Eastern Michigan University continued negotiating last week with two of its eight labor unions: the EMU chapter of the American Association of University Professors which is representing faculty members, and the clerical staff UAW 1975 union. The university already reached an agreement with the police officers’ union on June 26.
Clerical staff, UAW Local 1975
About 100 protesters gathered July 10 outside Roosevelt Hall, with signs that bore messages like “Leave our healthcare alone” and “EMU faculty support clericals,” before marching to Welch Hall chanting along the way, “What do we want? Fair Contracts. When do we want it? Now.”
The group had gathered to show their support for EMU’s clerical union, and was led by EMU’s AAUP chapter President Susan Moeller, who said the protesters were a mixture of numerous unions and faculty.
“It’s a terrible contract for the clericals and they are really abusing the clericals,” Moeller said.
The AAUP arranged for a plane to circle the campus during the protest, while flying a banner that read, “President Martin unfair to clericals.”
UAW 1975 Vice President Toni Deas said, “They keep telling us how handsomely paid we are compared to everybody else, but where they get these numbers I don’t know.”
In response to Moeller asking the crowd what they wanted to chant during their march, a member of the crowd said, “How about we can’t afford to bleed green anymore?”
Bargaining and Grievance Chairperson Mike Shumaker said the contract being offered would include a pay cut for clericals and they are the lowest paid union on campus.
“They’re asking us to pay the highest healthcare amounts on campus, and that would amount to a significant loss of pay for a lot of our members,” Shumaker said.
EMU Executive Director of Media Relations Geoff Larcom said, “Depending on the healthcare plan the employee selects and their personal healthcare usage, some employees will come out ahead and others would potentially see increased costs.”
Administrative secretary Mary Rebandt, who works for the dean’s office at the College of Education and the Charter Schools Office, said she got her regular raise and her step raise in 2011, and after healthcare costs went up in December 2011 her salary was lower than before she received the raises.
The protest coincided with the clerical union’s vote on whether to accept the current proposed contract, which was overwhelmingly voted down 182-5 later that afternoon.
The clerical union is currently working under a 30-day extension contract set to expire at the end of July, and with the offered contract being voted down the next step may involve a 60-day fact-finding process, during which an arbitrator would make a non-binding recommendation to both parties.
After the fact-finding process the university can offer an unchanged or modified contract and the union must accept the terms.
Larcom said the university values and appreciates the contribution its clerical employees make to the university and its students.
“We are committed to working diligently with their bargaining team to achieve [a] fair and competitive agreement,” Larcom said.
Faculty union, EMU chapter of the AAUP
EMU Provost and Vice President Kim Schatzel released a statement saying negotiations like these are commonplace as collective bargaining agreements are set to expire.
“This is a reoccurring and yet admittedly rigorous process, one that the university plans to conduct with a high degree of mutual respect and transparency,” she said.
Schatzel said the EMU administration respects its faculty members and the work they do, and her personal appreciation for them has been growing since her hiring in January.
“This will be a highly collaborative process in which the two negotiating teams work hard to build a better future together, for the university and for our students,” Schatzel said.
Besides healthcare and salary concerns, faculty members are also concerned with teaching overloads, Moeller said in a statement.
“These overloads indicate that there is a need for more tenure track faculty. Approximately 11 new faculty are needed to cover the student credit hours faculty taught on an overload basis,” Moeller said.
Other issues the AAUP is concerned with include sabbatical pay, ownership of online course materials, emeritus status, prior learning portfolios, classroom dissemination and the evaluation of deans.
Interim Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Research James Carroll is Moeller’s counterpart as the leader of EMU’s negotiating team, and each team is made up of five members.
Police Officers’ Union
On June 26, the university and the EMU chapter of the Police Officers Association of Michigan agreed on a four-year contract that includes planned salary increases and new healthcare options, according to an EMU press release.
The agreement, which will run through June 2016, provides for salary increases of 0 percent in the first year and 1 percent in the second year, and 2 percent in the third and fourth years.
“Under the agreement, the police officers will also be covered by the new healthcare options recently introduced for the university’s administrative professional and administrative hourly employees, athletic coaches and confidential clerical staff. Those options are set to take effect in January 2013,” the release said.
Rising healthcare costs
According to EMU’s staff benefits website, the cost of providing health insurance to employees will rise 8.5 percent per year for the next several years. Those costs are projected to be $25 million in 2012; $27.1 million in 2013; $29.4 million in 2014; and $31.9 million in 2015. The costs paid by the university have risen faster than those paid by employees.
Under the current arrangements the average employee costs (employee share of the premium and fees in the form of deductibles and co-pays) rose from $2,642 in 2011 to $2,737 in 2012, an increase of $95 or 4 percent.
In contrast, the costs paid by the university rose from $11,041 per employee in 2011 to $12,154 in 2012, an increase of $1,113 or 10 percent.
A second measure to consider would be the total share of costs paid by all employees, compared to all costs paid by the university. In 2011, employees paid $4.2 million and the university paid $19 million, for a total of $23.2 million. In 2012, employees paid $4.9 million (16 percent more than in 2011), and the university paid $20.2 million (6 percent more than in 2011), for a total of $25.1 million. Total costs rose by $1.9 million or 8 percent.
EMU’s actuaries estimate that, consistent with national trends, healthcare costs will increase 8.5 percent annually; a rate well above general inflation and revenue growth at EMU, which are both expected to be between 2 percent and 4 percent, which means healthcare will take an increasing share of the budget.
Larcom said, “Funding healthcare increases, without further sharing of costs and increased consumer awareness, will impact the level of resources available for academics and student success, and also limit our ability to offer future pay increases and salary growth for employees.”
Contracts not currently being negotiated
EMU’s Local 9102 of the American Federation of Teachers represents over 100 full-time lecturers and library staff, as well as over 600 part-time lecturers. There are separate agreements for full-time lecturers and part-time lecturers, because the full-timers’ contract expires this year and the part-timers’ contract, covering approximately 800 instructional staff, field instructors and adjunct library staff, runs until 2013.
UAW Local 1976 represents professional and technical staff, whose contract runs through June 30, 2013. In September 2011, the EMU Board of Regents approved a new agreement with the EMU chapter of Police Officers Labor Council–Sergeants Unit, covering four officers, that runs until June 30, 2013, and a new agreement with AFSCME Local Union 3866, which is affiliated with AFSCME Council 25, covering approximately 200 employees.
Related material: Protest photo gallery