A long journey’s end

With contract grievances finally settled, the FFA and Ferris administration are working to mend their relationship

Ferris Faculty Association members protest during last year’s contract dispute Aug. 27, 2018. Torch file photo

Nearly a year after the Ferris Faculty Association (FFA) and university officials came to a contract agreement the fighting between the two sides seems to have come to an end.

The Torch reported in December and February of 2018 that the FFA had filed grievances against the university for unpaid wages. Those grievances were recently settled in favor of the FFA.

The issue stemmed from contractual language the FFA argued would give them a salary increase of $1,841 spread across the remaining paychecks of the 2018-19 academic year. However, the university contested that they could not give the pay increase for the weeks that FFA members were not under the current contract due to Michigan laws preventing retroactive pay. This resulted in a pay shortage of about $700 dollars each for FFA members and resulted in a filed grievance in early 2019.

After the two sides met with a labor relations judge during the summer, the judge ruled that the testimonies of both FFA President Charles Bacon and of Ferris President David Eisler’s lawyer, Jim Greene, were credible and that there wasn’t a “meeting of the minds” between the sides. Essentially, the sides did not understand the contract in the same way. This conclusion lead to a ruling that sent the FFA and university administration back to the bargaining table to amend the contract language.

During that meeting, university administration presented the FFA with an agreement to fully pay the disputed amount, which was agreed to by the FFA. Now, with the final remnant of a tumultuous contract dispute behind both sides, the focus is on mending a work relationship that has recently been filled with animosity, grievances and a vote of no confidence against President Eisler.

“Here we are almost a year later and I think both sides just want to get past this,” FFA President Charles Bacon said. “In a simple word, I think things are getting better. The board chairman wrote a letter the university faculty right at the beginning of the semester and as I read that letter I thought ‘this seems like an outreach’… so I reciprocated by reaching out to board members.”

In addition to outreach from both sides to begin the mending process, Bacon said he has also spoken with President Eisler about setting up regular meetings to speak and discuss issues, which Eisler has agreed to.

“I’ve said this to the provost and to the president, we’re tired of fighting. That doesn’t mean we won’t fight when we have to but this is not good. Honestly, the faculty are in a good place right now. They’re happy, the contract is quite good. We like where we’re at right now… We don’t need another year like last year,” Bacon said. “We want some stability so we’re kind of saying lets all work towards making this work.”

Many Ferris students are happy to see the sides fixing their relationship.

“I think Ferris trying to settle this and get things back to normal and with the union, even though they’re fighting for what they believe in and what they want, they’re still like ‘It was just business and we really want to make things work’ is very mature on both sides,” Ferris psychology senior Aaron Davenport said. “I think it’s very noble they want to try to mend this relationship.”

For other students, they’re glad to see the FFA and university administration working together, and they hope this will prevent additional disputes in the future.

“The strike sucked for the students, especially freshmen who didn’t even have class and that was very unfortunate for students paying for classes and missed out because of a conflict. It’s important that they get on the same page and try to resolve issues and come to a closer relationship. It’s important for both sides and for students,” Ferris business administration junior Nathan Hall said. “It’s important they’re actively trying to prevent this from happening again and I think it’ll be good for both sides.”

Bacon said that while many of the issues between the FFA and university administration come down to a difference in belief on how to allocate the budget, he doesn’t believe that the continuous shrinking of Ferris’ budget as a result of decreased enrollment will cause issues between the two sides.

“We’re always going to have that issue of ‘we don’t think you’re spending the students money wisely,’ that’s union management 101, but it doesn’t mean we’re not going to get along and try to work things out and all do the best we can for Ferris State,” Bacon said.