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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Katarina Rothhorn
Katarina Rothhorn
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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Adjuncts discuss unionizing

NMU’s Coalition for Contingent Faculty (CCF) is working on finalizing the unionization process for adjunct instructors. CCF was formed several years ago as a network for adjunct employees to discuss issues they encountered and to look for solutions to benefit both themselves and students.

Grace Chaillier, an adjunct employee who has been part of CCF for most of its existence, said that unionization was one of the possibilities the group took into account from the beginning.

“We had a collection of problems as a group: low wages, lack of health coverage, (and) a number of other things with the idea that in order to get those things, we might consider unionization,” Chaillier said.

During the past year, CCF has conducted extensive research and communicated with members of NMU’s administration, American Association of University Professors (AAUP) representatives, other national union representatives, and adjunct employees in order to find the best way to secure better working conditions for part-time faculty.

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Rather than forming a new union, CCF decided that the best course of action was to be accreted to NMU’s branch of the AAUP. The AAUP represents most full-time faculty, and accretion may provide similar benefits for adjunct employees.

“Right from the beginning, the (AAUP) executive board was very supportive of our effort to accrete to the existing unit,” Chaillier said.

The process took a step forward in the spring of 2010, when the AAUP filed a Petition of Representation with the Michigan Employee Relations Commission (MERC). MERC is an organization that resolves labor disputes in both public and private sectors.

Over the summer of 2010, CCF held informal deliberations with administrators to discuss various issues, sometimes meeting as often as twice a week.

Since a resolution has not yet been reached after several attempts, MERC has scheduled a formal hearing between CCF and NMU administrators. To avoid the expenses and inconveniences required to travel to Lansing, a stipulated hearing will take place. Both parties will stipulate to certain facts, and therefore not have to argue those facts in court. NMU’s administration and the CCF must also each send in documentation regarding their positions on their unresolved issues, as well as justification to back up their respective stances. Once the judge receives this information from each party, he or she will have up to six months to make a decision on the case. CCF estimates that their portion of the documentation will be sent out within the next few weeks.

Lindsay Henderson, an adjunct instructor and active member of CCF, looks forward to using the proposed union as a platform to address further issues.

“Our greatest benefit will be a stronger voice, and a means through which it can be heard.  Specific benefits such as higher pay, health care and job security will become separate topics of discussion later, for which we can use our new voice,” Henderson said.

Henderson has taught as an adjunct instructor for 14 semesters. There is a lot that she would like to see changed, she said.

“A significant portion of adjuncts here at NMU teach very close to, or in some cases above, full-time teaching loads. Yet, our pay is embarrassingly low and we are offered no health benefits or many of the other university benefits offered to full-time employees. Most (adjuncts) show considerable dedication to the university and have been teaching here for many years,” Henderson said.

Beyond the more obvious issues, such as wages and health insurance, there are many other ways adjuncts are treated differently, she said.

Micro Repair is offering free one GB RAM upgrades to students and full-time faculty, but adjuncts must pay $50 for the service. While students and full-time employees both receive PEIF passes at a discounted rate, adjuncts must pay the senior rate, which is more expensive. Those are only a few of the issues she has encountered.

“All put together, they are really pretty demoralizing,” she said.

Dr. Susan Koch, vice president and provost of academic affairs, has been involved in discussions with CCF throughout the unionization process.

“It is important that we have taken time to work together on the foundation upon which future discussions will depend,” Koch said. “While differences will surely arise, we are committed to utilizing the principles of collective bargaining to resolve them. Contingent faculty make important contributions to the education of our students and we value and appreciate those contributions.”

“A significant portion of adjuncts here at NMU teach very close to, or in some cases above, full-time teaching loads. Yet, our pay is embarrassingly low and we are offered no health benefits or many of the other university benefits offered to full-time employees…. Most (adjuncts) show considerable dedication to the university and have been teaching here for many years,” Henderson said.

Beyond the more obvious issues, such as wages and health insurance, there are many other ways adjuncts are treated differently, she said

Micro Repair is offering free one gigabyte RAM upgrades to students and full-time faculty, but adjuncts must pay $50 for the service. While students and full-time employees both receive PEIF passes at a discounted rate, adjuncts must pay the senior rate, which is more expensive. Those are only a few of the issues she has encountered.

“All put together, they are really pretty demoralizing,” she said.

Dr. Susan Koch, vice president and provost of academic affairs, has been involved in discussions with CCF throughout the unionization process.

“It is important that we have taken time to work together on the foundation upon which future discussions will depend,” Koch said. “While differences will surely arise, we are committed to utilizing the principles of collective bargaining to resolve them. Contingent faculty make important contributions to the education of our students and we value and appreciate those contributions.”

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