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Members of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization will strike on April 9 and 10 if the University of Michigan does not satisfy their demands for significant salary increases before Sunday. LEO members voted Wednesday evening to authorize the action.
Last week, lecturers authorized union leadership to call for a walkout and have showed “overwhelming support” for them to do so, LEO President Ian Robinson said.
“There is absolutely no question of our resolve on this,” Robinson said after a general membership meeting in Ann Arbor. “All three campuses are in unity on this — for going forward with our strike plan if we do not have an adequate offer on the table by Sunday.”
After several additional bargaining sessions with the University, lecturers say though progress has been made on some issues, the negotiations are “still a long way from what is required.”
“This is not enough given that salary is the number one issue,” Robinson said.
LEO represents nearly 1,700 non-tenure track faculty members at U-M Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses. Bargaining began last semester, as its current contract, which has a no strike clause, expires April 20.
The minimum starting salary for a lecturer in is $34,500 in Ann Arbor, $28,300 in Dearborn and $27,300 in Flint. LEO has asked that the minimum be raised to $60,000 in Ann Arbor and $56,000 in Dearborn and Flint. The University responded with an offer of $40,000 in Ann Arbor, $31,300 in Dearborn and $30,300 in Flint with gradual increases.
Following general membership meetings on all three campuses this week, a final meeting is planned for Sunday to review bargaining process up to that point. The Union Council, an eight-member body comprised of elected leadership and campus chairs, will then decide whether or not to call a strike.
Robinson said there are three possibilities at this point.
“One outcome is that they bring in an offer in the next couple of days that we can say is just,” Robinson said. In that case, the union bargaining team would bring the proposal before members for a ratification vote and the walkout would be canceled.
If no such development is made, Robinson said, the “strike is inevitable.” However, a third option is available.
“If they don’t come to table with an adequate deal but it shows enough progress that we can call off the strike in good faith, then we will,” Robinson said. “We would call of the strike and continue bargaining.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in an email administration remains “hopeful” a compromise will be reached before the union’s contract expires.
“A work stoppage or strike by LEO members has its biggest negative impact on students at a critical time near the end of the academic year,” Fitzgerald wrote. “The University believes strongly that the collective bargaining process is effective and there is no need for LEO to call for a strike.”
Robinson called the prohibition “unjust.”
“From time to time states pass unjust laws and this is one of them,” he said. “Sometimes we have a duty to violate unjust laws. We’re not going to stand for unjust laws that stop us from getting a just contract.”
Teachers recently instigated a statewide strike in West Virginia, where such action is also against the law.
Robinson also said he laid the blame for the strike on the University.
“If we do go out on Monday and Tuesday, I put that on them,” he said. “They need to come to the table and make right what has been wrong for so long.”