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The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.

Editor’s note: On Sept. 7, LEO delayed its vote on a potential strike and extended its contract with the University of Michigan to Sept. 15. Read our latest coverage here.

The Lecturer’s Employee Union is bargaining with the University of Michigan for a new three-year contract just a week before its hundreds of instructors could vote to strike. 

The union’s previous contract expired in April and LEO voted to quit their contract on August 8, citing pay disparities between lecturers on the Flint and Dearborn campuses and those in Ann Arbor. 

The current minimum salary for a Lecturer I on the Dearborn and Flint campuses is $41,000, compared to a $51,000 minimum salary for Lecturer I on the Ann Arbor campus. Lecturer I/II, which only includes teaching for a full academic year, is the beginning stages of hiring for faculty at the University.

In the latest contract proposal presented by University administration to LEO on August 27, minimum lecturer salaries on the Dearborn and Flint campuses would rise to $43,000.  U-M Ann Arbor would not have a proposed increase in the first year of the contract.

According to Cindee Giffen in an interview Thursday with The Daily, lecturer II in the Comprehensive Studies Program on the Ann Arbor campus and member of the Union Council, LEO may send ballots to all members to evaluate their interest in striking in the future. If the membership votes to strike, the Union Council would be authorized to call a strike.

University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said a strike would hinder students’ learning in an email to The Michigan Daily.

“The University strongly believes there is no reason for a strike, which could be very disruptive to students at the start of the fall term,” Fitzgerald said.

During move-in weekend, members of LEO protested in front of several residence halls, saying it was necessary that new students heard their message. While recognizing LEO’s right to free speech, Fitzgerald wrote in an email to The Daily on Aug. 29 that LEO was “target(ing) students as they move back to campus.”

Giffen said lecturer salaries and pay parity is one the largest remaining sticking points in negotiations.

“We feel like that ($51,000) is a moral minimum salary,” Giffen said. “You can’t really make ends meet, feed a family, pay your loans, buy a house, on a salary that’s in the $40,000s in Southeast Michigan.”

Giffen also said LEO is looking to increase the amount of funding for lecturers’ professional development.

“A really important way to be current in your field of scholarship is to be able to go to national conferences,” Giffen said. “Without sufficient professional development funding, it really impairs the lecturer’s ability to keep up in their content area. And then, we’re not necessarily as easily able to provide our students with the most up-to-date information.”

LSA senior Daille Held, treasurer of the One University campaign at U-M Dearborn that advocates for equity across the three campuses, said she wants to see pay parity for lecturers on all three U-M campuses, and for that increase to come from the greater University system rather than from the Flint and Dearborn campuses directly.

“The newest contract … put forth by the University was saying how an increase in salaries for LEO lecturers in Flint (and) Dearborn would be pulled from the Flint and Dearborn funding silos,” Held said. “One University, as well as LEO, wants the salaries to be centrally funded, and not taken away from other programs … We don’t want it to come at the cost of funding for Dearborn and Flint students and tenured professors.”

Eighteen aspects of the upcoming LEO contract have already been agreed upon. One of the tentative agreements is a written definition of workload for lecturers.

Giffen said having a written definition of workload in the new contracts will make sure lecturers across all three campuses are doing the same amount of work for the same job.

“Until this upcoming contract, we haven’t had a definition for what a 100% full-time employee lecturer is required to do in terms of number of courses, any administrative requirements or any service responsibilities,” Giffen said. “(A written definition) is really important for the future because we want to be able to examine workload and make sure that things are fair and equitable between members in different programs and departments.”

LEO’s potential strike could follow in the footsteps of other recent labor actions at the University and across the state. Last fall, the Graduate Employees’ Organization went on strike in response to the University’s decision to reopen campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And at Oakland University, faculty members went on strike after contract negotiations between the university and the faculty union failed. OU faculty are striking for greater pay after the university lowered their compensation, union leaders told The Detroit News.

Daily Staff Reporter Justin O’Beirne can be reached at justinob@umich.edu.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that LEO has not sent out ballots to Union members to evaluate their interest in striking.