the evolution of the emu strike

I’m not sure what’s transpired, but, as of 7:30 this morning, Eastern Michigan University faculty left their picket lines and headed back into their classrooms. Word is that they’ve agreed to return for 24 hours because they care about their students. While I’m sure that is the case, I also suspect, however, that it also has a lot to do with public perception. The faculty want to get the administration back to the bargaining table, and, in order to do that, they needed to change the frame of the debate. This accomplishes that.

The University was successful in round one of getting out the message that the faculty were striking because they felt that a “16% pay raise” wasn’t enough. Of course, this wasn’t quite true, as the 16% was spread over several years, and as the faculty were being asked to contribute more toward their healthcare, but people seemed to buy it. (I hear that a Channel 7 anchorperson even reported it as fact, rolling his eyes as if to say, “Do you believe that? Who do these selfish, ivory tower douchebags think that they are?”) Now, at least it seems to me, it seems that the ball is back in the administration’s court. The faculty are getting the facts out now, and, with this move, they’re winning back some people to their side. They’ve shown that they’re willing to deal, and that they have the best interests of the students in mind, and now everyone is looking for the administration to come back to the table. (They have also offered to enter into binding arbitration.) We’ll see what happens.

Another interesting thing that the faculty did yesterday is that they took the fight to the doorstep of the EMU Regents. A little over half a dozen EMU faculty decided to leave their picket lines in Ypsi on Monday morning and head for Ann Arbor, where Karen Valvo, the chair of the EMU Board of Regents, has her law practice. (The attached image was taken at the demonstration outside of Valvo’s Ann Arbor office.) I guess it’s possible that a move like that could backfire, but my sense is that, like going back and teaching for 24 hours, it was the right thing to do. The more and more this thing drags on, the more it seems as though it’s not John Fallon, the University president, that’s responsible for the breakdown in negotiations, but his Board. The Board needs to be brought back to the table, and if that means drawing attention to them as they spend their days at work, and away from the EMU campus, then so be it. (Valvo, it should be pointed out, was appointed to the EMU Board by Governor John Engler.)

update: If you haven’t already, please consider signing the union’s petition… Remember, the sooner this gets resolved, the sooner we can start covering other, more important, labor stories, like the “America’s Next Top Model” strike.

update: It’s not on the union’s website yet, but I hear (at 7:00 PM on the 13th) that the faculty have agreed to proceed with “fact finding,” which means that they will work under the old contract for a couple of months while someone from the state evaluates the situation and makes a recommendation.

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  1. mark
    Posted September 13, 2006 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    The specifics regarding this new “fact finding” stage can be found on the union’s site.

    If someone could explain to the difference between fact finding and binding arbitration, I’d apreciate it. (It’s not clear to me from the press release.) Is it that the recommendations of the fact finding group aren’t binding? And, if so, what good is it?

  2. Jim
    Posted September 14, 2006 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    You’ve got it right–the fact finder’s recommendation will not be binding. Last week the union rejected fact finding because there was no point in going through non-binding fact finding while the administration was still referring to its 9:45 pm 9/5 offer as its “last, best offer.” When the administration returned to negotiations for another 24 hours on Tuesday, it agreed in principle to negotiate in good faith; in fact, however, the administration failed to make any significant concessions in that session. Since negotiations were not going anywhere, the faculty has decided to pursue fact finding.

    At the end of fact finding, the administration could reject the fact-finder’s recommendation; however, it should be politically difficult for them to reject the recommendation of a neutral third party.

  3. gurg
    Posted September 17, 2006 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Well, this comment may be quite late but I was completely disgusted by both sides of this debate. While the administration of EMU put the nails in their own coffin by building a multi-million dollar Presidential house instead of renovating decaying, dump-heaps like the Pray-Harrold building, the administration really let me down with their strategies in this whole fiasco. The faculty may claim that they “put the students first” but what I see is a spoiled faculty who care about nothing more than their beemers and gym memberships. Adjunct faculty make pennies compared to the bloated salaries and benefit packages of university faculty, and teachers at less priveleged colleges than EMU work with marginal wages and uncertain futures. The EMU faculty has nothing to complain about, and using the students as leverage to acheive their goals was no different than a fireman who lets a family’s house burn down until he gets a pay raise. No sympathy here.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was seeing faculty in hand made “Professors 4 Students” aprons happily handing out free hot dogs to passing freshman like it was some fun faculty day off or some shit. I can live without the ground up anuses and ears. I needed a teacher in the fucking classroom.

  4. egpenet
    Posted September 17, 2006 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    The combination of my own laziness to proofread, carelessness during my racing excitement to add a wise ass comment to this blog, and a keyboard that creates infinite multiples of “eeeeeeeeeeees” if I’m not careful … and many other personal faults … have resulted in a host of errors in my contributions to, I must confess.

    As a professional writer for over 30 years, and as a former English teacher, I have to agree with “gurg” to urge especially EMU English Department professors to stay in the classroom and work on the basics, when I read:

    “priveleged” … privileged
    “acheive” … achieve

    P.S. Gurg … I had to look them up myself.

  5. gurg
    Posted September 17, 2006 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    So fucking what. Until installs a javascript spellchecker, we will all have to just put up with petty crap like that.

    I suppose you sit on the other side of the fence. Well, honestly, I expect the administration to be a bunch of assholes. I don’t expect otherwise educated and sensible people to be complete assholes which is what I got for the first two weeks of fucking school. Who gives a fuck about their health benefits? I don’t fucking have any! At least they have some. I’d have to teach 6 classes a term just to break $20K. They teach like 2 and get $80K, health benefits and 6 months of vacation a year. Don’t even forget SABBATICAL. 2/3 pay, for fucking FREE. Talk about wage disparity.

    I’ll get off my soap box.

  6. mark
    Posted September 17, 2006 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Being a tenured faculty member is a sweet deal. There’s no doubt about it. The ones I know at EMU (who I’m sure will chime in soon) don’t make $80K though, and the sabbaticals, from what I understand, are hard to come by. It

  7. gurg
    Posted September 17, 2006 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Sure, you are correct. Like I said, I don’t expect the administration to be anything but the assholes they are, but the faculty have really let me down with their what looks to be petty gripes from the perspective of the rest of the world. They have a right to complain, but using the students as leverage to get their demands met was just simply wrong. I can’t support them for that reason.

    The real problem is the total dependence on adjunct (slave) faculty, who are the ones who are really getting the shaft and the downsizing of the number of full time positions needed to support a growing student population. What is happening at colleges all around the country is criminal and the fact that there are people like me who are so desperate for work that we’ll work for next to nothing without benefits only makes the problem worse.

    The administration certainly has a difficult time balancing skyrocketing tuition and operating expenses but I really think that everyone is being unrealistic here. I just really think that the faculty made a grave pr mistake and I hope that it never happens again.

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