Members and supporters of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization gathered in front of Hatcher Graduate Library Friday for a kickoff rally, commemorating the first contract bargaining session between LEO and the University of Michigan that morning. In the coming weeks, LEO’s bargaining team will negotiate with U-M Human Resources team to agree upon a new three-year contract. LEO is seeking higher salaries, increased job security and transparency, and caps on insurance premiums, among other demands.
State Rep. Carrie Rheingans, who is a former U-M lecturer, delivered the rally’s opening remarks. Rheingans expressed her support for LEO’s stance in the contract negotiations, emphasizing the importance of solidarity with employees of the University and fair wages for lecturers.
“We all know that the more of us there are together, united, the better bargaining we can do,” Rheingans said. “It is time for the University to make sure that your contract is secure for you as workers and pays you what you deserve.”
Rheingans said she appreciates LEO’s work at the University as part of a broader rise of labor movements and unions across the United States.
“You have been doing great work on campus,” Rheingans said. “The labor movement here at the University of Michigan is strong, very strong, and it’s following the strong labor movement in the country.”
Members and supporters of LEO then marched together to Palmer Commons, where the first bargaining session took place Friday. The crowd called out various chants, including “Fair share when? Fair share now” and “We teach the lion’s share. U-M admin doesn’t care.” Many carried signs with slogans that included “We’re Worth More” and “Respect the Lecs.”
As the crowd gathered outside of Palmer Commons, Nora Krinitsky, Ann Arbor campus co-chair for LEO, read aloud the opening statement she gave earlier that morning at the first bargaining session. In her statement, Krinitsky spoke about the vital role lecturers play in both teaching and mentoring students.
“Management is going to find out that our proposals reflect that fundamental truth: that lecturers are the bedrock of the educational mission of the University of Michigan,” Krinitsky said.
Krinitsky said LEO’s proposals seek to address common difficulties that accompany the lecturer position, including job insecurity.
“We all know the harmful effects of precarious employment,” Krinitsky said. “We’ve (experienced) disempowerment, vulnerability and depressed wages. Our contract proposals will address, remedy and prevent those harmful effects from harming other lecturers. We will put across a proposal to improve job security, make the workload more transparent, protect lecturers from harassment, (promote) workplace safety and make sure that lecturers can plan for the future and care for their family. And finally, make sure that lecturers are paid the livable wage that they deserve.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily after the event, Rheingans said she felt encouraged by LEO’s work on campus and said she hopes the bargaining process will lead to increased wages for lecturers.
“I see LEO existing on campus as a really important way to build power between the workers who are producing most of the teaching work for this university,” Rheingans said. “Given how much of an endowment we know the University has, how much research grants the University gets and how much (the University) charges in tuition, I really think that it’s time for the lecturers to get an appropriate wage for the work that they do.”
Scott Dennis, librarian for philosophy, general reference and core electronic resources, has worked at the University for 26 years. He told The Daily that, as a member of the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums unit — a part of LEO that represents librarians, archivists and curators — he came to support the lecturers’ bargaining because of their continued support for GLAM and the opportunities it has created for its members.
“We learned from (LEO),” Dennis said. “They assisted us all along the way. You better believe I’m going to be here to back them up now that they’re bargaining because we so appreciate all that they’ve done for (GLAM) and made (it) possible for us and supported us.”
Social Work student Larisa Mednis, who is a member of the Graduate Employees’ Organization, told The Daily she came to support LEO’s bargaining largely because of her experience with the months-long negotiations between GEO and the University.
“When we stand together, we can see how those struggles are united,” Mednis said. “(GEO) had a pretty historic bargaining cycle this past year, and hopefully that can also set a precedent for this bargaining cycle. (Bargaining) doesn’t exist in a vacuum; all of our struggles as labor organizations and unions can help strengthen each other. I think it’s important for us to show up.”
LEO vice president Eric Beuerlein said he believes the current compensation for lecturers is unfair, given their level of education and achievement.
“Lecturers have a minimum salary of $51,000,” Beuerlein said. “And this is for people with Master’s degrees, Ph.D.s, who are leaders in their field, and many of whom have Ph.D.s from the University of Michigan. And then they’re turning around and getting a job as a lecturer, and the University is essentially saying, ‘This is what our degree is worth.’ ”