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Wed Apr 4, 2018, 06:55 PM

University of Michigan Lecturers Set Strike for April 9th and 10th in Flint, Dearborn and Ann Arbor

For immediate release, April 4, 2018

Contact: Roger Kerson, roger@rkcommunications.net, 734.645.0535

University of Michigan Lecturers Set Strike for April 9th and 10th in Flint, Dearborn and Ann Arbor

Negotiations Continue; Union Members on All Three Campuses Say Pay Raises, Greater Respect Needed to Avert Walkout

ANN ARBOR, MI – Members of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization (LEO) at the University of Michigan, AFT-MI 6244, AFL-CIO, have voted to strike on the Flint, Dearborn, and Ann Arbor campuses on Monday April 9th and 10th. Negotiations will continue through Sunday April 8, say union officials, with major progress at the bargaining table needed to avert a walkout.

“We’ve been working for months to address the crisis of underpayment among the University of Michigan’s core teaching staff,” said Ian Robinson, a lecturer in the Sociology Department at UM Ann Arbor and the president of LEO. “We’ve got lecturers with children on public assistance, lecturers working two or three jobs, lecturers who are leaving the university because they can’t afford to live on their miserable salaries.”

“This is not sustainable. Low pay and high turnover among classroom instructors is unfair to students who pay top-drawer tuition at a top-ranked school,” said Robinson. “University administrators know the problem and have the financial means to fix it, but so far they’ve chosen not do so. Without major progress in the next few days, there will be a strike on all three campuses on April 9th and 10th.”

Voting to implement a strike – previously authorized by 80% of voting members through electronic balloting – took place during LEO membership meetings in Flint on April 2, Dearborn on April 3 and Ann Arbor on April 4. Lecturers on all three campuses voted unanimously to proceed with strike action on April 9th and 10th, unless there is substantial progress on LEO pay demands and other bargaining issues, including a working title change that will make it easier for departments to recruit and retain high caliber talent into Lecturer roles.

Union members also voted to empower LEO’s Union Council to review progress at the bargaining table on Sunday, April 8 and make a final decision on strike action. The eight-member Union Council is comprised of four officers elected by all three campuses, and four Campus Council chairs (one each from Flint and Dearborn and co-chairs from Ann Arbor).

“It’s not easy for us, as teachers, to decide to strike, because we care so much about our students,” said Steven Toth, a lecturer in chemistry at the University of Michigan Flint. “But we’re not doing our students any favors if we continue to tolerate unfair salaries for years on end. It’s students who pay the price if we don’t negotiate a pay scale that attracts good people and gives us a reason to stay here.”

“I retired early from teaching in Detroit public schools because I thought pay and conditions would be better as a member of the teaching faculty at a top school like the University of Michigan,” said Amy Keesling, a lecturer in the College of Arts, Science and Languages at UM Dearborn. “I was wrong. The pay scale at the University of Michigan is not just low, it’s oppressive. The difference is that Detroit Public Schools face enormous financial challenges, while the University of Michigan has an annual cash surplus of over $500 million.”

The minimum starting salary for a lecturer is $27,300 at UM Flint, $28,300 at UM Dearborn, and $34,500 at UM Ann Arbor, a pay scale that is lower than nearby community colleges and public schools. Lecturers teach more than one-half of credit hours on the Flint and Dearborn campuses, and one-third of credit hours in Ann Arbor. The LEO bargaining team has proposed a $60,000 minimum salary for UM Ann Arbor and equivalent pay increases at other campuses.

The University of Michigan recorded a cash surplus of $513 million in 2016 and $542 million in 2017. The University now has an unrestricted cash balance of over $4 billion, separate from its $10.9 billion endowment fund. A LEO analysis of University finances shows that the school can raise pay for lecturers without raising tuition, without a tax increase, without interrupting any major capital spending and without dipping into its endowment fund.

The editorial board of the Michigan Daily, the Ann Arbor campus newspaper, has strongly endorsed LEO’s campaign for higher pay for lecturers. University of Michigan Regents Mark Bernstein (D-Ann Arbor) and Andrea Fischer Newman (R-Ann Arbor) have also publicly stated their support for lecturers.

The University’s low pay scale for lecturers, said Bernstein during a March 29 Board of Regents meeting, “is an academic excellence issue. It goes to the core of our educational mission. We have trouble with turnover. It’s time to invest in our lecturers with the same enthusiasm we apply to other important priorities.”

At the same meeting, Newman commended LEO members for their education and outreach efforts. “You have really put this on the table in a thoughtful and collaborative way,” said Newman. “You’ve presented evidence. You’ve presented numbers. You’ve done this in a way that makes us want to work with you and makes us sympathetic to what you bring forward.”

In addition to pay raises and job titles, important issues in current contract talks include health benefits, job security, increasing diversity, and the review process for lecturers. The current LEO contract with the University of Michigan expires on April 20th.

The Lecturers’ Employee Organization, AFT-MI Local 6244, AFL-CIO, is the union of almost 1,700 non-tenure track faculty at University of Michigan campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint.

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