Contract Settlements in Michigan

By Michael Mauer.

When the Michigan “Freedom to Work in the Public Sector” law took effect last year, AAUP chapters had good reason to fear a significant weakening of collective bargaining agreements. That legislation outlawed “fair share” payments, which meant that faculty who enjoy the full fruits of representation by their chapter would now be able to make no financial contribution at all toward the cost of those services.

So the new legal landscape was that chapters entering into renewal negotiations for their collective bargaining agreements were powerless to maintain their longstanding fair share arrangements. But there was an additional grave threat: that administrations could seek to weaken chapters further by refusing to continue to process payroll deduction of union dues, or by making such processing so onerous that it would be difficult for our chapters to maintain healthy membership levels. 

Fortunately, a sigh of relief is in order. In the first two contracts to be renegotiated since the draconian law went into effect, AAUP chapters succeeded in holding on to their ability to collect dues through payroll deduction. At both Kalamazoo Community College and Western Michigan University, the administration will continue to be contractually bound to transmit union dues to our chapters.

At WMU, the fight was particularly fierce over the administration’s insistence that it would not honor existing AAUP members’ payroll deduction authorizations. Its apparent hope was that by compelling the chapter to secure a new signed authorization card from every member, union membership would decrease and the chapter’s resources would be depleted. But at midnight on the day the contract was set to expire, agreement was reached. The chapter prevailed on this critical point, so that there will be no lapse in the orderly transmittal of union dues from members to the chapter, and the chapter can continue to have the resources needed to carry on its work. (The chapter merits congratulations for having won 8.5 percent salary increases, winning the right to take all grievances to arbitration, strengthening shared governance and intellectual property rights, and much more.)