LANSING (AP) - Wayne State University’s president urged lawmakers Tuesday not to limit the school’s state aid in retaliation for approving an eight-year contract just before the contentious right-to-work law goes into effect.
Some Republicans have questioned the university’s lengthy tentative contract agreement with union faculty just before the law goes into effect later this month, and have proposed plans that could limit state funding for such actions. But school President Allan Gilmour defended the contract, arguing that it is in the best interest for the school and the state.
Unionized workers can no longer be forced to pay union dues or fees after the expiration of any collective bargaining agreement in place on March 28. Until then, employers and unions are free to negotiate contract extensions to delay the impact of right-to-work.
But Republican Rep. Al Pscholka of Stevensville, chairman of the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, has proposed that no university get a funding increase in the next budget if it signs a contract extension or renewal before March 28 — unless the contract guarantees at least 10 percent savings in labor costs.
Gilmour told the panel he is concerned with the “targeting” of Wayne State based on the length of the contract.
“This contract is not the result of political maneuvering,” he said. “It is the result of hard work … based on the best interests of the university, our faculty and staff and our students, both now and in the future.”
He said the lengthy contract, which includes a 2.5 percent annual faculty salary increase, half of which is based on performance, provides “stability for planning, for budgets and personnel.”
Republican Rep. Tom McMillin of Rochester Hills also had called on Gilmour to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday to answer questions about the contract agreement. McMillin, who chairs the committee, said in a statement last week that the contract appears to be “a blatant attempt to sidestep the right-to-work law.” McMillin has also asked officials at local school districts, who are considering similar long contracts, to testify.
Gilmour declined to testify at that hearing. But Patrick Lindsey, vice president for government and community affairs for Wayne State, told McMillin in a letter that Lindsey would appear before the oversight committee if necessary after the university’s board of governors formally adopts the tentative contract agreement on March 20.
House Minority Leader Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills said Monday that Republicans are using “McCarthyism-like tactics” to intimidate school districts and universities, by trying to bring them before committees and threatening to reduce funding.
He said because right-to-work is not yet the law of the state, local school districts and universities remain free to engage in collective bargaining with labor organizations “as they see fit.”
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