As many of you know, Provost Greene has decided not to renew Dean Enyedi's contract, essentially firing him as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  Many on campus are angry with this decision.  Dean Enyedi has been a supporter of students, faculty, and staff, and has improved the working and educational environment in the college.  At last Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting, over 200 hundred people attended to show their support.  Officers of the AAUP, PIO, and TAU spoke on behalf of Enyedi's leadership and collectively called for Provost Greene to reverse his decision.  This demonstration of solidarity received both local and national media coverage.

Please consider signing the petition.  Join the nearly one thousand teachers, students, alumni, and community members and voice your support for Dean Enyedi.

Some of the reasons I support Dean Enyedi and want Provost Greene to reverse his decision include:

  • Enyedi has and is a supporter of graduate education, students, and especially teaching assistants, making him an ally to teaching assistants;
  • Enyedi has administered the college in a transparent manner;
  • Enyedi has a 91% approval rating from tenure and tenure-track faculty (based on an AAUP faculty survey);
  • Enyedi has worked tirelessly to improve the economic conditions for support staff and after being denied his request to provide them with a substantial raise to their base pay, he provided them all with a "bonus."
Additionally, the WMU chapter of the AAUP (board-appointed faculty) has begun the process to put forth a question of confidence in Provost Greene.  I suspect additional censures, no-confidence votes, and continued pressure from the community will be forthcoming.

Remember, when signing the petition please include your relationship to WMU and any comments you may have.

In Solidarity,
Eric Denby

 

As the calendar year draws to a close, we’d like to tell you about what’s been happening with your bargaining team this semester.

Bargaining for a new TAU contract began early this semester and it was agreed by both parties to start by negotiating non-economic matters in our contract.  Once those are done, we will move on to the pressing and concerning monetary issues. We had hoped to get non-economic issues out of the way before next semester but unfortunately there are still items that we are unhappy with and haven’t been able to reach a satisfactory conclusion on.

It must be said however that so far we are happy with the general atmosphere during the negotiations. It has been professional, friendly, and conducive to progress. We certainly hope it continues that way once we get into the more heated issues (read: monetary issues).

Here’s a brief update on specific articles. First, here are the articles that we have reached tentative agreements on:

  • Article 3. Non-Discrimination Policy. We added language ensuring protection of gender identity and veteran status.
  • Article 6. Union Dues. After the passing of Michigan’s Right to Work Law, changes had to be made to Article 6 ensuring that TAU member dues are collected according to the new legal protocol. The WMU team was cooperative in solving this issue in a sensible way.

Second, articles which are still in progress:

  • Article 1: This article covers the definition of who belongs to our bargaining unit and who does not. We are unhappy that some departments have been hiring their own graduate students as part time instructors instead of giving them assistantships. We are hoping to stop this practice but have not been successful so far.
  • Article 7. Information about new members to the bargaining unit. Currently, the union only receives a final list of new TAs 15 days into Fall semester. However, the union wants to become an active part of welcoming and helping new TAs adjust to life in Kalamazoo and at WMU and we want to receive information at the end of spring or early summer to do so. The WMU team have blamed the bureaucracy involved at WMU as to why we cannot have this information earlier but we’re still hoping for a common sense solution here.
  • Article 8. Appointment length for TA’s. We’re pushing for yearlong appointments in all departments and strengthening the language regarding our job security.

Our attempt in this brief update is to highlight some of the current issues, but the above does not by any means represent the entirety of the work of your bargaining team. If you would like to know more about progress made, specific language, or specific articles we encourage you to attend and join the Organizing Committee, which meets bi-weekly. The times and dates of these meetings for next semester will be advertised on our website and facebook

We hope you have a great break!

Best regards from your bargaining team,
Laars, Jaafar, Stephanie, Kevin, and Yngvi

 

On Tuesday the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) at the University of Oregon went on strike. Representing more than 1500 graduate teaching assistants, this is the union’s first strike since members organized nearly 40 years ago. Last week, members voted to withhold their labor until the university agrees to a fair policy for maternity and medical leave. UO responded, suggesting that faculty offer “alternative assignments” in lieu of traditional finals and calling on other university employees to “take attendance” in any classes left without an instructor. This, of course, calls into question the integrity of the UO’s core mission – to educate.

