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EMU faculty preps for strike vote Tuesday; university says strike would be illegal

classroom
Matt Katzenberger
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Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Eastern Michigan University professors may vote Tuesday to go on strike.

More than 500 tenured and tenure-track faculty at EMU have been working without a contract since the end of August.

“The uncertainty and instability of forcing faculty to work without a contract is tremendously unfair to our students, especially after everything we’ve all been through in the past two-and-a-half years,” said Matt Kirkpatrick, associate professor of English language and literature at EMU and chair of the EMU-AAUP negotiating team.

The faculty union accuses university administrators of ”throwing every possible obstacle” in the way of a new contract.

Health care is the biggest stumbling block in the negotiations.

The union maintains the university’s proposed changes to the health care package include “substantial increased costs in health care premiums and out-of- pocket charges.....(that) would result in a pay decrease for many EMU-AAUP members.”

The university defends its contract proposal that contains some salary increases, as well as increased health care costs.

“We understand the union’s frustration with being asked to share more of the increasing costs of providing health care to employees and families,” said EMU spokesman Walter Kraft. “But there are very few employers and employees in the United States, or among the other bargaining units at this University, that have not had to make similar adjustments to health care costs."

If they vote to strike, the professors could walk off the job as soon as Wednesday.

University spokesman Walter Kraft said a strike “hurts our students and impinges significantly upon their experience.”

Fall semester classes started last week.

Kraft also said such a strike would be illegal under Michigan law.

Here is how the law reads:

PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS Act 336 of 1947

423.202 Strike by public employee; lockout by public school employer.

Sec. 2.

A public employee shall not strike and a public school employer shall not institute a lockout. A public school employer does not violate this section if there is a total or partial cessation of the public school employer's operations in response to a strike held in violation of this section.

A state appointed-fact finder has called for a negotiating session Wednesday.

Meanwhile, EMU administrators say classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, and for the remainder of the week, will take place as scheduled.