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MSU trustees 'pro-union' for tenure faculty

Trustees Kelly Tebay, Dan Kelly, and Rema Vassar sit alongside Interim President Teresa Woodruff.
Wali Khan
MSU's Board of Trustees voted five-to-two Friday to prohibit visitors from bringing concealed weapons on MSU property.

Michigan State University officials are signaling their support of a unionization effort led by faculty members.

The Union of Tenure System Faculty is asking the MSU Board of Trustees to voluntarily recognize the organization ahead of its next meeting in April.
Several members of the group provided comment during the board’s meeting Friday. Union leaders said most eligible MSU professors have signed on to support the labor effort.

“To date, nearly 1,000 have signed cards saying they want a tenure stream faculty union here at MSU,” said NiCole Buchanan, a professor in the psychology department and a leading organizer of the unionization effort.

Buchanan reported union organizers directly contacted 75% of the union's eligible members through one-on-one conversations.

“Let’s usher in a new day at MSU. Let’s work together. Let’s work collaboratively to ensure that everyone here can thrive,” Buchanan said.

Other professors said the active union effort is keeping them from leaving MSU despite their frustration with university administrators and changes in leadership.

“Why do I still care? It is because I see hope in my fellow faculty organizers who started advocating positive change in this institution,” said Ning Hsieh with the Department of Sociology.

University officials remarked positively on the organization efforts. Trustee Brianna Scott said most of the board is “pro-union."
“We will support you all. I don’t think you’re going to get pushback, at least from seven of us,” Scott said.

Scott's comments were directed towards Dan Kelly, MSU’s only Republican trustee, as the board’s lone critic of faculty union efforts. Kelly did not comment on the matter.

Following the remarks, MSU Board Chair Rema Vassar said the full board is likely to support the effort ahead of the next meeting.

“We’ve been briefed over and over and updated on how things are developing,” Vassar told reporters after the meeting. “We’re on the clock.”

Organizers with the Union of Tenure System Faculty said the voluntary recognition will allow the group to negotiate for better salaries and benefits.

Eli Newman is assistant news director and editor. He works with the WKAR news and digital content teams to facilitate the creation of meaningful and thought-provoking multimedia news content for WKAR Public Media.
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