The University of Michigan’s Lecturers’ Employee Organization is continuing to bargain with the University, as their current contract is set to expire on April 20. The organization, which includes over 1,500 lecturers from the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses, has a specific bargaining platform focused on improving the wages, job security and benefits of the University’s non-tenure track educators.
Lecturers vary from part to full time, teaching one to three or even more courses per semester. These educators teach in nearly every department and program across all three campuses and have worked closely with fellow University educators and students, contributing to both the academic and greater University community. As an Editorial Board, we believe it is imperative the University takes the demands and propositions of LEO seriously and invest in our educators, giving them the support that they need and deserve.
A great number of University undergraduate students have been taught by lecturers, and these qualified University employees are being underpaid and left without the beneficiary support they need. The current minimum salary for University lecturers is $34,500 at Ann Arbor, $28,300 at Dearborn and $27,300 at Flint. As reported in the University’s 2016 and 2017 audited financial statements, these lecturers brought in $462 million in revenue, while the cost of employment for these educators was only $85 million. Their contributions and work contribute significantly to the economics of the University, and yet they are not receiving wages and benefits that reflect this. When compared, many lecturers are being paid less than their surrounding colleagues at various institutions, including Washtenaw Community College and a variety of public high schools, and definitively less than tenure-track professors at the University, where the average salary is $148,800 at the Ann Arbor campus. This contrast becomes even starker when considering that the average salary for female lecturers is $13,154 less than their male counterparts. The lecturers of the University are not being paid fairly, and when considering what they bring to all three campuses in terms of academics, economics and community-engagement, the LEO request to raise the minimum salary to $60,000 in Ann Arbor and $56,000 in Dearborn and Flint does not seem unwarranted.
LEO has been very vocal about their bargaining platforms and have a strong online presence that they use to document their successes and progress as negotiations continue. This platform, when reviewed, focuses not only on the issue of salary but also on benefits. Aspects such as an increase in child subsidy are crucial to the LEO platform, as these types of benefits are necessary to support lecturers in their work and with their families. Consistent health care and job security also aid this struggle, giving lecturers more stability in their family lives. Referring specifically to the Ann Arbor campus, lecturers are often not even able to live within the city they work in and contribute to due to the high cost of living and their own struggles with wages and benefits. The lack of direct support from the University to lecturers and their families could lead to them potentially leaving for other institutions, where they are more consistently supported and paid, with our campus losing critical members of the University community.
Lecturers are qualified and impactful educators who enrich the University experience for countless students, and their partnership and support helps the cause and impact of LEO. Students can get involved with LEO by showing up in solidarity to grade-ins and bargaining sessions (the next grade-in is March 29, with a regents meeting to follow). These events are often publicized on the LEO Facebook page, and outline how students can make an impact on the LEO negotiations. Lecturers are able to build strong relationships with a wide range of students on campus, often working in small classrooms and contributing to campus culture. By having not only members but also other faculty and students show their support and partnership with LEO, this could put pressure on the University to concede and meet the needs of University lecturers.
The University has taken steps to reach fair and necessary compromises with LEO, but their stagnant changes to salary increases hurt not only the lecturers and academic excellence of the school, but the people who work consistently and closely with students. Both the University and students need to do their part by supporting those who dedicate their time and effort to our Michigan experience.
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