The WMU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the labor union that represents professors on campus, has voted to authorize a strike, or as they call it, a 'job action'. Contract negotiations are ongoing. The previous contract ended on Friday, so a strike could start as soon as Monday.
Western Michigan University professors press contract talks
AAUP contract nears expiration
This does not mean that there will necessarily be a strike, but it means that the union's negotiators can call one if they don't like the way that talks are going.
A strike would only apply to professors. It would not apply to graduate assistants, who have their own union and contract, or part-timers, who are not unionized. (Some professors might not participate in a strike, so make sure to check with your professors before skipping class!)
Strikes by teachers or professors at state universities are illegal in Michigan. A union can be fined for calling a strike, but the individual members of the union cannot be penalized for participating. Eastern Michigan University recently saw a strike that lasted about two weeks.
As you would expect, the issue here is money. "The WMU administration has offered faculty annual salary increases on a three-year contract of 3 percent, 3 percent and 3.25 percent, according to a union official." But the union objects to a proposal to make professors responsible for more of the cost of their own health care.
In 2007, the average total compensation of full professors at Western was $136,800. Associate and assistant professors make less.
It isn't clear where the union thinks additional money is going to come from. The only real possibilities are higher tuition, additional state funding, or cutting spending elsewhere. More state funding is not likely. Tuition increased 68% between 2001 and 2007.
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The Economics of Labor Unions
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