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On July 18, librarians, archivists and curators (LACs) on all three University of Michigan campuses were formally recognized as a bargaining unit within the Lecturers Employee Organization, the union of non-tenure-track faculty on all three campuses at the University. The LEO communications committee wrote that this new unit will be called LEO-GLAM, which stands for galleries, libraries, archives and museums, to reflect the heritage and environments in which most LACs work.
In a public statement, LEO Vice President Kristen Herold wrote that the union is excited to welcome LACs.
“All of us are non-tenure-track faculty at the University, and all of us have fought tirelessly for dignity and respect in our workplace,” Herold wrote. “There is power in a union and we look forward to building that power together.”
Last summer, the U-M Board of Regents voted to affirm an organizing neutrality policy that made the process for recognizing a new union easier. Meredith Kahn, Librarian for Gender and Sexuality Studies and spokesperson for LEO-GLAM, said the process of forming this new bargaining unit for LACs began soon after that resolution was passed. Kahn said that LACs decided to join LEO rather than starting their own union because of commonalities with other non-tenure-track faculty.
“We found out that we shared a lot with our fellow non-tenure-track faculty,” Kahn said. “We are one union that will have two contracts.”
Colleen Marquis, the sole archivist on the UM-Flint campus, said during remarks at the first LEO-GLAM meeting that the formation of the new unit will assist the Flint and Dearborn campuses in receiving equal recognition and support.
“The administration claims to focus and support diversity while it allows its two most diverse campuses to wither from neglect,” Marquis said.
Marquis said they hope the conditions of their own work environment will be addressed as part of the future bargaining efforts.
“We recently here in Flint had a library consultation and they told us that the students’ impression is that the University doesn’t care about the library because the furniture is old and ratty, and we all ‘seem really overworked’,” Marquis said.
Kahn said the long-term goals of LEO-GLAM will be informed by the members’ experiences and collective needs. Marquis explained that they want to bring hard data and the human side of issues to the bargaining table.
“We’ve already sent out the quantitative questionnaires which had a huge response, we’re so happy to see so many people engaged,” Marquis said. “We’re working with the bargaining committee to do qualitative questionnaires and that’s going to be more organizing conversations to get stories that represent these issues.”
Kahn said the formation of LEO-GLAM will not only positively affect LACs, but all students, faculty and staff.
“Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions,” Kahn said. “We help create, maintain, catalogue, describe, preserve and provide access to materials that are often used in teaching and often form the basis of scholarship.”
Another recent development in local unions was with the United Physicians Assistants of Michigan Medicine (UPAMM), who negotiated their first contract with hospital administration last May. Kahn said that since the passage of the Regents’ resolution last year, she expects more groups of individuals to come together and advocate for their working conditions.
“We are joining a labor family if you will, with our sibling union GEO and with other unions on campus,” Kahn said.
Marquis said that the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic made the LACs across all three campuses build stronger relationships, which ended up being the key in the formation of LEO-GLAM.
“I think when COVID happened and the University started doing austerity measures, the librarians, archivists, and curators looked around in Ann Arbor and realized wow, nobody’s got our back but us,” Marquis said. “They started thinking about their colleagues at the other campuses and how they could help.”
Daily Staff Reporter Scarlett Bickerton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.