NMU, AAUP give statements on negotiations

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University President Fritz Erickson on Thursday issued a statement clarifying various points regarding the impasse between the administration and faculty amid recent contract negotiations.

The NMU-American Association of University Professors union and NMU administration still are negotiating over base salary increases and other forms of compensation.

NMU-AAUP and the university’s administration were unable to come to an agreement before the one-year contract expired July 1.

Mediation between the two parties began in July.

“As most of you know, Northern continues to negotiate with the AAUP faculty union on a new contract,” Erickson said. “While it has always been the university’s position to not respond to or get into public discussions about contract negotiations while still in negotiation, some points of clarification are needed for the public commentary currently taking place.”

Northern continues to bargain in good faith as it has throughout the negotiating period, Erickson said.

“We have been actively engaged throughout the summer, even during long periods of waiting for union counteroffers,” he said.

The statement has been made that NMU does not value and is not willing to invest in its faculty based on its contract proposals, Erickson said.

“However, we believe the proposal of up to $12 million in accumulative compensation increases, depending on the length of the contract, for the 340-plus AAUP faculty members is a strong and equitable investment in our faculty,” he said.

Erickson indicated that the current contract offer provides greater salary increases to NMU faculty than offered by any other bargained-for institution in the state this year or last. It also exceeds the 2019 levels mentioned by the AAUP.

He stressed there has been no comprehensive salary reduction for faculty.

“The only recent decrease was a negotiated contract agreement for less money to teach in the summer and overload assignments,” Erickson said. “Nearly all overloads and summer assignments are optional teaching assignments for faculty members.”

The AAUP has put statistical information into the public discussion on where their wages and compensation rates rank when compared to salaries of statewide public higher education institutions, Erickson said.

However, he said that current higher education market data indicates that NMU faculty are paid 8.5% above the national average when compared to institutions similar in size, scope and Carnegie Classification.

According to its website, the Carnegie Classification is a framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education.

Additionally, Erickson said that when compared to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources peers, 85% of NMU’s AAUP members are receiving salaries that are above market with a range from 1% to 45% above market. He noted the up to $12 million proposal continues to support this trend.

“The administration made a contract extension offer to AAUP union leadership in early August that did not receive a response,” Erickson said. “Despite working without a contract, the campus and public should know that the university continues to provide the AAUP faculty their wages and benefits.”

Erickson indicated that prior to the start of official negotiations in 2020, an offer was made to the AAUP to extend the contract with a 2% base salary increase and the AAUP declined the proposal.

After the 2020-21 academic year, NMU recognized all employees’ extra effort during the COVID-19 pandemic with a 1.92% salary bonus, capped at $2,880, which also went to faculty, Erickson said.

“And, unlike many institutions around the state and nation, Northern did not lay off any faculty, nor did faculty take any furlough days,” he said.

Erickson pointed out that for anyone questioning why NMU has not paid salary or promotion increases, legal counsel has advised the university that it is prohibited from doing so under Michigan law per Public Act 54 of 2011 (Section 15b-1).

He said that during negotiations, NMU has provided the AAUP with all requested financial documents, including the projected 2021-22 budget that has not yet been finalized due to the Legislature still working on the state budget. NMU never requested the AAUP to file a Freedom of Information Act request for university financial information, Erickson said, since it is public information and, as such, most of it is posted in the Finance and Administration Division section of the university’s website.

Erickson provided another “point of clarification” regarding Welcome Weekend on Aug. 20-21.

Housing and Residence Life and the Center for Student Enrichment secured funding for the Welcome Weekend activities, he said.

The Ferris wheel was a one-time expense out of auxiliary funds, so having the Ferris wheel as part of the activities had no impact on faculty salaries.

“We hope this information helps students, faculty and staff understand some of the negotiation details that have not been part of the public discussion,” Erickson said. “We believe there is still an excellent pathway for successfully completing negotiations and NMU will continue to work toward that.”

NMU-AAUP responds

Dwight Brady, president of the NMU-AAUP, on Thursday provided this statement on behalf of the union: “In the opinion of the NMU-AAUP leadership, the figures and claims made in the statement from the president’s office do not appear completely consistent with what has transpired at the table and in other meetings. We are reviewing the statement with our attorney and will have a more comprehensive response at a later time.

“Nevertheless, we remain focused on getting a contract that allows us to continue providing the high level of education students and the community have come to expect from us.”

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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