LEO calls off walk-out, bargaining begins to move in right direction

Sunday, April 8, 2018 - 8:33pm

Lecturers and LEO supporters march from the Michigan League to the Fleming Administration Building in support of the Lecturers Union Friday.

Lecturers and LEO supporters march from the Michigan League to the Fleming Administration Building in support of the Lecturers Union Friday. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

The leadership of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization has postponed a walkout planned for Monday and Tuesday after the University of Michigan bargaining team began to “move in the right direction” at a last ditch bargaining session Sunday morning, LEO announced in a tweet Sunday night.

The eight-member LEO Union Council decided to call off the job action after reviewing bargaining progress and consulting with the union bargaining team.

According to LEO President Ian Robinson, more than 2,000 people, including students, had signed up for picket shifts in the event that the union called for members to strike.

Robinson said Friday that even if the University did not fully meet LEO’s demands, if they presented offers that showed progress, union leadership would continue negotiating.

“If they don’t come to table with an adequate offer but it shows enough progress that we can call off the strike in good faith, we would call of the strike and continue bargaining,” Robinson said.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in an email that the University and LEO bargaining teams “reported making significant progress in contract negotiations” and that talks will continue this week.

“The university believes strongly that the collective bargaining process is effective and remains committed to bargaining in good faith,” he wrote. “We remain hopeful an agreement will be reached before the current contract ends April 20.”

LEO’s current contract includes a clause prohibiting strikes. Additionally, teacher strikes and strikes by public employees are illegal in the state of Michigan. The possibility of a walkout at a later time still remains. A LEO press release noted that “with negotiations ongoing, the union has postponed, for now,” the strike set to begin Monday.

LEO represents nearly 1,700 non-tenure track faculty members at the University’s three campuses. The union began bargaining with the University in the fall, and throughout negotiations, salary has posed an issue for both sides.

The minimum starting salary for a lecturer is $34,500 in Ann Arbor, $28,300 in Dearborn and $27,300 in Flint. At an open bargaining session Friday in Ann Arbor, an analysis presented by Gary Downen, a professor in the electrical technology department at Washtenaw Community College, showed 53.4 percent of LEO members in Ann Arbor are paid less than the minimum starting salary at WCC, which is $57,491