Eastern Michigan professors union vote to strike starting Wednesday morning

The Eastern Michigan University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors voted 91 percent in favor of authorizing a strike by more than 500 tenured and tenure track faculty at a union meeting Tuesday night.

The last contract expired August 31st. The union says it wanted to keep negotiating for the benefit of the school and students, but has hit an impasse. The sticking points - are pay and healthcare. 

The strike is to begin Wednesday morning due to, "the EMU Administration’s repeated failure to bargain in good faith and reach common ground on a new labor agreement," the union said in a release.

"Our message to EMU students, parents and alumni is simple: EMU faculty are standing up for you and for quality education," said Matt Kirkpatrick, associate professor of English language and literature at EMU and chair of the EMU-AAUP negotiating team. "But the EMU Administration has let you down, raising their own salaries while trying to reduce our compensation, and repeatedly failing to bargain in good faith."

Kirkpatrick is an associate professor of English at EMU and the lead negotiator working with the university administration.

The EMU-AAUP is made up of more than 500 professors and faculty.

In advance of tonight’s strike authorization vote, the EMU-AAUP negotiating team invited the EMU Administration to continue negotiating on Monday and Tuesday but received no response. A bargaining session with state mediators is scheduled for tomorrow morning, Wednesday September 7th and EMU-AAUP negotiators will attend with the goal of reaching "a fair agreement as soon as possible," the release said.

During negotiations, EMU administrators have canceled some meetings and delayed others, while taking days to respond to EMU-AAUP bargaining proposals despite an expiring contract and the deadline of a strike authorization vote.

Previously, EMU also said it had attempted to break an impasse with the union over health care costs with a salary increase to cover increased premiums. 

"We understand the union’s frustration with being asked to share more of the increasing costs of providing healthcare to employees and families," it said in a statement. "But there are very few employers and employees in the United States, or among the other bargaining units at this University, that have not had to make similar adjustments to health care costs."

The union says it took issue with the university leadership's claims about health care costs.

"Administrators have inaccurately described their proposal to reduce compensation for many faculty with massive increases in health care costs as a pay "increase." They have also demanded that faculty accept a health care plan that is more costly and onerous that the insurance coverage agreed to and currently in effect for members of other campus bargaining units," the release said.