Librarians, archivists and curators (LACs) across the University of Michigan’s three campuses announced on Twitter Monday that they are campaigning to join the Lecturers’ Employee Organization, the University’s union of non-tenure track faculty. Voting on the resolution to add LACs to the union opened Thursday and will last until March 4, according to a statement released by LEO.
LEO strives to “increase the economic, professional, social and political power of non-tenure track faculty” at the University in order to better educate students, fight for equity across all three campuses and promote universal access to high-quality public education, according to their constitution.
Meredith Kahn, librarian for gender and sexuality studies on the Ann Arbor campus, helped form the organizing committee for LACs and told The Daily LACs play an important role in sustaining the universities’ research operations.
“Even though we work in different parts of the university, and we work with different collections, I think what unites us is that you really cannot have a world-class research university without world-class libraries, archives, museums, galleries, gardens, all of those things,” Kahn said. “You cannot have those things without the labor of librarians, archivists and curators.”
Lecturers voted to unionize in 2004 to secure their rights to bargain with the University on issues related to health care, salaries and job security, among other provisions. LACs and lecturers are both considered non-tenure track faculty, with over 10% of LACs having a part-time appointment as a lecturer during their career.
In June, the University’s Board of Regents passed a resolution recognizing the formal right of employees to bargain collectively, essentially clarifying how the University should interact with unions. In the past, extensive negotiations between unions and University administrators have become tense and drawn-out, sometimes leading to a stalemate between the two groups.
Kahn said the process of joining LEO began soon after this resolution was passed.
“(The resolution) signaled to us (LACs) that it was maybe a little bit safer to pursue forming a union,” Kahn said.
To begin, a small group of LACs reached out to the American Federation of Teachers of Michigan to discuss unionizing in June. From there, the LACs were put in touch with LEO. They then spent the summer reaching out to LACs from across the three campuses to better understand the similarities between LACs and other non-tenured faculty, specifically lecturers.
“What we want is better working conditions, better salaries, more parity between the three campuses,” Kahn said. “We want administration to address diversity, equity and inclusion more seriously. There’s actually quite a bit that we share.”
LEO President Ian Robinson, lecturer in the sociology department and in the Residential College, told The Daily there was a lot of common ground between LACs and lecturers and welcomed the diversity that LACs would bring to the union.
“We have gotten used — at the get-go — to being a union that values, accommodates and takes advantage of diversity rather than seeing it as a problem,” Robinson said. “The advantages of having people with new skills that our members don’t have … is very compelling for us at the leadership level.”
Kahn said LACs received a positive response from LEO about joining the union. Kahn added that the pandemic — and the widespread adoption of video conferencing platforms like Zoom — helped break down barriers between people working in various areas across the University.
The results from the voting period will be announced after 5 p.m. on March 4. The LACs will then conduct a card check to decide as a group whether or not to accept the invitation.
“LEO and LAC organizers are excited about the possibility to build power together for the betterment of the University community,” Thursday’s statement from LEO reads.
Daily Staff Reporter Brooke Van Horne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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