Education
2:55 pm
Mon August 22, 2011

CMU faculty strike, picketers confront president

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association declared a strike on the first day of classes today.

Members of the Faculty Association and those supporting the union formed picket lines around the campus today.

Reporter David Jesse described the scene on the CMU Campus for the Detroit Free Press:

The faculty picketers lined the campus, grouping together at entrances to campus and in front of key buildings. Throughout the morning, chants could be heard, followed by loud honking of horns from passing cars. Marches of students and faculty also broke out, including a march around the administration building by a student marching band drum line, trailed by students and faculty.

CMU Administration officials filed an injunction against the striking faculty members this morning saying the work stoppage is illegal. They say faculty are public employees who are not allowed to strike under state law.

CMU President George Ross issued a statement this morning saying:

"It’s unfortunate that we are where we are, but through all of this, we have to keep the focus on our students and their success. Our goal is getting students back into the classroom. This morning the vast majority of our fixed-term faculty and graduate assistants were in class. To them, we are grateful.  And our students were there as well.  We expect them to be in class this afternoon and tomorrow. "

After he made the statement, Ross was confronted by striking faculty members. From the Detroit Free Press:

Flanked by a police officer and public relations staff, Central Michigan University President George Ross left a news conference this morning and slowly walked across a sun-splashed campus, trailed by a couple hundred students and faculty chanting, “Negotiate now." He didn’t look at any of the protesters, even as volumes rose and rose. The chants lasted until he went into his office, drawing stares from students walking by.

The University is seeking cuts to pay and benefits in response to state budget cuts. The Detroit News summarizes the sticking point between the union and the CMU administration this way:

In negotiations, the union balked at the administration asking for major concessions in salary and benefits when the group claimed CMU had unrestricted funds available.

The union said despite its offer to accept a wage freeze if tuition remained the same, the university imposed a tuition hike this fall of more than 3 percent.

CMU Faculty Association President Laura Frey said in a statement that the University if not bargaining in good faith, "we’ve filed unfair labor practice charges against the university citing their refusal to bargain in good faith," said Frey in a released statement. "This is why the faculty is not where they really want to be—with their students." *Correction - an earlier version of this story quoted an old statement from President Ross - the copy has been corrected above.