The University of Michigan administration is planning to withhold pay from non-working Graduate Student Instructors and Graduate Student Staff Assistants as the Graduate Employees’ Organization’s ongoing strike continues into its third week. This decision comes after a state judge ruled that GEO’s strike violates their contract and recommended that the Michigan Employment Relations Committee order GEO back to work.
In an April 21 email from the University to GSIs obtained by The Michigan Daily, the University said it will require all GSIs and GSSAs to fill out a work attestation form to receive their regular pay for the month of April. According to the email, employees who have continued working during the strike must provide verification of this work in order to be paid. Employees who respond that they did not work, or who do not fill out the form at all, will have their April pay reduced.
“The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) remains on strike in violation of its labor contract and, as has been communicated previously, the university will not pay striking workers for any time not worked,” the email read. “GSIs and GSSAs are required to verify they are working in order to receive pay. If you attest that you did not work, or if you do not complete the survey, you will not receive pay for that time period, absent proof that you worked.”
In a press release, Rackham student Amir Fleischmann, GEO contract committee chair, said withholding pay based on whether or not employees submitted the form is illegal and in violation of GEO’s contract with the University.
“It appears that (the University) will be withholding pay from all workers who refused to fill out attestation forms – regardless of whether or not they are actually on strike,” Fleischmann said. “If (the University) plans to withhold pay solely based on a worker refusing to fill out an attestation form, this would be a clear violation of our contract and likely illegal.”
In an email to The Daily Friday morning, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald confirmed that the University does not plan to pay striking workers.
“The university is following through on what we told GEO at the start of the strike: Those who refuse to work will not be paid,” Fitzgerald wrote. “Those who continue to work will be paid. That’s just how strikes work. And remember that the GEO strike started March 29, so they already had been paid for March at that point.”
Fitzgerald said later in the email that pay has not yet been officially withheld for the month of April, but the University intends to reduce pay for striking workers accordingly as they conduct payroll in the coming days.
“We’re in the process of working on the April payroll,” Fitzgerald wrote. “Many university employees, including GEO members, are paid monthly. No GEO member has yet to lose any pay. Those who do not work, will not be paid, starting with the April payroll.”
In the press release, Fleischmann said he believes the University is avoiding direct engagement with GEO by withholding pay, echoing claims GEO has been making since the start of the bargaining process.
“This is only the latest in a series of underhanded strikebreaking tactics that (the University) has used to try to circumvent the bargaining process and impose an unfair contract on some of its lowest paid workers,” Fleischmann said.
Contract negotiations between GEO and Academic Human Resources remain in progress.
Summer News Editor Miles Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.