Western Herald – AAUP contract nears expiration

AAUP contract nears expiration

By Hunter Maybee
Western Herald

(Michael Paeplow / Western Herald) Joetta Carr, Chief Negotiator for AAUP, and Paul Wilson, President of the WMU Chapter of AAUP, led the AAUP rally in front of the administration building on campus on Wednesday. Below: Joseph Belonax,  WMU professor of Marketing, joined fellow WMU professors marching for higher pay at the AAUP rally on Wednesday.

(Michael Paeplow / Western Herald) Joetta Carr, Chief Negotiator for AAUP, and Paul Wilson, President of the WMU Chapter of AAUP, led the AAUP rally in front of the administration building on campus on Wednesday. Below: Joseph Belonax, WMU professor of Marketing, joined fellow WMU professors marching for higher pay at the AAUP rally on Wednesday.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Western Michigan University chapter held their largest rally in three years Wednesday. Over 250 faculty members gathered outside the Siebert Administration building to call on the WMU Administration to listen to their requests.

Joetta Carr, chief negotiator for the AAUP, spoke during the rally, drawing cheers from the crowd.
“We have made progress on many issues,” Carr said. “But we are still far, far, apart on salaries … The administration acts like we are replaceable. They refuse to pay us a salary that values our work.”

During the speech, Carr directed the microphone she was speaking out of towards the administration building and said, “Western cannot function without us President Dunn.”

Carr also reiterated the AAUP’s constant demand this year for a “real salary increase.”

(Michael Paeplow / Western Herald) Joseph Belonax,  WMU professor of Marketing, joined fellow WMU professors marching for higher pay at the AAUP rally on Wednesday.

(Michael Paeplow / Western Herald) Joseph Belonax, WMU professor of Marketing, joined fellow WMU professors marching for higher pay at the AAUP rally on Wednesday.

Friday, hours before the contract expires, the AAUP has called for an emergency meeting of its membership behind closed doors.

“We will speak candidly with our membership on the status of the negotiations and on the proposals that the administration will have put forward by then,” Paul Wilson, president of the WMU AAUP chapter said of the meeting.

“We want to ask advice from our membership,” Wilson said. “We will discuss every option we can think of. Western hasn’t had a strike since 1984.”

Wilson went on to say that while it is not unusual for negotiations to last this long, “the last time we had a demonstration this large was in 1984.”

Carr spoke about Friday afternoon’s meeting as well.

“The faculty are voting with their feet today and giving the administration a strong message [that] we are not happy,” she said.

The holding point for these negotiations has been salary. Carr called the administration’s proposals up to this point, “insulting.”

Carr also outlined what the AAUP wants.

“We are asking for a wage increase that is slightly over inflation,” she said.
Inflation rates, according to the AAUP Web site, are now at 4.6 percent per year.

“We just want to keep up,” Carr said. “We have been losing ground for about a decade.”

“We are losing faculty because other comparable institutions pay much higher than Western,” Carr said, when asked why the AAUP was so angry about the current salaries. We are the one’s to teach the students. We need more tenured faculty to better serve students.”

Carr claims that the administration has told the AAUP that WMU does not have the money.

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12 Comments to AAUP contract nears expiration
    • JM
    • The faculty is not the only group of employees who want a wage increase, and I think it’s greedy of the AAUP to demand such a sharp increase while the state economy continues to limit the funding coming into WMU. This notion that any group is more important to the functions of the university is ridiculous. It goes back to the phrase “It take a village to raise a child”

      While I am not familiar at all with the negotiations or how much money the administration has reserved for wage increases for the entire university, I do know for a fact that there are many non-Union employees who are waiting for this contract to finalize before they will find out if they receive raises, and the university’s support staff will continue to leave the university for higher paying jobs if they don’t receive some small increase.

      Who needs the increase more anyways? The professor making 80k-100k or the secretary making 28k?

    • JM
    • I never said they weren’t important, what I’m saying is that they are not more important than any other employment body in this university in relation to the wage increase situation. With the state economy still in poor shape, the direct funding coming into the university is limited (thus your 9.3% tuition increase), and the pool of money allocated to distribute raises is finite.

      I’m not arguing that teaching is a primary function to this university. It’s obvious, we’re here to obtain an education, but professors don’t do everything here (in fact you find that they do less although they are paid more). The support staff that do the majority of the other university functions and are in a greater need for a raise because on average these individuals make less and thus are struggling more.

