Lack of commitment by the University to training employees of the Residence Hall Libraries coupled with a disregard for sexual harassment claims may lead to another labor strike this spring, according to Graduate Employees Organization members.
The librarians have not yet decided whether they will organize a strike, but GEO is planning to picket from March 21 to 24 to publicize RHL grievances, as well as health and child care complaints, GEO President Dan Shoup said after the organization’s meeting last night.
Rackham student Alyssa Picard, GEO’s chief negotiator last year and a current advisor to RHL, said the librarians are seeking a written commitment from the University providing them with training on how to run libraries.
“They did not have a contract before, and the University did not do any training,” she said. “They really want to be well- trained, and the University has told them it doesn’t want to be constrained by contract language that requires the University to provide training.”
RHL members are permitted to strike because they are not contracted employees.
Librarians have also been subjected to “situations that meet the legal definition of sexual harassment,” Picard said. East Quad Residence Hall librarians were instructed to play an ice breaker called “Ride the Pony,” she said, where librarians walk around a circle of seated librarians and rub their pelvises against them.
But when one female librarian complained to her supervisor laughed at her, Picard said. “They’re really frustrated,” she said.
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson was unable to comment when contacted last night.
The librarians will protest and hand out literature during the picket, encouraging students to consider what the University is doing to affect the quality of residence hall libraries, Picard said.
But the picket will not resemble last year’s GEO protest, Shoup said. “We won’t be withholding our labor and we won’t be trying to keep people from entering buildings,” he said. “But we will be trying to express our anger, to embarrass the University and to inform the community.”
Another issue GEO plans to bring up during the picket is the privatization of prescription drugs for graduate students under the University’s MCare program, Shoup said. Instead of managing the benefits using University programs, administrators outsourced prescription plans to a pharmacy benefit management company called AdvancePCS, said Rackam student Pete Soppelsa, a member of GEO’s health committee.
“They’re trying to cut costs or maximizing profits by raising our prescription drug costs,” he said. “We don’t feel this should be a for-profit enterprise.”
But the University is still offering its old prescription plan, which allows generic drugs to be bought at low prices, to certain University trade unions, including housing officers, he said.