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The lecturers’ union, if they vote to strike, likely will not do so until next week.
The University of Michigan Lecturers’ Employee Organization, the union representing non-tenure track faculty, has reached an agreement with the University’s administration Tuesday to extend their current contract to Sept. 15.
“Given LEO’s commitment to secure a contract and our hope that the mediation and bargaining this week will be fruitful, the Union has proposed a contract extension until September 15th,” LEO President Kirsten Herold said in a statement to The Michigan Daily. “The Employer has agreed and we will continue to engage in the bargaining process.”
The extension will allow negotiations between the University’s and LEO’s lawyers over contract terms to resume through Sept. 15. It follows weeks of negotiations after the organization gave the University an ultimatum to negotiate a new contract by Sept. 8.
University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald confirmed LEO reached out to extend their contract and the University agreed. According to Fitzgerald, LEO and the University met with the state mediator Tuesday and have another session scheduled for Thursday. LEO and the University also scheduled a bargaining session for this upcoming Friday.
“From the University’s perspective we’re prepared to continue bargaining as often as needed to get a settlement,” Fitzgerald said. “We would take this indication from LEO of extending the contract another week as a positive sign in the negotiation process.”
Following the expiration of their previous contract in April, LEO began bargaining with the University in January to address the prominent pay disparity for non-tenure track faculty across the three U-M campuses.
When the lecturers’ contract ends on Sept. 15, the LEO members will no longer have to abide by the collective bargaining agreement and can vote to strike. If LEO does choose to go on strike following the Sept. 15 deadline, it will still violate rules from the state of Michigan prohibiting public employees from going on strike.
Last fall, the Graduate Employees’ Organization’s members elected to strike after their contract negotiations with the University failed. This resulted in a procession of protests and rallies across campus as well as cancellation of many Graduate Student Instructor-taught classes throughout the strike’s progression.
The University sued GEO in response, on the grounds that both the Public Employment Relations Act and GEO’s collective bargaining agreement prohibited the strike.
The lecturers represented by LEO teach a larger number of classes than the GSIs who went on strike last year. If an agreement is not reached by Sept. 15, a potential LEO strike would likely have a more significant impact than last fall’s GEO strike on the University’s daily operations.
LEO is not the only faculty organization in Michigan threatening a strike. Faculty at Oakland University began to strike Sept. 2 after they were unable to reach an agreement over their labor contract with OU.
The organization arranged a march down State Street Aug. 9 where they announced their departure from their current contract after unsuccessful negotiations with the University. The organization’s members were joined by lecturers, students and other community members in support.
During the first week of student move-in on campus, LEO held a succession of rallies outside of residence halls meant to pressure University administration to provide increased median salaries for lecturers at the U-M Flint and Dearborn campuses. LEO also aimed to ensure the University understood their strike threat was real as the contract deadline grew closer.