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Posted on Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 8:44 p.m.

EMU adjunct lecturers vote to join American Federation of Teachers

By Juliana Keeping

Hundreds of part-time lecturers at Eastern Michigan University have voted to unionize, officials announced Tuesday.

"We welcome a new bargaining unit to EMU and discussions will commence in the fall," EMU President Susan Martin said Tuesday at the EMU Board of Trustees meeting.

The adjuncts, who are also called part-time lecturers, have joined an existing campus union, the EMU Federation of Teachers. EMU-FT operates under the umbrella of the American Federation of Teachers.

The majority of EMU's roughly 2,300 employees are in unions.

The number of adjuncts at EMU varies per semester; there are between 400 and 500 on campus at any given time, Martin said. The EMU-FT already includes about 100 full-time lecturers whose last contract was approved in the fall of 2009. Teaching assistants, doctoral fellows and visiting professors will not be included in the new bargaining unit.

Talk of the part-time lecturers joining the EMU-FT has been ongoing for years. An all-out campaign for union membership began in the fall of 2009 when the group formed an organizing committee and collected signatures to file for an election with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission. MERC delivered the results of a union vote to the administration Tuesday, with 216 votes in favor of a union and 41 votes against.

Collective bargaining won't begin until the fall because bargaining with two unions is underway currently, Martin said.

Martin said she wasn't overly concerned about cost associated with more union members. The group's primary concern, she said, is about better treatment, such as more notice before classes are dropped or added to their schedules.

Tom Wagner, who has taught courses in the geography department for eight years, agreed that the move to join the EMU-FT is chiefly about respect. But the adjuncts also plan to ask for better pay and benefits when the group sits down at the bargaining table.

"The part-time lecturers are hired on a semester-by-semester basis for their professional expertise. But they have low salaries, they have no fringe benefits and no health benefits, and they have essentially no opportunity to interact in the intellectual community at Eastern Michigan, despite of the fact they end up teaching more than one-third of the student contact hours," he said.

The EMU Board of Regents approved the full-time lecturers' last three-year collective bargaining agreement in September. It included 1.2 to 2 percent yearly wage increases and a hike in base pay from $27,500 to $30,500. The changes will cost EMU $517,706 over three years.

The roughly 685 faculty members at EMU negotiate their contract through the American Association of University Professors.

Juliana Keeping covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 1:06 p.m.

This is great news. University lecturers everywhere have long been in serious need of collective support. It's especially been true for the part-timers. Meanwhile, it's also good to see that EMU appears much more welcoming toward unions on campus than the supposedly more erudite U of M down the road. As an added happy surprise, the A2 teacher bashers have not shown up here in the comments.... Knock on wood (er, make that formica).