Continued negotiations for UAW

Hannah Fermanich

NMU’s chapter of the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Local 1950 are working with the university to ratify a new labor contract.

The last contract between the university and the UAW expired on June 30, 2011.

Since then, the members of the UAW have been working without a contract while negotiations continue with the university over new proposals.

“Since the contract expired over a year ago, we’ve simply been working with an expired contract,” said Michelle Kimball president of the UAW Local 1950. “As is typical in those circumstances, most workplace issues and concerns are handled the same as previously, so for instance, we are allotted the same amount of sick leave as in the 2008 to 2011 contract.”

The most recent proposal from the university was rejected on Aug. 30 by the UAW with a vote of 114 to 11.

This proposal included a net loss of $0.34 per hour for members who currently are starting at wages between $9.10 and $9.82 an hour.

They are also affected by the change in health care coverage from last year.

This change in health care means more out-of-pocket expenses for these employees.

“We agree that health insurance is valuable and costly, but people who make so little simply cannot afford that much of a premium,” Kimball said. “For the 46 members of my group who earn less than $24,000 per year, that claims more than 10 percent of their gross salary, not their take home.”

The negotiation process has taken over a year now.

There are a lot of big issues that are taking more time to come to an agreement on both sides.

Until a new contract can be ratified, the UAW will continue to work with the agreement put in place that expired last year.

“Negotiations have taken a lot longer than they would have hoped,” said Cindy Paavola, Director of Communications and Marketing. “It would be accurate to say that it’s gone on longer than both sides would have wanted.”

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is also currently going through contract negotiations.

Neither the AAUP nor UAW contracts will be available in more detail until they have been ratified by their corresponding membership and the university.

“We’ve been holding monthly informational pickets at lunch since January, wearing black shirts on Tuesdays and trying to get the word out anyway we can,” Kimball said.

According to Kimball, the UAW union on campus has about 92 percent female membership.

They are a primarily clerical secretary union and are currently the lowest paid union on campus.

“Last semester, 73 student workers on campus earned more per hour than lowest paid members of my union,” Kimball said.

The UAW Local 1950 is asking students to wear black shirts on Tuesdays to show their support for the members of the union during the negotiation process.