A message from WMU-AAUP President Bailey and Vice President DeCamp
We’re pleased to share good news about the arbitration regarding summer preference that we filed earlier this year in response to contractual violations by WMU. In brief, Arbitrator Thomas J. Barnes agreed with the WMU-AAUP that faculty have the right to preference for summer teaching in the amount of 6 credit hours per session (12 credit hours total) rather than the 6 credit hours per summer that the administration had recently begun to claim.
As a reminder, and as we reported to you in the spring, the WMU administration announced a novel plan to: a) limit preference for summer courses for academic-year faculty to six credit hours per year, b) only pay the summer teaching rate for the first six credit hours per summer for academic year faculty, and subsequently pay only the overload rate, and c) apply both of these limits by the fiscal year rather than calendar summer. The WMU-AAUP recognized that each of these changes was a violation of the 2021-2026 WMU-AAUP Agreement.
Further, our analyses indicated that such unilateral changes could result in a loss of faculty compensation of up to one million dollars annually. In short, this was an attempt by the administration to deny rightful, negotiated income to faculty, and the WMU-AAUP resolved to take the legal actions necessary to address these violations. The violations regarding the limited use of the summer salary rate and use of the fiscal year were reversed as a result of a grievance filed by the Chapter. With this week’s arbitration decision, the summer preference issue has now also been resolved in favor of the faculty. In short, all three of the unilateral changes recently imposed by the administration have now been reversed.
It’s worth noting that the opinion of the arbitrator shows careful consideration of the arguments made by both sides, decisively concluding that the WMU-AAUP compellingly fulfilled the burden of proof. Here are the key findings in Arbitrator Barnes’s conclusion:
“[T]he Union produced evidence beyond the past practice of harmonizing the provision at issue here with other sections of the CBA. While none of them standing alone are conclusive by any means, taken together they support a construction that is consistent with the parties’ 38-year practice. […] The Employer’s assertions in its post hearing brief would lead me to believe that the University voluntarily paid out summer salaries as the Union demands perhaps on the basis of its goodwill and currying favor with the faculty. That is just not how collective bargaining works and there was no evidence to that effect. Small favors and minor economic emoluments do not amount to any binding commitments as many arbitrators have held; payment of wages over 38 years now challenged by the University would amount to an acknowledgment that over that time period it was not managing and husbanding its economic resources prudently. When the University now says that it had the right all along, for nearly four decades, to do what it proposes is to acknowledge that it paid out monies that it never owed, thus undercutting its responsibilities to the students and to the taxing authorities. Unfortunately in this case, the realities of collective bargaining and of the obligations of the parties can lead to no other conclusion than that the University faithfully carried out its financial obligations under the CBA until the current situation arose. […] The grievance is granted prospectively beginning with the summer of 2023.”
This decision is binding and requires the university to respect the multi-decade (negotiated) tradition of providing faculty preference in teaching assignments.
In closing, we would like to acknowledge all who contributed to this success, including former officers and legal counsel. Moreover, several faculty were present to provide testimony before the arbitrator, and this outcome is a direct result of their willingness to stand in solidarity against contract violations.
If you learn of any instances of these WMU-AAUP contractual rights being violated, or communications from the administration that suggest they will not be honored, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Likewise, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Cathryn Bailey, President of the WMU-AAUP
Whitney DeCamp, Vice President of the WMU-AAUP