Sept. 4: Eastern Michigan University statement regarding the faculty union’s threat to walk out on Eastern Michigan University students

The union’s call today for a possible strike action hurts our students and impinges significantly upon their experience. It is unfortunate that rather than continue to follow the mediator’s path, with active negotiations still underway, the faculty union is suggesting that its members walk out on our students on Wednesday, disrupting their education, just seven days into the semester. Such a strike would also be illegal under Michigan law.

We understand the union’s frustration with being asked to share more of the increasing costs of providing healthcare to employees and families. 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. 

Upon concluding today’s negotiating session, the State-appointed mediator scheduled the next joint bargaining meeting for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7. The administration bargaining team will be present and ready to continue negotiations.

Classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, and for the remainder of the week, will take place as scheduled. 

In our proposals, the University has attempted to smooth the health care transition by offering a 6.2% base pay increase (average) in year one of the agreement. This more than covers the increased health care premiums the administration proposed. In our informational update yesterday (Sept. 3), the University presented a detailed evaluation that was delivered to the union’s bargaining team. The presentation shows that every faculty member, no matter which health coverage option they select (PPO, HMO or high deductible), will come out ahead under our proposal, regardless if they participate as single, two-person or family. Those who participate in the high deductible or HMO plans will see a significant increase in overall compensation. 

As reported on Sept. 1, the administration’s total five-year salary proposal is 15.2% with a 6.2% (average for all faculty) increase in year one, 2% in years two and three, and 2.5% in years four and five. The University’s latest proposal would keep EMU faculty compensation highest  among comparable universities when including salary and health care benefits. This chart shows total compensation including medical benefits among comparable universities. (Comparable universities were selected by an independent fact-finder in previous faculty negotiations and agreed to by the administration and EMU-AAUP.)

Currently, EMU’s faculty represent 36% of the participants in EMU’s employer-sponsored healthcare plans, but account for 49% of the University’s total health care costs. 

The University is seeking adjustments in health insurance premiums to meet its obligations under Michigan Public Act 152, which limits the amounts public employers may offer to a medical health plan, including payments for reimbursement of co-pays, deductibles, or payments into health savings accounts, flexible savings accounts or similar accounts. In order to comply with the statute, the University’s faculty health care packages must be modified. 

In yesterday’s negotiations, the administration also offered an enrollment incentive plan wherein the University proposed to increase compensation further should enrollment levels increase. The University also modified its proposal on summer course compensation, and proposed an equity study of faculty salaries. We strongly deny the union’s assertion that our negotiating team has slowed the bargaining process in any way. 

As the administration has stated on several occasions during the negotiations, a key consideration behind our efforts is to balance what we do at the bargaining table with the impact of increased costs on our students.

Complete updates and background on the faculty union negotiations including questions and answers about the negotiations and University budget can be found on the University's contract negotiations webpage.

Walter Kraft
Eastern Michigan University Vice President for Communications

September 04, 2022

Written by:
Walter Kraft

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Walter Kraft