Faculty members at Eastern Washington University are expected to vote today on a collective bargaining agreement that’s the first of its kind in the state.
If the faculty gives its OK, the tentative contract will go before the EWU board of trustees in two public hearings next Thursday.
The first hearing will be at 10 a.m. in the main lounge of Louise Anderson Hall on the Cheney campus. The second will be at 1 p.m. on the second floor of EWU’s Spokane Center downtown.
If the contract is approved, EWU would become the first of the state’s four-year universities to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with its faculty.
For nearly 20 years, professors at the state’s six four-year colleges and universities have sought a law giving them the right to bargain collectively, but the idea never has been adopted by the Legislature and governor. However, state law doesn’t specifically prohibit union organizing by college professors.
Late last year, the EWU board accepted a petition from the United Faculty of Eastern to begin bargaining based on an opinion from the attorney general’s office that faculty bargaining is legal.
“It’s our feeling it’s better to work with them than create adversarial relationships,” said Mike Ormsby, EWU board member.
The contract covers a range of issues such as equity in pay, a procedure for handling grievances and spending levels for libraries and research.
It sets minimum pay levels for each rank of professor. Assistant professors would get at least $32,000 a year; associate professors, $36,000; and full professors, $40,000 over the next two years.
The contract creates uniform pay raises for promotions from one rank to the next.
The university also would pay up to $900 a year to each faculty member for training or equipment to help faculty members improve their teaching and research.
The contract does not grant any general salary increases, leaving that decision to the Legislature, which is considering a 3 percent increase for next year.
An appendix to the contract calls for making it easier for students to graduate in four years.
Currently, many students take five or six years because of the complexity of course requirements and scheduling.
The faculty union currently has about 100 members out of more than 400 full-time faculty members.
Ormsby said the United Faculty of Eastern won’t have the right to be the exclusive bargaining agent but can represent all the faculty in negotiations.
Associate Professor Tom Karier, vice president of the United Faculty of Eastern, said the union is trying to build an atmosphere of cooperation with the administration and avoid divisiveness.
Professor Jeff Corkill, head of the separate Faculty Organization, said the contract gives faculty members more control over decisions within the four colleges of the university.
“It’s a ground-up movement instead of a top-down approach to management,” Corkill said. “I think it’s a far more open process than it was before.”