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University of Michigan lecturers demand better pay

Catherine Shaffer
Heather Ann Thompson, Professor of History and African Studies at the University of Michigan

The Lecturers' Employee Organization at the University of Michigan is asking for a pay hike for its members.

Union members gathered at a public meeting of the Board of Regents to present their arguments during public comments. The LEO cited a report saying that the university generated $377 million in excess revenue from classes taught by its union members. However, the cost of salaries and benefits for all lecturers only totaled $85 million. And members claim those salaries are barely enough to live on.

Minimum pay for lecturers at UM's Ann Arbor campus was $34,500, according to the LEO, while minimum pay for Washtenaw Community College faculty was $56,641.

Speaking at a briefing prior to the regents meeting, Heather Ann Thompson, a professor in the UM Departments of History and African Studies, says that's not enough. "If we continue to underpay our lecturers at barely above minimum wage, at a level that forces them to work two and three jobs, that is not a path to greatness, that is a path to exploitation."

The university says that its pay for non-tenured faculty is competitive with peer institutions. Rick Fitzgerald is with U of M Public Relations. Says Fitzgerald, "Our salary and benefits for our lecturers are competitive overall."

Thompson says that's not good enough, though. "If you aspire to be quote the leaders and the best then you do not follow the market, you create the market," says Thompson.

The union is in the process of bargaining for a new contract. The current contract expires April 20, 2018.

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