      The Kalamazoo Gazette reported that the previous contract the professors receive an annual wage increase of 3 to 3.5 percent. In that most of the support staff have forgone any wage increase. So if you do the math a full professor making 100k has increased his salary by about 9,000 in the past three years, while your office staff running all of the backround functions necessary for them to instruct have increased their income by 0.

    • WMU Employee
    • What many people are unaware of is that the health care package faculty receive is what all other full-time university employees receive. Those in food services, landscaping, or trades are counting on the faculty to stand up to the administration so that benefits aren’t reduced. Even though some faculty might be able to absorb higher health care costs (the administration wants to double deductibles and copays, among other things), this would be crippling to many employees on the lower end of the pay scale. But you’re absolutely right that support staff deserve far greater raises than they’ve been receiving. Students pay enough tuition to afford a decent quality of life to every Western employee. And, they pay enough to get a top-notch education. The lower the faculty are paid, the worse the brain-drain will get. Actually, I think students should demand that their tuition increases are used to directly improve the quality of their educations by filling their classrooms with the brightest and hardest-working professors (even if they aren’t always cheap… because there’s always a competitor institution willing to pick-off the cream of the crop if the institution they work for doesn’t see their worth).

    • TM
    • The Kalamazoo Gazzette has learned to lie with statistics about the average salaries of professors. The average full-professor dedicated about 10 years of his/her life earning a Ph.D., an additional 7 years to earn tenure and promotion to associate professor, and an additional 6 to 7 years to earn promotion to full-professor. At each stage of this process, their credentials and performance are being scruntized by more senior members in their fields and those who fail to perform are eliminated early in the process.

      The job of a professor does not begin at 8 a.m. nor does it end at 5 p.m. The job of a professor is not solely the hours spent in his/her office or in the classroom teaching. Professors interact with the community, with students inside and outside the university, recruit students to the university from high schools. Professors attend meetings on campus to keep the university running and to ensure the quality of the programs our students are offered. Professors give presentations at conferences on their research and their appearance at these conferences raises the name-recognition and reputation of Western locally, nationally, and internationally. Professors receive a paltry amount to support such travel to conferences, presentations that are required to receive tenure and promotion, and as a result spend money out of their own pockets to support their research and promote the university.

      If the administration can bully the employees who have reached the top of their education and careers, then what do you think they can do to the rest of the employees and students at Western?

    • JM
    • I do agree that the standard set by the Faculty regarding benefits will set precedent with the other groups, but do they really need such an elaborate package? I have a good idea what is covered by the current package, and IMO it is very generous compared to benefits packages provided by the private sector. Is it possible to just streamline the benefits that are more of a luxury than a necessity, such as the monthly body massage, chiropractic, etc.?

      While I am saying this do, I do acknowledge that I have no clue what the proposed changes to the benefits package is, and these may have already been removed.

    • C
    • “Elaborate package”? Hardly. While I will agree that the inclusion of services such as massage and acupuncture are not really necessary, elimination of these services will have very little impact on the cost of health insurance that the university absorbs.

      Also, let us not forget that faculty members pay substantial premiums for their health care coverage. For a faculty member with a family, he or she contributes approximately $4000 out of his or her salary for health insurance. This amount does not include co-pays, deductibles, etc.

      In some instances it may be true that the cost of health insurance paid for by the faculty is less than the private sector. But, on average, if you compare salaries for those involved in higher education (or K-12 teachers as well) to those working in the private sector, the higher salaries in the private sector more than make up for the sometimes greater health care costs.

      Contract after contract the administration argues that there is no money. Six years ago they argued this, three years ago the argument was the same, and surprise surprise, the same argument is being made today. Interestingly, though, other universities and colleges throughout Michigan and the Midwest have been able to provide their faculty with an adequate salary increase that surpasses what the WMU administration is proposing. These institutions are existing in the same economic climate as WMU. So how is it that everyone else can manage, but WMU cannot? Seems to me that these facts clearly illustrate that the administration is mostly at fault for the stated economic difficulties of the University. Yet, they want to place their fault on the backs of the faculty. Is it the faculty’s fault that enrollment is down? No. Has the faculty mismanaged the fiscal health of the University? No. Yet, the administration wants the faculty to pay for their mistakes. If the administration wants to save money, then they should look within. Cut the number of administrators for this very administrative heavy university. Or, the administration could forgo raises with this contract. Or, administrators could be compensated at faculty levels. Guaranteed, the administration will not choose any of these options. They will always seek to rectify the situation by harming the faculty and staff of this university.

      Dunn states, “We are all in this together” and that he is “deeply committed to our faculty”. We are not in this together. The administration will not suffer as a result of this contract. The faculty and staff will. If Dunn is “deeply committed to our faculty” then show it. It’s time to put out or shut up.

