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EMU faculty agrees to work past contract deadline, but strike still possible

glass doors leading into a training center
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio

UPDATED AT 7:12 am on 9/1/22

Eastern Michigan University professors said Wednesday that they’ll continue working after a deadline to negotiate a new contract expires at midnight, but their union said a strike is still on the table if contract talks break down.

Classes began at EMU this week. The American Association of University Professors at EMU, the union representing around 500 faculty members, said the major sticking points are compensation and health care premiums. The unionrejected the administration’s latest offer this week.

The union said it’s made some concessions to administration positions in hopes of reaching an agreement, particularly when it comes to health care costs. But it said EMU needs to compensate for that with adequate wage increases and health care salary supplements. “We will not accept any proposal which will cut any members pay during this time of rampant inflation,” the union wrote.

Union leaders also accused EMU of stonewalling and “trying to rush crucial decisions based on incomplete information.”

“Rushed decisions are not good for our students, for EMU or for the outstanding faculty who have delivered quality education despite the tremendous challenges we have faced during the past two and half years,” EMU language and literature professor and EMU-AAUP bargaining chair Matt Kirkpatrick said in a statement.

“Our negotiating team will stay at the table, and our members will stay in our classrooms – for now. We reserve the right to go back to our members for a strike authorization vote if and when such a step is necessary,” Kirkpatrick said.

In a statement issued late last night, Eastern Michigan strongly denied their negotiating team is slowing the bargaining process. Officials say EMU is as determined as the faculty union to reach an agreement.

Updated: September 1, 2022 at 5:45 PM EDT
EMU says it has "filed for fact finding in an effort to keep negotiations with its faculty union moving forward." Administrators say their final offer to AAUP-EMU included a 15.2% salary increase over 5 years. The university said it's also seeking adjustments to its health care plans to comply with state law.

“We are determined to continue to work to resolve the outstanding issues,” said EMU provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs Rhonda Longworth in statement. “Our faculty colleagues across the University are deeply valued, and we believe the 6.2% year-one salary increase, which is more than faculty have received at any comparable university, is more than fair and shows our deep respect for their work while accommodating increased cost-sharing for health care.”

Fact-finding involves bringing in an independent third party, appointed by the state, to analyze the bargaining positions of both sides and make non-binding recommendations. According to the university, no new contract talks had been scheduled as of Wednesday.
Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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