Eastern Michigan faculty strike disrupts second week of classes
- The Eastern Michigan University faculty union voted Tuesday to strike over salary and health care issues
- It’s unclear how many classes were canceled Wednesday
- The union and university administration are meeting Wednesday to continue negotiations on a new contract
Eastern Michigan University faculty did not teach classes Wednesday after voting Tuesday night to strike. The EMU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (EMU-AAUP) contends the university is dragging its feet on negotiations, while the university said the decision to strike disrupts students’ education.
The union’s contract expired at the end of August, and 91 percent of the members who attended Tuesday's meeting voted to strike. Over 50 people marched in a picket line in front of Welch Hall across from the Ypsilanti Water Tower Wednesday morning. One key point of contention is how much employees should pay for health care.
“I was a little frustrated getting to class and no professor [was] there. But then I kind of stepped back for a minute, and I realized that they're fighting for their rights here. So I was supportive of that,” Ella Seale, a sophomore student who commutes from Canton, told Bridge Michigan.
Matthew Kirkpatrick, associate professor of English and lead negotiator for the EMU-AAUP, said he feels supported by students who understand that “our working conditions are their learning conditions.
“We wouldn't do this if we didn't feel like we had to. I think the administration had the power to stop this in the sense that if we had a fair contract, we wouldn't be doing this. So this is a decision we don't take lightly. “
“The union’s call for a strike impacts one group on Eastern’s campus more than any other — the University’s students,” Walter Kraft, University vice president for communications, said in a statement Tuesday night. “It is unfortunate that rather than continue to follow the mediator’s path, with active negotiations still underway, the faculty union is asking its members to walk out and disrupt students’ education just seven days into the semester.”
Kirkpatrick said he did not know how many classes were canceled across the campus. The union has 517 members.
“All of us got into this because we love to be in the classroom. And we love teaching, and we love to share the knowledge that we’ve gained through our research and creative work,” he said. “[B]ut at the end of the day, we have families that we need to support. We have lives. You need to live. We're in a highly inflationary time right now. And we need to be compensated for the work we do.”
Andon Millner, a freshman nursing student from Allen Park whose nursing class was canceled Wednesday morning, said he would likely strike too. But as a student, it is disappointing to not have class.
“I mean, it kind of sucks. I kind of like going to classes. And like, I actually want to be a nurse. So, if I can't learn to be a nurse, then it kind of sucks.”
Tricia McTague, associate professor of sociology and negotiating team member, said the union needs a fair contract since it will affect other unions on campus.
She said she juggled taking care of her 4-year-old daughter for 15 months while schools were closed and her partner, an essential worker, worked outside the home.
“My priorities were: take care of my kid. Take care of my students. And now …it's my turn to be taken care of the way that I should be. We have sacrificed so much over the past two years, worked harder than we ever have before to support students in crisis. And now it is our turn.”
The union and university administration were expected to meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday to continue negotiations.
“I am concerned about how long it will go on, and I hope that they come to a resolution soon,” Seale said.
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