Faculty received an email today from the EMU-AAUP President Howard Bunsis about a number of things, including the status of negotiations between the EMU Lecturers and the administration on their contract. (Two points of explanation are perhaps in order here: first, the lecturers– full-time and permanent instructors who are not on the tenure-track– have their own union that is different from the faculty’s union. Second, EMU has a strong tradition of collective bargaining, and the faculty union is not merely a “gentlemen’s agreement” of a group. We strike. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been on two: one that last about a week, and one that lasted about seven hours).
According to the update that Bunsis sent, the administration is offering lecturers a 2% pay raise but they want to charge them up to $2200 a year for insurance (for the “family plan” insurance). Bunsis said that, assuming an average lecturer salary of $31,500 and an inflation rate of 3%, the package that the university is offering lectuers really represents an 8% cut in wages. That probably isn’t completely true for a variety of different reasons: for one thing, it’s hard to predict next year’s inflation rate and how it will effect people (and even Bunsis, who, like most of the union folks, prone to exaggeration in their favor, offers a “non-inflation impacted” figure of a 5% cut as well). For another, I am sure that the $2200 a year is the most expensive insurance option, and I’d be willing to bet that there are plenty of lecturers who will not pay that much for their insurance.
Still, this is an alarming development, for the lecturers now and, presumably, for the faculty later. Now, I know (as does everyone else around here) that most faculty-types at most other colleges and universities, like most employees at most other businesses, pay for a portion of their insurance out of pocket. But here’s the thing: for years and years, the various unions at EMU have been willing to ask for less money in base salary than a lot of comparative institutions in exchange for excellent benefits. If the administration wants to start tearing away at the bennies and they want to start offering contracts that ultimately represent a pay decrease, well, that does lower incentive, doesn’t it?