Across the nation, more and more universities are attempting to balance their books on the backs of teaching assistants and part-time instructors. Universities treat us as employees in our workload, hours, and responsibilities, but regard us merely as “students” when it comes to our pay, benefits, and working conditions. Meanwhile, administrative costs and pet projects (athletics and medical schools, for instance) continue to eat up financial resources and we are left living paycheck to paycheck, accumulating mountains of debt.

We fully support the GTFF strike and stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Oregon. Our power depends on our ability to work and act together. The romanticized notion that graduate school is supposed to be a trial by fire, complete with a diet of ramen noodles, just doesn’t cut it when we are asked to teach 40% of the university’s students. Medical and maternity/paternity leave are fundamental rights. We should not have to choose between showing up to work sick and missing a rent payment.

More importantly, the GTFF strike provides a time for reflection on our own contract negotiations here at WMU. While negotiations are proceeding smoothly, we have yet to discuss any of our economic challenges at the bargaining table. We have not yet discussed health care, benefits, living wages, and tuition credits. If we want to make things better for TAs, our students and our campus, we need to work together. If we want better pay, benefits, and working conditions, we need to fight for them.

Please don’t read this as a call to strike. We are optimistic that our negotiations will result in a better deal for all TAs at Western, but there are no guarantees other than this: things will only get better if we find time in our busy schedules to GET INVOLVED and work together.

To show your support and follow developments in Oregon  and at WMU, like us at www.facebook.com/tauaft

In solidarity,
Eric Denby

This past week, the Teaching Assistants Union took action. The university was charging some members of our union extra fees for taking program related courses online. We filed a grievance, participating in two hearings with the administration, and after two denials, we collectively filed a demand to arbitrate. Over the past week, many of you have signed our petition and on Thursday, forty of us delivered those petitions to Provost Greene. I’m happy to say that before our action on Thursday the administration agreed to reimburse any TAs charged additional tuition for taking program related courses off-campus or online. If you think you qualify for reimbursement, please fill out the form here. It is clear that the university knew about the Nine Means Nine action, that they understood this issue is important to our members, and we’re grateful they decided to remedy a portion of our grievance.

With all that said, we are not done. WMU is charging international students out of pocket costs for English courses, even though they are already teaching courses as TAs. Furthermore, we still believe our contract is simple and clear and that each TA should receive nine credits with no qualifiers or modifiers.

So, what’s next? As a group, we need to decide whether to pursue arbitration over the remaining issues. Independent of arbitration, we also need to organize around these issues and place public pressure on the university. Join the organizing committee and help us enforce our current contract and secure a better one for next year. The last organizing committee meeting of the semester is on Monday, December 1, from 9:30 am to 11 am in the Wesley Center Basement. All members of the union are eligible and encouraged to join the committee.

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

In Solidarity,
Eric Denby
presidenttauaft@gmail.com

At last week's meeting we approved, by unanimous consent, the TAU Statement of Principles for this year's bargaining.  This is the guiding document that will assist our bargaining team with negotiations this year.  We would like to thank the team for working so hard on preparing this document and preparing for our next employment contract.

A Fair Contract
TAU Statement of Principles
2014-2015 Contract Negotiations

FAIR PAY

  • Cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) tied to inflation
  • Shrink the summer funding gap
  • More competitive wages with peer institutions
  • Affordable housing options
  • More campus discounts
  • No more enrollment fees!

AFFORDABLE HEALTHY LIVING

  • Fixed cap on health care premiums in accordance with the Affordable Care Act
  • Free year-round Student Recreation Center access
  • Additional leave for maternity, paternity and personal reasons

IMPROVED WORKING CONDITIONS

  • More clearly defined workload
  • One- or Two-Year appointments
  • Pay for professional development
  • Increase the number of Full-Time appointments
  • Greater transparency about department budgets and appointments

RESTRUCTURED TUITION AWARDS

  • Resident status for all teaching assistants
  • Rollover unused credits
  • No cost for employment
  • Graduation Bonus/Tuition Cash Out?