YPSILANTI, Mich. – The faculty at Eastern Michigan University are headed to a strike.
It was an overwhelming vote, with 91% in favor of authorizing a strike. The decision comes as contract talks with the university have stalled.
“We don’t take this lightly,” said Matthew Kirkpatrick, lead negotiator for the union and associate professor of english and history at EMU. “We think this is the last tool that we have.”
Tuesday night, the EMU American Association of University Professors Union voted to authorize a strike. That means more than 500 tenured and tenure track faculty won’t be showing up to class Wednesday.
University spokesperson Walter Kraft said they’re disappointed in the union’s decision.
“We’ve offered a 6.2% increase to our faculty in the first year of their contract,” Kraft said. “They are already the most well compensated when you look at their salary and what they pay on health benefits.”
“We need a higher number for a meaningful raise, because our health care premiums are going up,” Kirkpatrick said. “And the health care costs are also going up. It’s not just the premiums that are covered.”
The union hopes the strike is short-lived. With negotiations still happening as of Wednesday morning, EMU felt the strike could have waited.
“We find it very unfortunate for our students,” Kraft said. “They’re only seven days into the academic year. (Wednesday) will be day seven. And for a disruption like this to occur is very difficult.”
Students pay thousands of dollars to attend this university and expect their professors to be there for class, but also said they understand the union’s fight for better pay.
“I don’t want to miss class or anything, but I feel for them,” one student said.
“It kind of makes me wonder, how does much the university value the staff and the faculty if they aren’t getting paid the amount they are putting in for our education?” said grad student Antrunika Alonco.
“I think you should do what you need to do,” another student said. “I know there are a lot of teachers doing it, so it must be a big problem, so hopefully, they’ll fix it by the end of the week, so I don’t have to miss class.”
The university is encouraging students to show up to class or email their professor to see if they will be in attendance on Wednesday.