    • zfg
    • Since we are “all in this together”, perhaps President Dunn will move towards accepting the same health insurance plan that administrators are trying to push upon the workers on campus? Or, perhaps, some of the top administrators will give up their university paid for memberships at the Kalamazoo Country Club (yes, that is one thing that your tuition dollars pay for along with a free home for President Dunn).

      As far as massage and chiropractic care go, it will save the university very little money in the short term to take this away from faculty. But, more importantly is to consider what it represents in terms of preventative medicine. What is the cost of sick days and eventual surgeries from people unable to prevent illness and back issues? Once again, it’s a short term vision.

      But, more fundamentally, why is it that no administrators at the university are held responsible for the fundamental errors they have made over the last decade to the detriment of all of us connected with WMU. Why is it that Grand Valley has had 8 years in a row of record enrollments while WMU struggles with enrollment and retention? It’s rather simple. People are treated well there and made to feel important. WMU devalues everyone except for a few at the top who have a particular ideologically driven vision for the university that they share with no-one while taking no responsibility for their failings.

    • Student
    • Without the professors there would be no university. Without the students there would be no jobs for the professors. Here’s a simple idea, let the students pick each professor’s salary. Therefore, the horrible professors (which there are many) are not paid the same as the good professors. Let’s throw tenure and seniority out the door, and pay professors based on their ability to teach. Let those semester evaluations matter even for tenured faculty. Too often the phrase, “Those who can’t, teach”, is illustrated at WMU.

    • Prof. wife
    • I am the wife of a WMU Professor and let me assure you that not all the profs are making 100k! No where near! I wish! We are a 2 income family and we both work very hard – like everyone else out there.

      Also, the comment about a Faculty pay raise of 3.5 a year did not actually happen as promised. The pay raise has been an average of 2% a year while the rate of inflation hangs between 4.5 and 5.5%.

      And Healthcare coverage? Well, yes it is good coverage. But we already pay about $4,000 a year in premiums plus whatever our co-pays are for the year. Again, good coverage – but doubling it will make it so expensive that getting sick will be a luxury.

      Please do not think that all the profs are making upper-middle class and above incomes and getting great healthcare for dirt cheap. It simply is not true. Good Professors also work 60 to 80 hours a week and are never really “off” work for the day. My husband LOVES what he does and he adores his students. He knows he will never get rich doing the work he does. He just wants to keep up with inflation and provide for his family. Is that really too much to ask?

      Look around at other colleges and Universities in the SW MI area (including KVCC) I believe they all out pace WMU when it comes to raises for cost of living.

      I do not know every angle of this current situation, but I know how hard my husband works and how much he cares about his students. I think being able to keep pace with the cost of groceries and taxes is a reasonable demand for every single WMU employee.

    • another student
    • JM claims faculty are demanding a ‘sharp increase’. on what basis can keeping pace with (or catching up to) cost of living increases be considered a sharp increase??

    • C
    • Throughout these negotiations there is an underlying question that must be asked…What does the administration value? Is it the faculty? No. Is it the students? Not really. Is it the financial bottom line of the university and making sure that the administration takes care of its’ own? Most likely.

      Let’s look at some facts to support this. Take the administrative position of Director of Academic Collective Bargaining and Contract Administration (also Chief Negotiator for the Administration during contract negotiations). When this individual was a faculty member, her salary was around $76,000 per academic year. When this individual made the transition to the administration, her salary increased to around $104,000 per fiscal year. A 37% salary increase in one year. Yet the administration is offering faculty an increase in salary of approximately 3 to 3.5% per year. Now, one could argue that with a new position in administration there are new responsibilities. True. But, what really defines the success of a university? Is it the Director of Academic Collective Bargaining? Hardly. It’s the faculty, staff, and the students. It’s the faculty that teach the students. It’s the faculty that bring in large amounts of grants and research dollars to the university. It’s the faculty that perform the research that allows WMU to maintain its research classification. It’s the staff that helps to keep the university running on a day-to-day basis. It’s the students who graduate to become successful professionals or future researchers.

      How have the faculty, staff, and student been treated by the administration? Poorly. Tuition rates continue to increase for students and their families. Students and their families should be asking “What am I getting for this increase in tuition?” The administration fails to hire enough qualified faculty to deliver the education that it promises. Staff have been denied meaningful increases in their salary. Faculty have seen their workload and responsibilities increase, while their overall compensation has decreased.

      It seems that the priorities of the administration are misplaced. The attitude of the administration seems to be “now that we got ours, nobody else should get theirs”.

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