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NMU faculty holds rally over pay

Dwight Brady, holding the microphone, speaks to fellow Northern Michigan University faculty during a rally on campus on Thursday afternoon. Brady, president of the NMU-American Association of University Professors Union, said the event focused on fair financial compensation for NMU faculty. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — Members of the Northern Michigan University-American Association of University Professors faculty union at NMU held a rally on campus Thursday afternoon over financial compensation, with the theme being “Frozen pay is not OK.”

Union President Dwight Brady, also a professor in the NMU Communications and Media Studies Department, said the event, which started at the Wildcat statue by Jamrich Hall and turned into a march through part of the campus, was scheduled in response to a move last week by the NMU administration.

“We were just getting started on the financial portion of negotiations when the administration informed us on April 6 that they would no longer discuss financials until after the (NMU) Board of Trustees meetings at the end of the month,” Brady said in a statement. “This means we are losing nearly a month of critical time to reach a deal on a contract, and we felt it was important to have a public show of solidarity before the end of the semester.”

The union is seeking a three-year deal that would keep faculty compensation from falling further behind other regional universities in Michigan.

Brady noted that the NMU administration’s initial offer called for a two-year contract with no pay increase to base pay over two years with a one-time 1% bonus.

“Last year, we took one for the team and settled for a pay freeze and reduced compensation for summer and overload pay because of COVID,” he said. “However, we cannot and will not accept essentially frozen salaries again. Our faculty members have worked extra hours and put themselves at risk to offer face-to-face instruction during a global pandemic.

“We do not think it is unreasonable to seek a fair contract that reflects the effort and commitment of our faculty.”

Last year, the union ratified its present one-year contract just days before the expiration of its old contract, and the union’s chief negotiator, Lesley Putman, indicated she does not want this to happen again.

“We know the money is there,” Putman said in a statement. “We know there is a pool of over $3 million that faculty members overpaid into NMU’s health insurance program. We know that 20 faculty members were not replaced after retiring last year. We know the university received over $12 million in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding and $17 million more is on the way.

“We also know the end is in sight to this pandemic and enrollment figures for fall 2021 are looking much better than expected. So, the money is there. We just need to be able to get back to discussing it during our negotiations.”

In a statement, NMU President Fritz Erickson said, “We look forward to continued fruitful talks on the many topics on the table. We will continue to work through issues, including budgets, with both the board of trustees and the faculty union in a timely manner.”

The current contract, Erickson said, goes through June 30.

“We’re not looking for a fabulous contract. We’re just looking for a fair contract,” Brady said before the rally.

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