Saturday, September 06, 2008

Faculty Strike Looming?

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.

See also:
Understanding Government: Bureaucracy
The Economics of Labor Unions
A Work Inaction


Meg said...

teachers were alking around the footballl game in groups with signs about this and yelling said...

Nothing says "solidarity" like students on the street and out of the classroom.


Ken said...

As a teacher, I find such a "job action" contemptible. Most of us would be honored to have a full professor position and the generous compensation that comes with it—especially in this economy.

Jason Gillman said...

Is there a way tenure can be LOST in a strike action?

Just wondering.

shazzerxo said...

With the inflation rate at 5.4%, WMU isn't even giving teachers a living wage. Good teachers are leaving WMU to teach at KVCC, who gave their faculty the deserved 5% pay increase, in line also with EMU and GVSU and other comparable universities. With the cuts to health care that teachers are seeing, their pay increase only amounts to about 2%.

Maybe WMU should consider investing in people, instead of buildings, parking lots, and hundreds of yellow umbrellas.

Michael said...

"In 2007, the average total compensation of full professors at Western was $136,800. Associate and assistant professors make less."

I see this kind of stat bandied about all of the time, usually as part of some GOP talking point about overpaid, evil professors. Most "professors" are not "full professors," so this stat would exclude, alone, almost 85-90% (maybe more) percent of any major university's full-time faculty. It takes years and an impressive publication record to land "full professor" status.

Secondly, academic salaries vary greatly by field. And I mean greatly, so such averages are extremely ineffective in providing an accurate picture of academic salaries. The salaries in higher ed are nothing like the salaries in K-12; one’s salary is impacted by his or her field, and the marketability of his or her field. For instance, in fields like English or History, the starting salary at most universities is in the 50's-60's range. This is for people with PhD's, usually in their mid 30's and early 40's. These people will be lucky to see six figures before they die, even if they become full professors. On the other hand, salaries in more professional fields like business are much higher, and can inflate such "averages."

My point is that your citation of such a stat--surely to suggest that most "professors" are making six figures, or that most “professors” at a major university are “full professors” in the first place--is incredibly naive and misleading to your readers.