Democrats, Republicans clash over Wayne State deal


DETROIT (AP) — A long-term contract agreement between Wayne State University and its faculty union that was announced Tuesday has drawn criticism from a Republican leader who calls it an attempt to circumvent Michigan's new right-to-work law.

The leader of the state House's Democratic minority defended the agreement, saying Republicans in Lansing should mind their own business.

The tentative eight-year deal covers 1,950 faculty and academic staff members and would replace a contract that expired July 31, 2012.

Details weren't released, including whether the agreement includes mandatory fees for those employees who are covered by it. The Associated Press left phone and email messages Tuesday night for a university spokesman and the union seeking comment.

A law that the Republican-controlled Legislature passed and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed in December bars mandatory union fees under new labor agreements. It applies to contracts reached after March 27, which appears to exempt the Wayne State agreement.

The Republican head of the House higher education appropriations subcommittee issued a statement calling the agreement a "slap in the face of hard-working students and families."

"It appears to be constructed specifically to restrict the freedom of employees at Wayne State and forces them to pay union dues for the next eight years regardless of their membership in the union, which is an obvious and intentional circumvention of the law," said Rep. Al Pscholka of Stevensville.

The leader of minority Democrats in the state House advised the GOP majority to butt out, saying any Michigan employer has a right to reach agreements with its employees.

"This is a contract negotiation between WSU and its employees who have been working under a contract extension since summer," said Rep. Sam Singh of East Lansing. "Lansing Republicans have no right to interfere in this process as a third party. "

Members of the faculty union, the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers Local 6075, will hold a ratification vote March 6, the university and union said in a joint statement. The university's board of governors also must approve the deal before it can take effect.

Wayne State President Allan Gilmour said in a statement that bargainers "conducted negotiations based on the best interests of our students and the future of the university. This tentative agreement recognizes the value of our faculty and staff, and also builds in the accountability and flexibility required to adapt to a rapidly changing world of higher education."

Local union President Charles Parrish said the talks included "give and take on both sides."

"We believe this is a fair contract," Parrish said. "Most importantly, tenure and academic freedom have been preserved. This will allow our faculty to continue their excellent work in teaching and research."

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