MARQUETTE — A sea of red showed up to the Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees meeting this morning. Wearing red was the NMU–AAUP.
Since January, the union has been negotiating a new contract with the school and both sides have yet to come to an agreement.
“As the cost of housing has increased, as the cost of daycare and academic services has increased, groceries, gas and frankly all of the other services has increased, Northern has remained the same.”
Sara Potter has taught at Northern for the past eight years. Like many of her colleagues at the university, she’s worried about the future– the future of her students, the future of her family, and the future of her career.
“I’m looking towards the future and I’m thinking, ‘What are my prospects at NMU? Will I get tenure here? Do I want to be here forever?” said Potter. “As the hits keep coming, my prospects for that continue to decline.”
Potter spoke on behalf of the AAUP Friday morning, saying that the offer currently on the table for the union is a pay cut, not a pay raise.
“Taking a pay cut makes me feel lower than low,” she said. “I don’t know how much lower you can go.”
One of the major sticking points in the negotiations has been the rising cost of healthcare, which NMU–AAUP President Doctor Rebecca Mead addressed to the Board of Trustees.
“The problems lies less than the cost of the premiums, but rather in the bite that the faculty will experience if they actually use their healthcare, due to higher deductibles and caps.” said Mead.
“I have a child that has some health care needs that are ongoing for us,” added Potter. “Right now hanging up in my kitchen is several hundreds of dollars in bills that I have to pay just this year. It is a major issue for me and that’s something that has continued to grow year after year after year.”
NMU President Fritz Erickson addressed the ongoing contract talks with members of the media. President Erickson said that negotiations have been productive and he is confident that both sides will work something out in the near future.
“We have a common goal of providing the best compensation that we can, the best healthcare we can, and the best work environment for our students,” said Erickson. “The issue is how do we get there? That tends to be my focus,” he added.
“You don’t see this (contract talks) going into the fall semester?” asked ABC 10’s Jerry Taylor.
“I certainly would hope not,” replied Erickson. “We have a collective goal of being done as soon as possible.”
“I struggle with that fundamental issue,” said Potter about a possible strike by the AAUP if contract talks are not done with by the fall semester. “I’ll tell you what I will do– I’ll be in my classroom because that’s what my job is. My moral obligation is to my students. I think that’s what our main argument is that we give our students a quality education and we want to see ourselves appreciated for that quality education that we promote.”