TAU Action 101 Flier flat Final for PRINT THIS ONEOur next big union event is on Saturday, February 21, from 1 pm to 4 pm, at the Wesley Center. Join us for Action 101 Workshop: Creating Equitable Learning and Working Environments at WMU.  Please RSVP here!
Direct action is now ubiquitous. It resonates with all of us. But what does it mean? Join us for the Action 101 Workshop: Creating Equatable Learning and Working Environments at WMU to discuss and learn about direct action. In particular, we will discuss and workshop about striking within higher education, contract negotiations, organizational tactics and strategies, and will focus on the the origins of the concept of direct action, its theoretical orientation, and its contemporary practice.

On Friday, January 30, the Organizing Committee of the Teaching Assistants Union adopted a resolution in support of Dean Alex Enyedi (see below).  After a week of active and vocal support for Dr. Enyedi, including a community-wide petition and a massive show of support at the most recent Board of Trustees meeting, the Organizing Committee felt that our voices must be heard.

The resolution recognizes the capable and transparent manner Dr. Enyedi conducted himself while head of the University's largest college.  The Organizing Committee believes that the values of economic and gender equality, as well as consensus driven management, is important to the future success of Western Michigan University.

Brief Timeline of Events

  • Friday, January 16:  Word started going around that Dr. Enyedi's contract to continue as dean of CAS would not be renewed.
  • Thursday, January 22:  At the Board of Trustees meeting, over 200 people attend to show their support of Dr. Enyedi.  All three instructor union presidents (AAUP, PIO, and TAU) spoke during the public comments as well as a support staff person who was directly effected by Dr. Enyedi's attempt to raise the standard of living among support staff personnel.
  •  Wednesday, January 28:  Provost Tim Greene sends a letter to CAS faculty and staff (but not TAs) reiterating that Dr. Enyedi's removal will continue as planned.  The full letter may be read here.
  • Friday, January 30:  Dr. Enyedi was officially removed as dean.  In protest, Senior Associate Dean Cathryn Bailey and Associate Dean Ed Martini sends a letter to CAS faculty and staff indicating that "no longer feel able to continue working" in their current positions (their statement is here in full).  The AAUP holds a chapter meeting for a vote of no-confidence in Provost Greene.  The Organizing Committee of the TAU adopt a resolution in support of Dr. Enyedi.

Resolution in support of Dr. Alex Enyedi, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences By the Organizing Committee of the Teaching Assistants Union AFT Local 1729 (January 30, 2015)

Whereas, while dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dean Alex Enyedi has proven himself a capable and transparent administrator.

Whereas, Dean Enyedi worked tirelessly to improve the economic and educational conditions in the college, including the income inequality among support staff personnel.

Whereas, Dean Enyedi increased the morale of students, staff, and faculty, in a time where the liberal arts are under frequent attack.

Whereas, the Teaching Assistants Union recognizes the importance of economic equality, administrative transparency, and believes that Dr. Alex Enyedi's continued influence is integral to the well-being of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Whereas, the Teaching Assistants Union stands in solidarity with the hundreds, if not thousands, of community members, staff, faculty, and students who have actively voiced their displeasure at Provost Greene’s decision.

Whereas, the Teaching Assistants Union recognizes that by standing with Dr. Alex Enyedi, we are also standing with the hundreds of severely underpaid support staff employees at Western Michigan University.

Therefore be it resolved,
The Organizing Committee of the Teaching Assistants Union will continue fighting for fairness and transparency and we object to President John Dunn’s action in removing Dr. Alex Enyedi as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

We will keep you informed on facebook and tauaft.org of any new developments.

In Solidarity,
Eric Denby, President

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