LEO to bring new contract forward for ratification vote

Friday, June 22, 2018 - 9:43pm

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Design by Jack Silberman, Photo by Alec Cohen

The Lecturers Employee Organization announced today they had come to an agreement with the University, following months of negotiation and numerous bargaining sessions with the University over the past three days.

According to LEO, the union bargaining team has negotiated an agreement with the University that will raise pay, improve health care and boost job security.

"This is a huge victory for our members, it is equally a win for the University and our students,” Kirsten Herold, a lecturer at the U-M School of Public Health, LEO Vice President and manager of the LEO bargaining team said in a press release from LEO. “Higher pay will lead to less turn-over, more lecturers working fulltime — rather than holding multiple part-time jobs — and a more stable learning environment for our students to whom our membership are so dedicated.”

After meeting with University of Michigan administration representatives for bargaining sessions on Wednesday, June 20 and Friday, June 22, the union of about 1,700 non-tenured U-M faculty, will present a newly proposed three-year contract to its members for a ratification vote. LEO’s last contract expired May 29, and since the beginning of the last academic year, LEO has been pushing for higher wages, improved equity increases and a more even distribution of resources across the three U-M campuses to be included in the next contract.

This is the first contract proposal LEO leaders have deemed satisfactory enough to bring forward for a vote. After three years, the contract would raise minimum salary by $16,500 in Ann Arbor, $13,700 in Flint and $12,700 in Dearborn. The minimums are currently $34,500, $27,300 and $28,300 in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn, respectively. Equity adjustments, or one-time additions to base pay, would also increase and would range between $3,000 and $12,500, though equity would differ slightly for lecturers making over $80,000 annually. According to a LEO press release, the contract would provide additional benefits, increasing health coverage access and changing the University’s performance review protocol to protect lecturers’ jobs.

LEO’s recent negotiations have also focused on the gap in funding — and lecturer salaries — between Ann Arbor and the other two U-M campuses. According to LEO President Ian Robinson, the new proposal widens the gap further, but it increases salaries in Flint and Dearborn enough for LEO leaders to consider it satisfactory. Robinson said over the course of negotiations, LEO learned funds are inconsistent between the three campuses. He added though he would have liked to close the salary gap, LEO had to work around the University’s divided budget model and the fact that Ann Arbor receives more tuition and donations.

“There always have been major gaps because of the system of silos that the budgets function on and the fact that the revenues coming into Flint and Dearborn are lower than those coming into Ann Arbor,” Robinson said. “We were able to reduce poverty and increase the floor and improve but we didn’t at the same time reduce inequality.”

Anita Baxter, U-M Flint biology lecturer, agreed the proposed contract is not perfect. Based on Baxter’s research on cost of living, however, the contract would make some progress in terms of improving lecturers’ quality of life. She explained a living wage is about $41,000 for a 3-person family in Genesee County, $51,000 for a 4-person family in Washtenaw county and $44,000 for a 3-person family in Wayne County.

“The new minimums are a living wage in for Ann Arbor, the Flint and Dearborn minimums are much closer to a living wage, and all are a substantial improvement on previous minimum salaries, which were appalling,” Baxter wrote in an email interview with The Daily. “The proposed contract also helps to compensate for the disparity in wages of long serving lecturers, though I believe that this area of the contact needs more work in the future.”

In the future, LEO organizers hope to push back against the way funding is divided among the three U-M campuses. LEO Flint Chair Stephanie Vidaillet Gelderloos said she wants to see change on the state level.

“I plan to keep the momentum going and organize to benefit everyone in Flint and Dearborn by working to change the funding system for those campuses,” Gelderloos wrote in an interview with The Daily.

According to a blog post by LEO, the majority of negotiations occurred on Wednesday; Friday’s bargaining session dealt with remaining, non-compensatory issues. The administration’s new contract proposal was also influenced by the University’s Board of Regents meeting on Thursday, June 20. After gathering, the regents released the 2018-2019 academic budget, provided to The Daily by University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald. LEO’s website reported the budget significantly increased funding for U-M lecturers.

Over the next five days, LEO will host five membership events spread across the three U-M campuses to inform members about the organization’s progress and to outline the new proposal. The official ratification vote will occur online. Robinson said the vote will close no later than July 13 and voting will be open for at least a three-day window. He emphasized while LEO leaders are pleased with the proposed contract, it should be made clear the proposal has not yet been ratified.

Robinson said the new contract, if ratified, will impact lecturers’ quality of life and will ultimately benefit U-M students.

“It’s big enough to really make a huge difference in the lives of many of our members, and also of our students, our students’ learning conditions,” Robinson said.

LEO members expressed gratitude for the support they received from allies, including students. Robinson said when U-M lecturers almost went on strike in April, many students committed to the walkout in order to express solidarity. Finally getting to a ratification vote required a joint effort, Baxter added.

It took many people working together to reach this place,” Baxter wrote. “We are very grateful to our students, tenure track and other university allies, regents and elected officials across all three counties, and our fellow union brothers and sisters for standing with us over the past 8 months.”