Eastern Michigan teachers strike over health care, administration


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Tenure and tenure-track faculty at Eastern Michigan University went on strike Wednesday indefinitely over new contract negotiations. Scores of professors spent the entire day on campus picket lines, and the university ordered students to attend classes and wait 15 minutes to see if the instructor arrived. Many professors did not, following a 91 percent faculty vote Tuesday in favor of holding the meeting.

Negotiations were ongoing Wednesday with no agreement reached. Later in the day, Eastern Michigan filed a motion in Washington County Circuit Court to order the faculty members to return to work. In Michigan, public employee strikes are illegal, and the university’s complaint cited injuries to students and others.

“Our primary focus is getting our students back into the classroom so they can continue their education,” university spokesman Walter Craft said in a statement. “The one-day disruption is important to our students and we are committed to ensuring they have a full and positive academic experience, especially as negotiations continue with the help of a state-appointed mediator.”

The American Association of University Professors said the university’s legal efforts would fail, accusing Eastern Michigan of exaggerating the effects of repeated unfair labor practices and 24-hour strikes on students. The University denies any unfair labor practice violations.

“Instead of filing frivolous lawsuits, EMU administrators should focus their efforts on good faith negotiations so we can reach a fair settlement in our favor,” said Mohamed El-Sayed, professor of engineering and president of the faculty union, in a statement. students”

Exceeding the premium

In 2015, Ficality Union’s preliminary contract expired a week ago, after being extended several times. Points for the surrogate contract include health care premiums and co-management. Faculty negotiators also said the university held negotiations and announced major proposals only after talks were held this summer.

“We feel the university administration has unnecessarily delayed negotiations,” said Matthew Kirkpatrick, associate professor of English and chair of the faculty negotiation group. “If you’re going to drastically change your employee benefits, that’s a conversation we should have had before we negotiated.”

By A Michigan law In the year Enacted in 2012, public employers are limited in their contributions to employee health care costs. To comply with this rule, institutions must follow a dollar-for-dollar ratio of what they contribute to an employee’s plan, or an 80-20 cost-sharing model in which the employer pays 80 percent of the plan and the employee contributes the rest.

As of Wednesday, Eastern Michigan was still proposing a hard-cap model to the faculty union, which union members said would significantly increase health care costs for most members, who have families. To compensate for the change, the university did presented Union members will receive a roughly 6 percent ($5,600) pay raise in the first year of the contract and additional increases each year thereafter. But the union says this is not enough, especially when factoring in inflation of 9 percent. The teacher objection is an additional initial $3,200 base pay increase and the 80-20 model.

Some context: Under the university’s ambitious proposal, single-family faculty members who choose a Blue Cross Blue Shield Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan could see their premiums jump 176 percent from their current contributions. In the union-preferred 80-20 model option, the employee contribution increases to 89 percent. That’s still steep, but better than the alternative from the union’s perspective. In dollar terms, this increase would be approximately $5,300 per household in the hard cap model, and about $2,700 in the 80-20 model, according to data from the association.

Joint management and other issues

The health care fight is about the union’s disapproval of how the university spends the money. The union says Eastern Michigan has more administrators per full-time employee (including teaching staff) than its peer institutions. And while facing overall staffing cuts since 2016, union data shows administrative professional and athletic trainer positions are down only nominally, by 1.8 percent each, while tenured teachers are down 18 percent.

“Our education budget has collapsed. Our administrative expenses have remained unchanged and even increased in some cases. “That’s part of why it’s so easy for our faculty to get fired.”

Faculty members are also concerned about the shared governance on campus. According to union president El-Sayed, negotiators have asked to include a long-term reference in the contract. A joint statement On Joint Governance by AAUP, American Council on Education, and Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. What is especially important for the association is that the administration conveys the tradition expressed in the joint statement – teachers’ agreement on curriculum and educational issues. So far, the university has rejected this proposal, El-Sayed said.

Currently, Eastern Michigan’s proposed contract on shared governance states: “The University is committed to the principles of shared governance. In addition to the language in the finalized contract, the Faculty Senate and the University are proposing to review their committees, including the tenure of members, the professional qualifications expected of committee members, and the academic and student affairs committees. It is expected that teacher input will be provided. This process can also modify, merge or eliminate existing committees and create new committees. This aims to strengthen the understanding and relationship between the parties to develop a sense of mutual commitment that will enable us to advance the mission of the university and its students.

Eastern Michigan Faculty Senate Voted no confidence Last year by President James Smith; Chief of Staff Leigh Graydon; and Mike Valdes, chief financial officer. In doing so, Smith has not practiced shared governance or transparency, particularly when it comes to financial decisions and public-private partnerships, teachers said.

After the vote, the Senate sent a letter to Smith and the university’s Board of Regents, asking them to turn the strategic plan into a living document, change the document that guides operations and financial decisions, accept and redistribute the recommendation of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion. management, and generally works in the public interest.

Senate President and Professor of Sociology and Criminology Marilyn Korsianos said what the faculty wants now is very simple — we want fair and equitable contracts for our faculty.

While the administration is offering raises, inflation and rising health care costs will “end up meaning thousands of dollars lost,” she said.

Beyond raising concerns about compensation and pay equity among professors, Korsianos said, “Faculty want to see a collective governance model implemented that ensures accountability on the part of the administration and requires meaningful input from faculty on major decisions.” One that affects our students, faculty, and campus community. Often, we learn about major decisions after the fact.


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