Administration's proposal to UTF considered unacceptable, will picket Monday

The Union of Teaching Faculty will picket next week to inform the campus of its grievances accrued in its efforts to secure greater job benefits.

Union members are set to appear from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday outside the Education and Human Services Building to express unhappiness with administrators' most recent proposal regarding benefits and job security .

Jim Eikrem, an assistant communication and fine arts professor and UTF president, made a speech on behalf of UTF about the ongoing bargaining with administration at the Feb. 17 CMU Board of Trustees meeting.

“We presented them with a cost-effective way to address some of the discrepancies in terms of salaries and benefits,” Eikrem said. “They came back with no real improvements, and there were no increases in wages or benefit security.”

Eikrem said the proposal administration came back with seems unacceptable, but the next step is to keep the dialogue going. Robert Martin, associate vice provost of Faculty Personnel Services, refrained from commenting on Eikrem's speech because he did not attend the meeting.

“The UTF and CMU bargaining teams have been meeting on a regular basis since early January,” Martin said in an e-mail. “We have exchanged proposals on numerous issues. I anticipate continued good faith efforts by both teams during this spring semester in an effort to reach a mutually satisfactory contract at the earliest possible date.”

Martin, Ray Christie, vice provost of Academic Administration and David Burdette, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services, referred CM Life to Director of Public Relations Steve Smith, who could not be reached for comment before publication.

Eikrem said UTF is trying to educate by showing a presence and “making some noise,” especially to new trustees that are uninformed on the issue.

“Our bargaining committee did heavy research and developed a good case,” Eikrem said. “Administration did not back their proposal up with any reliable statistics, and we want to see those facts. They do not have the reliable foundation we have.”

The union was gratified this past fall with overwhelming numbers, Eikrem said. About 50 percent of approximately 340 eligible members are members of UTF.

Eikrem used his personal experiences as explanation for why he wants to see a change in the wages and benefits of contingent (temporary) faculty.

“I’ve been teaching at CMU for eight-and-a-half years and have never received a formal contract, but instead a letter of agreement,” Eikrem said. “The letter says it can be terminated at any time.”

He said each temporary faculty member has been at CMU for an average of six years. This is ironic, because it is close to the time frame of tenured professors, Eikrem said.

He said new construction on campus seems to be an attempt to make the school more attractive, but it still operates largely on the efforts of temporary faculty.

Temporary faculty members' letters of agreement require them to show preference to teaching at CMU, which Eikrem said is illogical.

"How can we do that when many must get second jobs and apply for food stamps just to sustain a living?” Eikrem said. “It is time to take control.”