05/21/20 Union's Response to Serious Financial Distress

Dear Colleagues:

Following is the response that both myself and Ricardo Villarosa sent this morning to President Wilson and the Board of Governor's regarding the University's "Serious Financial Distress" declaration:

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Dear President Wilson and Board of Governors Members:

We understand that the Administration intends to ask the Board of Governors to invoke the following provision of our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which states (Article XII.4 p. 23): For a maximum of three (3) times during the period of March 20, 2016 through March 20, 2021, upon a vote of the University’s Board of Governors that the University is in “serious financial distress” the University Administration may prospectively void the contracted across-the-board and selective salary adjustments for the forthcoming contract year. The Association shall have thirty (30) days to submit this matter to binding arbitration.

The Union is cognizant of a provision of the CBA, in the same Article, which states that (Article XII.A, p. 19): In the event of an Executive Order or a legislative reduction of the state appropriation, at the University’s request, representatives of the Association and representatives of the University Administration shall meet to discuss the impact of this reduction and possible solutions to the problem.

It is the position of the Union that this provision of the CBA be followed before a declaration of “serious financial distress” should be invoked by the University. To our knowledge, the University has not yet received notice of a pending Executive Order, nor of a specific legislative reduction of our state appropriation. The Board of Governors should instruct the Administration to follow this provision of the CBA and not leapfrog directly to a declaration of “serious financial distress.” It is relevant that, at the present time, we do not have reliable knowledge of the revenue from the major funding sources for the University’s General Fund [Tuition (54%), State Appropriations (34%)], and those amounts will not be known until sometime later this summer. However, so far, projected enrollment figures for the Fall Semester suggest that they are holding steady, and we may find the degree of any “serious financial distress” may be mitigated by this, and such a declaration is premature at this point.

Nor do we have any indication of the Administration’s attempt to address the issue of administrative personnel costs beyond a limited adjustment to non-represented merit increases and a temporary diversion of high-level Administration salaries to a student aid fund. Significant reductions to administrative costs should be dealt with before the Faculty and Academic Staff are asked to make additional sacrifices to the ones they have already experienced in having to switch from face-to-face classes to online teaching in the middle of the Winter Semester, and the adjustments to having to adapt beyond the necessary work from home requirements. As the front lines of the core academic mission of the University, Faculty and Academic Staff initially made it possible for students to complete a Winter term by shifting to remote instruction and delivery of all academic and co-curricular support and engagement. They continue to contribute by preparing to meet the challenges of Spring, Summer, and Fall with all of the creativity and flexibility that are required to achieve a successful return to campus in whatever forms that entails.

We ask that the Board instruct the Administration to agree to begin talks with the Union after an Executive order or a reduction in our state appropriation takes place. These talks should be “to discuss the impact of this reduction and possible solutions to the problem.” Any further action related to the financial situation for the coming year should be deferred at this time pending further knowledge of the financial situation of the University. In addition, the sacrifices that have already been made by the Faculty and Academic Staff should be matched by the Administration before any request for further sacrifices be made to the Faculty and Academic Staff of the University.

I have attached this message as a memorandum, as well.

Sincerely,

Charles J. Parrish, President

Ricardo Villarosa, Chief Negotiator

AAUP-AFT, Local 6075

Wayne State University Chapter

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Charles J. ParrishPresident, AAUP-AFT, Local 6075, WSU ChapterVice President-at-Large, AFT MichiganPresident, AAUP Michigan ConferenceMember-at-Large, National Council, AAUP5057 Woodward Avenue, Suite 3301Detroit, MI 48202313.577.1750