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University of Michigan lecturers' union votes to authorize strike

Justin Yuan said he showed up to support LEO.
Alvin (AJ) Jones
Michigan Public
Justin Yuan said he showed up to support LEO at an informational picket on Monday, April 22.

The union representing non-tenure track faculty at the University of Michigan has voted to authorize a strike.

The University of Michigan Lecturers’ Union, or LEO, is negotiating a new contract with the university. In a statement, LEO said its leadership will not call a strike, citing a “positive response from management to the Union’s significant movement.” However, the union said leadership may call for a strike later if needed.

In the new contract, the union seeks pay parity for faculty at the Dearborn and Flint campuses. The current offer from the University would see wages increase by 3% per year over four years for satellite campus lecturers, along with a $2,000 lump sum payment in year one.

Ann Arbor lecturers are being offered 8% in year one, 6% raises in year two and three, and 5% in the fourth year.

LEO Informational Picket at Regent's Plaza on Monday
Alvin (A.J.) Jones
Michigan Public
LEO informational picket at Regent's Plaza on Monday.

LEO said the offer for the Dearborn and Flint campus lecturers doesn’t keep up with inflation and cost of living and isn’t on par with Ann Arbor’s wages.

“Recent record inflation, childcare expenses, housing costs, and increases in overall cost of living are simply not addressed by 3% increases per year,” said a statement from the group.

P.F. Potvin is a lecturer at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

He attended an informational picket held by the union on Monday at Regent’s Plaza.

“This is our contract negotiation year, and the admin hasn't been negotiating,” he said. ”We're trying to get to a fair contract, that is fair to lecturers in Dearborn, Flint, and also in Ann Arbor, and we haven't been able to come to an agreement about that.”

“The major sticking points are salary and unfairness for the Flint and Dearborn campuses,” Potvin said. “We have one president of U of M, we have one Board of Regents and yet they want to pay us less for the same work.”

Potvin said he wanted “pay parity” for staffers at the satellite campuses. “The students in Dearborn and Flint don't deserve less and we don't deserve less to teach those students,” he said. “We're not asking for extraordinary measures here, we're asking only for our fair share.”

In a statement, university spokesperson Colleen Mastony said the school “has remained committed to bargaining in good faith with our lecturers since October, and the parties have made tremendous progress in that time, reaching agreement on every issue of the contract except salary.”

“A work stoppage would undermine the progress both parties have made over the past six months. It also would also needlessly hurt students during a critical period in the academic year. The university’s current salary proposal includes base salary increases of 8%, 6%, 6%, and 5% for lecturers on the Ann Arbor campus over the next four years. It also includes annual 3% base salary increases for four years — plus a $2,000 lump sum payment in the first year — for lecturers on the Dearborn and Flint campuses.

Because the three campuses have three separate budgets, tuition rates, and state funding sources, the base salary increases among the campuses are not the same. The Dearborn and Flint campuses have different financial constraints due to enrollment declines, and the respective salary increases reflect those financial differences. This offer is fair, and we are hopeful that the parties will reach an agreement soon.”

Editor's note: U of M holds Michigan Public's broadcast license.

A.J. Jones is a newsroom intern and graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Sources say he owns a dog named Taffy.
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