure there is going to be something about the faculty harassment issues highlighted by the infamous Yik Yak incident. My guess is that there will be the usual suspects regarding a percentage wage increase and how much we pay for health insurance, and there might be something in the mix this time about TIAA-CREF. As I recall, administrators now don’t automatically get the institutional contribution of a 11% of base salary, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the administration wants this for faculty too.

Which gets me to the question part of things: what do you want? I have to say that other than the usual– more money, good insurance, good benefits, etc.– my needs are pretty modest.

  • I certainly don’t want any of the gains we made in the last contract to go away, and I’d be surprised if they did.
  • I’d like to see some clarification about summer teaching because the way that’s been handled in CAS for the last couple years has been kind of confusing and/or crazy.
  • One of the things in that nutty flying letter video that comes up is “academic freedom,” which I obviously think is important and maybe, given some of the craziness going on around the country right now, maybe there is space in the contract for some language regarding that.
  • I’d like to see us exit once and for all from the EAA nonsense, and I frankly think the administration would like that too. The problem is the Board of Regents on that one.
  • I don’t think it’s going to happen, but it would be nice if there was agreement that we have a 3-3 teaching load rather than a 12 credit teaching load, a disparity that makes for inconsistent practices across departments.

So, what do you want?

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Faculty Contract Negotiations Begin This Week; What Do You Want?

    • I actually would be okay with giving up on that if only for the symbolic value. The thing that’s interesting though is that contract negotiations on virtually every item are a contest of one side saying “we want this/what will you give up,” so the question is what would the administration give up for free parking? Not much, I’m guessing.

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  1. Sitedad – I dont know if your opinion is the majority or not – but what a gesture it would be – for faculty to pay for parking …symbolic- yes … symbolizing fairness, equity, union support …

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  2. In this case, there is no quid pro quo needed – the argument would be based on fairness and equality only … and if EMU makes the suggestion that they pay for parking, does the union take the position that they need something in return, to gain equality … does the union want to take THAT position?

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  3. The top of my list is a 3 courses/per semesterteaching load. Whenever I mention this (& it doesn’t matter who the audience is) the reply is “well, no one teaches 12-credits a semester anyway.” I have 2 problems with that reply. First, it’s not true. Second, having 12 credits as your starting point (as you do unless you’re a faculty member in Occupational Therapy or the College of Business) means that you need to accrue some kind of “other assignment” credit to get down to a teaching load that actually makes careful attention to course preps, grading, & just knowing & liking your students possible. And that’s not even a reduction in workload overall.

    Second on my list is free Rec-IM membership. If we’re going tobacco-free lets take another wellness step & make it less costly for faculty to be more physically active.

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    • Teaching load turns out to be surprisingly complicated. Based on an audit the EMU-AAUP did (though this was a while ago and I heard about this second-hand), the average actual in the classroom teaching load is just about 9 credits a semester. But there are a number of departments/areas that teach a lot less than that, and as I understand it, there was a proposal at the bargaining council about asking for a universal 3-3 load that was actually voted down because of the objections from faculty in departments who were teaching less than 3-3.

      Though sure, a free REC-IM membership would be a good idea.

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