Ferris Faculty Association future unknown

With the current contract ending at the end of the school year, members stand their ground.

The Ferris State Faculty Association (FFA) filed an unfair labor practice charge against the University as a result of the Board of Trustee’s rejection of its contract proposal.

The FFA internally voted to pass the measure overwhelmingly, 175 to 8, last month. The proposal was next sent to the Ferris Board of Trustees, where the bid was voted unanimously against, 8 to 0.

“The Board supports an environment where individual Ferris faculty members have the ability to choose the ways in which, and the level to which, they support those who bargain on their behalf. This is the intent of recently passed state law, and the proposal in front of us would have curtailed this right,” a statement from the Ferris Board of Trustees said.

The proposal would have ensured that faculty members, regardless of their affiliation with the union, would continue to pay into the association for at least the next five years.

“It’s like saying, ‘I like having my roads plowed, I like the public library, but I don’t want to pay taxes on it,’” FFA President and Ferris professor Jim Rumpf said.

In a few weeks, Michigan will officially become the 24th state to adopt the “Right to Work” policies, as the law will be enforced starting March 28. This measure will give individual members a choice on whether or not to invest in union dues.

Rumpf has served as FFA president for the past 6 years and is completing his 13th year of Ferris union membership.

Inquiries on Ferris’ official position were referred back to its online press release as stated by the University’s Communication Officer, Marc Sheehan.

The collected dues from non-FFA members helps the union cover expenses accrued from the contract bargaining process, according to Rumpf.

“Immediately, people who are paying the fee, typically there not going to do it, they’re going to quit paying because the legislators have said, “You still have all the benefits, but you don’t have to pay for it,’” Rumpf said.

Other than pay increases, union contracts also set a coverage standard, including health care inclusion and retirement packages.

State Representative Al Pscholka, according to the Michigan Information and Research Service, plans to set an approximated $100 million aside for universities that meet the following criteria.

First, a prospective recipient of additional funds must keep tuition raises under 2.5 percent for the 2013-14 school year. Secondly, universities themselves must deny any new work contracts that do not adopt current Right to Work policies.

“The board voted it down because some politicians said they might affect our appropriations. They didn’t actually pass a law saying anything. Basically they’re hinting at what they might be able to do,” Rumpf said.

In a memorandum sent from Ferris President David Eisler to faculty members, he said, “Both the Board of Trustees and I felt that ultimately, risking millions of dollars of funding, or further sanction was an unacceptable level of risk.”

The current members of the Ferris Board of Trustees have been placed in their positions by the current and past governors of Michigan, as read on Ferris’ Board of Trustees online page. Members serve eight year terms.

Wayne State University recently ratified its own contract with similar appropriations, according to a March 12 publication of Mlive. Currently, Wayne State has a Board of Trustees comprised of voted upon individuals rather than state appointees.

Teacher strikes are present in Ferris State history, most recently, in the mid 1990’s.

Rumpf emphatically explained that a worker strike is the last thing from their minds, as the FFA is still willing to engage in negotiations with the Board.

Students who may be employed in union positions going forward may certainly learn from ongoing experience.

“They (Ferris students) should take who they vote to send to Lansing very carefully, because we see what happens when people don’t take it seriously,” Rumpf said.