EMU Lecturers Halt “Visits” as President Martin Shows Sincerity

Members of Eastern Michigan University’s Adjunct Lecturers’ Organizing Committee (ALOC) and Students for an Ethical and Participatory Education (SEPE) spoke to over 60 campus folks face-to-face in three days last week. Forty of those who were contacted committed to participate in the ALOC/SEPE coalition “office visit” days that were planned Thursday and Friday to get EMU President Sue Martin back to the negotiating table. This new strategy reflects the growing frustration that lecturers have been feeling as their righteous desire to expand EMUFT membership to all lecturers, full-timers and part-timers, have continued to be ignored by an intransigent administration.

But in a late-breaking development, ALOC leadership called a temporary halt to the visits after Michigan AFT President David Hecker’s noon-time phone call with President Martin on Wednesday. EMUFT is a chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). David Hecker is one of the great union presidents of our time. He is rock solid behind the workers he represents but he can talk to leaders of the other side in a way that commands respect, not hostility.

To her credit, President Martin seemed to realize this. According to Hecker, “There was sincerity on President Martin’s part to resolve our differences and work on an agreement.”

This is major good news for the EMU community and President Martin deserves credit for her position, informal as it is at the moment. However, there is still no set date for substantive face-to-face talks and action on that front needs to happen this coming week.

ALOC’s goal is to settle the member definition issue and have an election before the end of this semester that includes all lecturers who teach a class in any given semester:  “one syllabus, one vote!”

According to Hecker, Martin indicated during their conversation that she wanted “to avoid any further disturbances.” On that I am pleased to report that lecturers are in agreement. After over twenty years of teaching at EMU I still believe that EMU is a first-class university, largely because of the commitment of the faculty at all levels, and because of their love of teaching and of EMU. Protesting is a drain on the energy that we want to devote to our students, who are the reason why we teach.

But if that is how the university forces us to use our energy by refusing to work with us to resolve this issue fairly and soon, that is how we will use it to make our position known.

Because  attacks on our dignity also are a drain on our energy, especially when they come from those high-paid administrators whose major contribution to campus life is to hire high-price lawyer friends with university funds to fight members of the university community.

Among lecturers, from full-timers to those who teach one class a year, there is no question that we share a community of interest. When the original struggle was waged, and which I led, to create a union for lecturers, it was meant to be for all lecturers. The compromise result was a union for full-time lecturers only, EMUFT. This current struggle is to realize the vision of the first generation of leaders.

It is a worthy goal, one President Martin should support if she really has the interests of her community in mind. Hopefully she will listen to the people who do the real work to run the community and support the lecturers. All of the other unions on campus do. So do the students.

ALOC is the group that is leading the effort to bring part-time lecturers into EMUFT, the collective bargaining unit that represents full-time contract lecturers. Full-timers won recognition as a local of the American Federation of Teachers in 2001. SEPE is an inspired group of students who have supported the lecturers because they know that lecturers teach the bulk of classes at EMU and so are the key figures in students’ education.

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