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.

How You Can Help EMU Lecturers

Thanks to all of you who read my last post about Eastern Michigan University lecturers and asked what you could do to help.

Most of the efforts by ALOC (Adjunct Lecturers’ Organizing Committee) have been focused internally, meaning on campus. These include informational pickets, signature drives directed at lecturers and students, addressing the Regents at their last meeting, getting support from other unions on campus (part-time lecturers are the sole workers’ group on campus to not be represented, with the lone exception being graduate students), and other forms of campus outreach. Outreach to the greater community is just beginning.

We are hoping that President Martin and the Regents see the damage they are doing to EMU’s reputation by their refusal to deal honestly with lecturers and recognize the legitimacy of the lecturers’ concerns before a major outreach effort is necessary. Nevertheless, we seek and welcome support.

The following information is adapted from an ALOC/EMUFT informational flyer. It includes email addresses of President Martin and the members of the Board of Regents. If you would like to help, let them know that you support the legitimate right of all workers, including part-time lecturers, to represent themselves collectively.

Then send this link to your friends and tell them to join us.

While you’re at it, take a look at my articles in yesterday’s Labor Notes and Eastern Echo and post your thoughts to their blog sites. Thanks to both papers for opening up their pages to EMU’s lecturers. 



What do EMU Adjuncts want?

Today EMU’s part-time lecturers are treated as temporary workers with minimal pay and no employment rights. We want the opportunity to vote to join with EMU’s full-time lecturers in a single lecturers’ union. The existing lecturers’ union (EMUFT) has invited us to join in providing better education by improving the working conditions of all its members.

What do President Martin and Provost Kay contend?

The administration has rejected our petition (endorsed by 65% of EMU adjuncts) to allow us to vote. They have terminated discussions and stated that we do not “share a community of interest” with other faculty simply because we do not have full-time appointments. It seems they believe we should have no voice in how and what we teach!

Why are they wrong?

EMU adjuncts provide EMU students with a rich array of academically demanding and professionally taught courses that fully support the EMU mission of “Education First.” Adjuncts provide one-third of student contact hours, often at times most convenient to students. We bring a wealth of real-world experience from the workplace to our teaching and many of us have taught at EMU for a decade or more.

What you can do!

Support your Adjunct Lecturers! Insist that the EMU administration gives all adjuncts the right to vote in a secret ballot election on whether to join the full-time lecturers’ union. Email President Martin and the Regents! Make sure that EMU stands by the democratic rights of all of its community members. Give us a voice!

Contact info:

Pres. Susan Martin: sue.martin@emich.edu – 734.487.2211

EMU Board of Regents: emu.regents@emich.edu – 734.487.2410

Roy Wilbanks – Chair – roywilbanks@aol.com – 734-395-2011

Francine Parker – Vice Chair – francine.parker@emich.edu – 734.487.2410

Floyd Clack – fclack1@yahoo.com – 810-232-7007

Gary Hawks – garydhawks@comcast.net – 517-347-8659

Philip Incarnati – phili@mclaren.org – 810-342-1130

Mohamed Okdie – emu.regents@emich.edu – 734.487.2410

Thomas Sidlik – thomas.sidlik@emich.edu – 734-487-2410

James Stapleton – jstapes@att.net – 810-794-9160