The University of Michigan’s Lecturers’ Employee Organization held a community forum at its offices Thursday night with about 27 student and tenure-track allies and community activists to discuss its bargaining negotiations with the University.
LEO, the union of non-tenure track lecturers for all three U-M campuses, has been bargaining with the University since October for higher wages, improved benefits and job security. Currently, the minimum salary for a Lecturer I is $34,500 for the Ann Arbor campus, $28,300 in Dearborn and $27,300 in Flint.
LEO President, Ian Robinson, a sociology lecturer, began by explaining the gravity of the situation during the bargaining process.
“The most basic thing to say about our platform is that it’s not business as usual,” Robinson said. “What we’re really saying this time around is we need to change from a mode where basically our pay has been determined, as far as the administration is concerned, (by) the least the market will allow them to pay.”
LEO is demanding the starting lecturer pay to be increased to $60,000 for Ann Arbor. The organization also wants a $1,000 increase to annual pay per year of service for lecturers and an increase in annual salary increases. On a non-salary side, LEO is also asking for increased diversity within faculty and financial support for lecturers that want to make their classes more inclusive and promote community service efforts with students.
Robinson also specifically addressed a recent counteroffer from the University regarding salary increase, which he said was insulting to LEO’s efforts.
“I’m not sure if (the counteroffer) even covers inflation,” Robinson said. “It’s a complete blow-off. They’re basically saying, ‘You must be joking. We aren’t even going to give you a serious counter.’… This is not their final offer obviously, but it’s such a low and insulting one. I certainly think they do not get that we are committed to making a paradigm shift this time.”
LEO will be bargaining in Dearborn on Friday, and in Ann Arbor on March 16. During the Ann Arbor bargaining session, the group plans to host a march around campus beginning at noon. A LEO staff member, who asked to be anonymous due to the nature of her job, also stated a strike will occur on April 9 and 10 if bargaining demands are not met.
Art & Design sophomores Miles Honey and Katie Lacroix came to the event after attending a poster-making workshop held by Art & Design lecturer Andrea Cardinal. Honey said she felt the University does not treat its lecturers the way she believes they should.
“I’m not interested in being part of a University that doesn’t treat its (foundational) staff and faculty well,” Honey said.
Lacroix also said she wanted to support LEO after becoming close with her lecturers and seeing what they do to continue educating students despite low wages.
“When you start to get to know your teachers, and especially getting to know lecturers, you become friends with them during class and after class,” Lacroix said. “You get to know their personal stories and then when you start to learn that so many of your lecturers literally have three jobs … You realize they’re doing their best to teach you in class but they’re dealing with all of these stresses outside … I can’t not do anything.”