EMU professors vote to ratify new contract with raises, improved health care plan

Hayley Harding
The Detroit News

Eastern Michigan University's chapter of the American Association of University Professors voted to ratify a new contract, the union announced Friday.

The contract, which covers more than 500 tenured and tenure-track faculty at the university, includes raises of at least $4,000 as well as 3.25% base pay increases in the second and third year of the four-year contract, the union said in a statement.

“Our negotiating team listened closely to our members throughout this process,” said Matt Kirkpatrick, chair of the EMU-AAUP negotiating team and an associate professor of English language and literature, in the release announcing the ratification.

“Our goal was to bring back an agreement to address concerns we heard about supporting our students, fair compensation and creating a foundation for continued quality education at EMU.  I think the results of this ratification vote show that we achieved our goal.”

The EMU faculty union reached the tentative agreement after a strike earlier this month.

Professors picketed instead of teaching their classes, a move the university sought to quash with a temporary restraining order to get them back to classrooms as employees of a public institution are not allowed to go on strike, according to the Michigan Public Employment Relations Act. A judge denied that request.

Picketing professors and their supporters  in front of Welch Hall at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan on September 7, 2022.

Union members considered salaries as well as health care costs to be key to a new agreement, and the ratified contract offers support on both.

EMU faculty are slated to "receive the same health care options as administrators and other groups on campus, with health care premiums based on an 80/20 cost-sharing model," representatives said Friday. "A zero-cost HMO program could save participating faculty up over $3,000 a year for family coverage and dental coverage will increase to $1,500 per participant."

In total, 96% of union members voted in favor of ratifying the contract, the union reported. Members voted via secure email between Tuesday and Friday.

"Contract negotiations of this nature are complex and challenging," Melissa Thrasher, a university spokesperson, said in a statement. "The administration is pleased with the terms of the tentative agreement and greatly supports the University's outstanding faculty and their work in the classroom to support our students."

She added that the next step is for the university's Board of Regents to review the agreement and vote on it. A date for that had not been set as of Friday night.

The contract also includes a commitment to conduct a salary equity study with faculty input to address inequities affecting faculty of color.

As a cost-saving measure in return, faculty agreed to pay for their on-campus parking, which was previously free. The university agreed to contribute an amount equal to half of faculty parking payments to the student emergency fund and provide student bus passes, according to the union. 

“It was really impressive to see our members stick together, and all the tremendous support we received from students and the campus community,” Mohamed El-Sayed, an engineering professor at the school and president of EMU-AAUP, said Friday. “Our focus now is working together with our students and the administration, so that everyone has access to the great education they deserve here at EMU.”

Staff Writer Hannah Mackay contributed to this story.