“We will never back down! »LEO demonstrated on the day of the negotiations in front of the Schlissel house
About 50 members of the University of Michigan Lecturers’ Employee Organization (LEO) and their supporters gathered outside the residence of University President Mark Schlissel in Ann Arbor on Wednesday to protest inequality on UM campuses.
The event was organized as part of the organization Trading day – where the public is allowed to watch LEO members and the administration negotiate LEO’s proposals on Zoom. The event comes after Schlissel’s recent investigative question regarding financial fairness at UM’s three campuses sent to the Faculty of Ann Arbor.
“UM-Ann Arbor should provide funding for students at UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn to qualify for the Go Blue guarantee, even if that means sacrificing academic excellence or lower salary growth over the years. the Ann Arbor campus, ”Schlissel said in its annual survey. with the faculty.
After the backlash over the question of the investigation, Schlissel apologized for the wording of the question and said the results of the investigation would not be used, but still expressed concerns about the extension. potential of the Go Blue warranty.
UM-Dearborn speaker Nancy Kursman was among the LEO protesters eager to express her frustration with Schlissel. Kursman said the protest was an opportunity she felt she couldn’t pass up.
“President Schlissel, we will not back down! Kursman shouted, turning away from the crowd of protesters to speak directly to Schlissel’s home. “We demand fairness, justice, parity – you don’t know what it’s like to teach students who are suffering, who are working, who are struggling to stay in school, and we will not back down. them. We have their backs.
In the past, LEO has denounced the salary disparities between professors on different campuses. According to the 2002-2020 salary disclosure reports, conducted by academic departments such as the Office of Human Resources and the Office of Budget Planning, among others, the median salary for faculty at UM Ann Arbor is $ 145,794. , more than double that of UM Dearborn and UM Flint.
“We’re here because we teach a majority of first and second year students,” Kursman said. “We teach the lion’s share of them, and we are grossly underpaid. It is abominable.
Before and after the protest, LEO members participated in a Zoom call with members of the University administration open to the public at the LEO Canopy parked at Ingalls Mall. The two parties negotiated two separate parts of the LEO contract trading platform: a proposal for the lecturers to receive the title of “teacher-teacher”, and another for the disclosure of a crime. LEO and the administration did not come to an agreement on these issues.
“LEO condemns (the disclosure of a crime) and any policy that relies on the violence of the prison system,” said Nora Krinitsky, lecturer at UM. “We hope to secure significant protections for the rights of our members and significant resources that will actually increase safety on campus.”
LEO passed the proposal for the title of “teacher teacher” across the table, which the administration was opposed to. Then the administration turned down LEO’s crime disclosure proposal. They accepted some of LEO’s concerns and agreed that crime disclosure should be implemented in the fall of 2022, but refused to relax the definition of a crime.
During a lunch break, LEO members and allies walked from their awning in Ingalls Mall to Schlissel’s house, carrying banners and placards, and chanting: 1U! “and” What do we want? A fair contract. When do we want it? Now! ”
After the protesters arrived at Schlissel’s residence, a few speakers expressed their frustrations and concerns with Schlissel via megaphones. Cindee Giffen, an in-depth studies lecturer at UM-Ann Arbor, was one of the leaders at the protest. Less than two weeks before the board meeting where the university’s next annual budget is expected to be approved, Giffen said this negotiation day protest is vital to LEO’s progress on its negotiating trajectory and the strengthening of links between professors from different campuses.
“We’re now sort of at a point where it’s safer to come together,” Giffen said. “One of the things I think we all really missed about negotiating with COVID is the inability to come together. LEO is a place where I have met a lot of colleagues but also people that I would never have met otherwise, so we can share a lot of these commonalities between professors from different campuses if we can come together like that. “
Craig Regester, associate lecturer at Residential College at UM-Ann Arbor, said in an interview with Michigan Daily that the protest was necessary for LEO’s contract negotiations and working conditions, but also benefited the student body as a whole.
“We are here because we want the whole University to know that what we are fighting for in our contract is about our working conditions, but also everyone’s learning conditions,” said Regester. “And frankly, how does this university see itself as a public institution for the state of Michigan.”
GEO secretary S. Yeager, a Rackham student and GEO member, attended the protest to return the support LEO gave to GEO during its protests and strike last year.
“Whatever LEO can build and win through this negotiation, we are going to support them 100%, especially parity with Flint and Dearborn, because this is something that I think we forget a lot in GEO,” Yeager said. . “A lot of our members are in Ann Arbor, so it’s a fantastic lead for us to follow them (LEO) in this particular fight, and help them build their power with the One University campaign.”
Daniel Birchok, assistant professor at UM-Flint and co-founder of the A university campaign (1U), participated in the protest alongside his children, ages eight and 11, to support LEO and defend UM-Flint in response to Schlissel’s inquiry question.
“The poll question was just shameful and the apology was not enough,” Birchok said. “If he wants to show us that he cares about our students, he respects the work that I and my colleagues do – which frankly I don’t think he does and, I don’t think many of my colleagues do. think he does – so he has to shell out the funds to support the vital work that we are doing. I hope he will change his mind and we start building a more progressive institution. “
Regester also said he believed Schlissel and the university administration were trying to use a “divide-and-conquer tactic” to answer the poll question.
“That’s what Schlissel was actually doing – he was intentionally trying to suggest that if we make the Dearborn and Flint campuses more robust for their students, that if we offer the Go Blue guarantee, we will reduce academic excellence,” Regester mentioned. “It’s a horrible statement. And he apologized, but it’s divide and conquer. It means if you want it here, you can’t have it there, and that’s a false dichotomy.
Kursman described Go Blue Guarante’s exclusion of UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint students – who she said are primarily working class – as “morally wrong.”
“We (the speakers) talk to them. We know how hard they struggle, ”Kursman said. “They give up sometimes because they work full time – I currently have student interns working full time, as well as their unpaid internship, and I know the budget and financial needs are constantly stressing them. So, is it too much for this wealthy university to extend the same courtesy to all of our campuses? No.”
Schlissel told The Daily that the choice to extend the Go Blue guarantee is up to the management of the Flint and Dearborn campuses.
In light of these issues and the protests and LEO negotiations that will continue, Regester urges the academic community to recognize LEO’s role in a “larger social movement”.
“Unions are not just for union members – unions are really part of society at large, and students, faculty and employees need to understand that movements have a much broader inclusive approach when they are. at their best, ”Regester said. . “This is what we call social movement unionism, and this is what LEO does. It’s part of a larger movement and we want people to see that it’s not just about our own members.
When asked if the University tolerates or supports the protests that have taken place, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said “the protests are an expression of free speech.” The Bureau also stated that the University will continue to negotiate with LEO.
“More collective bargaining sessions are planned with LEO and we continue to move forward towards a new contractual agreement,” Fitzgerald wrote in an email to The Daily. “The university and LEO have reached agreement in principle on 16 individual proposals and will continue to negotiate as often as necessary to reach agreement on a new contract.”
Rapporteur Martha Lewand can be contacted at [email protected].