Who are we? We are the non-tenure track instructional faculty at Michigan State University affiliated with AFT-Michigan. We teach for-credit and other required courses all over campus. We are more than 550 professionals who organized a union and ratified our first contract to establish a systematic way to improve our job security, health care, benefits, and wages.
Why a union? We voted by a more than two-to-one margin in favor of organizing because we believe the only way to make significant change is to act collectively. Through our combined strength we have the right to negotiate with the administration in a unified voice. We have secured our first contract and are currently working on building our membership to secure an even better second contract.
The increased dependence of Universities on so-called contingent or temporary faculty has spread widely in recent years, and the movement to improve the careers of these employees has followed closely. In Michigan alone, groups of non-tenure track faculty have recently organized with AFT at Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Central Michigan University, and Western Michigan University. In all these cases, union members have made significant improvements in job security, salary, and other issues.
What did we gain in our first contract? In the area of job security we established a process for gaining multi-year appointments for long time fixed term faculty to bank continuous previous semesters, and for new workers to build seniority toward longer-term appointments.
We required that in the case of non-reappointment, management must give one month’s notice prior to the expiration of the current appointment and provide a rationale for termination. We made sure the contract also required that each department establish and publish criteria for annual and major reviews to evaluate teaching performance. This is a reflection of the UNTF’s dedication to providing quality education to its students at MSU.
We established that departments receive money to grant salary increases, based on merit, for members of our bargaining unit. The first increases of a three-year program were awarded in October 2011 and additional annual increases will continue through 2013-2014. The contract also assured that our health care benefits and retirement plans be on the same terms as tenured faculty.
Your union’s grievance committee has successfully resolved a wide variety of complaints, both at the special conference level as well as through our formal grievance procedure. With these accomplishments we are refining a system to protect all members of our bargaining unit. See more details here.
What do we hope to see in our next contract? The common concerns we hear from colleagues are job security, health insurance, and wages. These are the very issues that we can address through organizing our colleagues into a stronger union and negotiating with the university administration again in 2018.
How do I get involved? The first step is becoming a member by checking the box ‘I wish to become a member of UNTF’ on the authorization for payroll deduction card and returning it via mail to the UNTF office or emailing a signed version to firstname.lastname@example.org. Becoming a member indicates your support for collective bargaining and gives you a voice in setting the organization’s priorities. It allows you the right to vote and impacts your union as a whole by giving us more clout with the university. Because we are a member-driven organization, we need your involvement! Find out more about volunteer opportunities here.