In a triumphant moment, the
Lecturers’ Employee Organization signed a three year contract
with the University. Complete with salary hikes, summer health
coverage and more job security, the contract will impact lecturers
on the Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses. The agreement comes
after deliberations twice a week over the past 10 months and in
spite of the failure of those deliberations on April 8, when LEO
members participated in a day long walkout. Now that a middle
ground has been met, LEO, although generally pleased with their
gains, recognizes that there is still much left to fight for. This
agreement can be perceived as a mere stepping stone and the
University should be aware that the fight for labor rights is far
LEO’s gains are extensive when compared to the previous
status quo. The most noticeable concession by the University was
the increase in salary and agreement to annual pay raises.
Lecturers that were the least paid obtained a pay raise close to 50
percent. Lecturers now will also enjoy greater job security and
increased chances for longer employment. After undergoing a
probation period and review, non-tenured staff will be eligible for
Despite these gains, this agreement still leaves much to be
desired. Health coverage is perhaps the most important and most
contested field. The contract lacked improved insurance coverage
for the standard school year, a situation that LEO will be looking
to ameliorate in three years. Also, with pay disparities reaching
as much as $8,000 between the three different campuses, LEO will be
seeking to bridge such financial schisms. The pay disparities will
only become exacerbated when the percentage pay raises begin to
accumulate. The other juncture of contention will be the amount of
annual salaries. Although LEO is pleased with their raises, the
amount is far from enough; $31,000 is a low figure for people of
such high academic achievement. Furthermore, given the
University’s extensive reliance on lecturers — they
teach 75 percent of language classes — it is imperative that
the University provides adequate compensation.
The problems facing LEO are representative of a growing and
pervasive trend. The death of state funding has caused public
universities to resort to budgetary measures seen at private
institutions and the situation will only worsen if left unresolved.
However LEO’s struggle is a metaphorical line in the sand.
The extensive benefits gained by LEO are unique amongst the nation
and should be celebrated as a historical milestone. Their success
provides an example to other lecturers across the country and will
give lecturers at other institutions the motivation and momentum
that is needed to launch similar campaigns.
The continued unionization of lectures will be an instrumental
force in reminding institutions that their distinguished
reputations are significantly impacted by the dedication and hard
work of their non-tenured staff. Although the University and LEO
should be applauded for their mutual cooperation, this agreement
marks a momentary compromise that will not suffice for the future.
After this three year contract expires, lecturers will continue to
fight to receive more of their demands.