The Eastern Michigan University Federation of Teachers held a rally outside of Welch Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 7 as the EMUFT negotiates a new contract for full-time lecturers.
With over half the classes on campus taught by over 800 EMUFT lecturers Lisa Laverty, president of EMUFT, spoke about several changes made at EMU that concern the EMUFT.
"They've [EMU] privatized dining services. They've enacted draconian cuts to benefits for many union employees and families on this campus. They've increased tuition on our students, but you know that money isn't necessarily going to education first," Laverty said at the rally.
While current contract negotiations are underway for full-time lecturers Laverty brought attention to several issues that affect their part-time colleagues, ranging from lack of medical benefits, limited job security and low pay.
John Ware, president of the Graduate Employees' Organization, also showed concern over low pay, benefit cuts, contingent work, increasing student debt and a brutal labor market for graduates.
"It is really critical for us as graduate employees to be here to stand with the lecturers and with the other full-time and part-time faculty because what is happening with higher education is really all connected," Ware said.
Several speakers and participants at the rally believe that EMU is moving in a different direction from the values that the EMUFT and other faculty at EMU espouse.
"It's easy for the administration to lose those values when they're just numbers," said former EMU student Rebecca Thomas. "We want to keep it a great university. We're rallying for something that lecturers need; a living wage, which is something in this contract."
Laverty said that EMU isn't just the administration and that everyone has a say in the university's values as well as the direction that the university is heading in.
"We know that EMU is going in a new direction when they send police to surveil union membership meetings," said Laverty.
While the EMUFT places no fault on the individual officers, the union viewed this action as an intimidation tactic during their meeting on Thursday, Aug. 18.
EMU executive director of media relations Geoff Larcom said in a statement that plain clothes officers Candace Dorsey and Andrea Elliott were sent to McKenny Hall on reports of a Facebook post calling for people to "protest" on the first floor of McKenny Hall.
"First and foremost, EMU and its administrative leadership team respects and affirms the right of EMU union leaders and representatives to meet privately with their members. EMU Public Safety Officers were not, are not, and will not be dispatched to interfere with, monitor, or influence the content and purpose of these meetings," said Larcom in the statement. "Again, EMU Public Safety does not monitor union meetings, nor does it seek to intimidate EMU employees. Instead, the department seeks to ensure a safe campus environment for the entire EMU community."
A tentative two-year contract agreement between EMU and the EMUFT was reached on Wednesday, Sept. 7. EMUFT will schedule a ratification vote this month to approve the contract. If the contract is approved, the EMU Board of Regents will then vote on the agreement.