Staff editorial: AAUP update

The North Wind is pleased to hear that the NMU chapter of American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the NMU administration have finally come to a tentative agreement for a new union contract, especially before Michigan moves into Right to Work on July 1.

For weeks it seemed that no agreement would be made. According to AAUP President Rebecca Mead, the original offer was “concessionary,” a take it or leave it scenario. Then, after pushback, negotiations proceeded.

Among the AAUP wins in the tentative contract is a 4 percent wage increase for Contingent faculty in year one, even though Full Time faculty only got a 1.6 percent increase.

Unfortunately, when adjusted for inflation, NMU faculty are still making less than they used to, but that has been the trend for decades.

Nor were any changes made to the AAUP retirement plan, so even if wages are paltry, retirement benefits remain the same.

The contract improvements only came after faculty mobilized.

On April 23 AAUP held a rally at Cohodas Hall to publicly address the stagnant negotiation. Also, faculty members talked to media about the negotiation for the first time that week. They demonstrated that, with pressure, power can budge.

According to Academe, AAUP’s national journal, NMU faculty are the lowest paid faculty in Michigan, but some of the highest performing faculty, according to Higher Education Institution Data Inventory, based on professor to student ratios.

NMU faculty are overworked and underpaid and they often take extra hours to make sure their students don’t fall behind. The North Wind is confident in saying faculty deserve better than they’ve gotten.

Mead said faculty members are not thrilled about the new plan, but that it’s probably the best that can be done. She said there is a lingering sense of disillusionment toward the negotiations, but that that doesn’t apply to all faculty.

As students, we want the best possible conditions for our faculty, because, as AAUP is apt to point out, faculty work conditions are our learning conditions.