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Tentative contract agreement reports untrue, NMU faculty says

NMU faculty union

MARQUETTE, MI— Reports of a new tentative agreement between Northern Michigan University administration and faculty are greatly exaggerated.

That’s according to Jon Barch, NMU-AAUP Information Officer.

The union released the following statement on Thursday, October 7:

“Recent reports that NMU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (NMU-AAUP, also known as the faculty union), and the NMU administration have come to a new tentative agreement regarding contract language are false reports. Statements suggesting that the faculty are finally satisfied with what the administration has offered are grossly inaccurate. After months of negotiations followed by Michigan Employment Relations Commission assisted mediation, the two bargaining teams put forth a tentative agreement that represented movement from both sides and the faculty union members voted it down.

“Part of the problem lies in the fact that throughout the initial months of negotiations, the faculty union made significant movement as financial offers were being traded back and forth. The administration made very little movement, often just moving money from one part of the contract to another instead of adding money to the offer. The faculty team approached what they believed to be less than their membership would accept given the financial health of the university and the sacrifices they had made to facilitate that health. The administration, guided by parameters provided to them by the Board of Trustees, refused to acknowledge those concerns of the faculty. That situation led to the NMU-AAUP team to bring in the mediator. The mediator did a fantastic job creating movement from both sides; however, to get administrative movement on the key issue of base salary raises, sacrifices in other areas of the contract were made, which the vote demonstrates were clearly unacceptable to the greater faculty union membership.

“After the tentative agreement was voted down on September 28, the NMU-AAUP immediately surveyed its membership to find a path toward an acceptable contract offer. Those survey results facilitated new discussions between the union and the administration. The union was pleased in NMU administration’s willingness to move on a couple of important items; however, this movement did not result in a new tentative agreement. Again, news reports that it did are untrue.

“To the contrary, when NMU faculty were surveyed again on October 5th to determine if this movement would be acceptable, it was resoundingly clear that the faculty continue to feel insulted by the administration’s relentless attempts to make permanent several of the Covid-19 related financial sacrifices that the faculty agreed to in the prior one-year contract as a temporary gift in good faith to the university to get through the financial unknowns of the global pandemic.

“Further, the outstanding financial status of the university, the large increase in enrollment of our current freshman class, and the increased funding that has been announced at the state level have led the faculty to believe that now is the time to focus on delivering a base pay raise package that at a minimum keeps up with inflation and cost of living increases, but more importantly moves us away from our status of being seriously underpaid when compared to faculty at our peer institutions in Michigan. This is something that the previous administration was unwilling to do, and it remains to be seen if the new administration will, either.”

University administration released the following response Thursday afternoon:

"Late last Friday afternoon the administration and the union did, in fact, reach a verbal tentative agreement. Plans were made to edit and finalize the language for signatures and dissemination to the union for review on Monday and a ratification vote to occur later that week or early the next.

"Additionally, on Saturday morning the union leadership contacted the administration about developing a press release as a joint statement announcing the verbal tentative agreement.  However, administration was disappointed to learn late Monday afternoon that the agreed-upon language would not be distributed to the union for their review and vote.

"Again, we are disappointed but will continue to bargain in good faith to reach an agreement."