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Union for Oakland University professors calls for work stoppage as no new contract is reached

Posted at 9:12 AM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 09:12:54-04

(WSYM) — Negotiations between Oakland University and its professors are still at an impasse, with no new labor deal in place after the current contract expired just before midnight.

The union is now calling for a work stoppage, with 99% of members voting to authorize a strike, should they need one. It all comes as students return to campus for the first day of class on Thursday.

An email from OU was sent out Thursday morning, telling students to report to class and wait at least 15 minutes to see if their professor will be teaching.

There are still a lot of looming questions. Based on what we know so far, the plan is to continue things as normal on Thursday, and it's not expected classes will be disrupted, but its certainly a concern for students, who say they feel caught in the middle.

"If I had to pick a side, I side more with the professors," one student said.

At the center of the battle, according to the university's president, is faculty pay.

Professors are pushing for a pay bump, according to Karen Miller, the president of the OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

"When we first started putting money across the table, it would have been about 3% increase," Miller said.

The university is pushing back, citing a drop in enrollment around 8%, which they say equals a $17 million shortfall. Miller said despite this, the university has shown itself to be financially sound.

"Also, their construction is going on, the executive suite is expanding, the administrators haven't taken a pay cut, they took one during COVID, but that was restored," Miller said.

Amid negotiations on Wednesday, the university released a statement that said, "The University hopes to resolve the issue with minimal disruption to fall classes. However, if there is no agreement, Oakland University operations, support services, and extracurricular activities will go ahead as per schedule."

The union is calling for a work stoppage, and on top of that, they filed an unfair labor practice allegation on the grounds that OU failed to bargain the impact of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on its members.

Both sides are returning to the bargaining table on Thursday morning. Most of the 800 person faculty raise concerns about compensation, so the impact of them deciding to strike, if they did, would be significant.