A group of Eastern Michigan University faculty and staff gathered outside Ford Hall June 5, to rally in support of the team negotiating new faculty contracts. Several speakers explained some issues being negotiated, followed by a march around Ford Hall, carrying signs and shouting “Fair contracts.”
In attendance were various university employees, as well as representatives from the various unions.
“Most of the faculty are not teaching in the summer, so we are pleased with the turnout,” said Susan Moeller, chief faculty negotiator and president of EMU’s American Association of University Professors local chapter, the university’s faculty union.
Also in attendance was EMU Provost and Vice President Kim Schatzel. She shook the hands of several faculty members, and stood quietly in the back, listening attentively to the speakers.
Key issues in the early stages of this year’s negotiations appeared to be employee compensation and changes to the university’s employee healthcare plan.
Prior to the negotiations, three new healthcare plans, a PPO, an HMO and an HSA were given to non-union member athletic coaches, hourly administrators, administrative professional and confidential clerical employees. The new options will be included as part of the new contract negotiations for union members.
“They try to pay us as little as possible and then take our healthcare away,” said Howard Bunsis, the treasurer of EMU-AAUP and an accounting professor at the university. He argued that the new healthcare plans would cost more, which would amount to a pay cut for employees.
The Protect Our Jobs initiative was also discussed by Michael Bailey, the Michigan AAUP executive director.
The goal of the initiative is to have collective bargaining as a right added to the Michigan Constitution. A petition drive has begun and needs 600,000 signatures in order to be listed on the November ballot.
Those in attendance seemed to be in good spirits, and were confident that their issues would be resolved.
“We are currently bargaining in good faith,” said Anita Amrhein, a member of UAW1975, the union representing clerical staff.
Watch for future updates on the contract negotiations which will continue throughout the summer, among various unions, with new contracts expected in August.