Hoping to increase campus-wide awareness of several concerns shared by its members, the Graduate Employees Organization is planning an informational picket today and Monday.
Approximately 200 GEO members are expected to arrive at Angell Hall today between 10 a.m. and noon. They will be picketing various University buildings around campus, but GEO President Dan Shoup declined to comment on which buildings will be included, stating that the spread of the picket would depend on the number of members who participate.
Shoup said the two-hour-long picket will focus on two issues – the University’s use of the private prescription drug company AdvancedPCS and the ongoing negotiations between residence hall librarians and the University.
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said the University will respect the students’ rights to picket, and that it is not expecting the picket to cause any disturbances on campus.
“We expect it to be peaceful, and we do not expect it to interrupt any of the University’s normal business,” Peterson said.
The second picket, scheduled to take place Monday outside various residence halls from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m., will run congruently with an expected strike by the residence hall librarians. The librarians voted 9-2 late Wednesday night to strike Monday unless the two parties reach a tentative agreement concerning the group’s wages beforehand.
Though residence hall librarians originally approached GEO about gaining membership in September 2001, the University officially agreed to recognize them as members in October 2002, after GEO contract negotiations ended. Negotiations between the University and the librarians started in January. They have been bargaining for higher wages, retroactive pay and better training.
Currently, residence hall librarians – who are all graduate students in the School of Information and are required to live in the residence halls they work in – are paid with a $5,500 stipend and free room and board. They are asking that the University pay them the same salary given to other graduate student employees, who, because they receive tuition and other benefits, make approximately $18,000 more per year, Shoup said.
The University yesterday proposed to pay the residence hall librarians the same salary as other University library associates, who make approximately 75 percent of what graduate student instructors and other graduate employees make.
“We are unhappy with the wage proposal the University has made to us,” Residence Hall Librarian Margaret Basket said, adding that librarians have numerous administrative responsibilities and require special training to perform their work. “For us, it’s about the professionalism of our jobs.”
Basket added that she does not think it is reasonable for the University to pay librarians less than what it pays other graduate student employees.
“We don’t understand why librarians are in the contract at a wage below GSI wages,” she said, adding that one theory is that, because women hold the majority of librarian positions, those positions are underpaid. “Librarians all over the world right now are having problems with pay equity.”
Peterson said she believes negotiations between the two parties have been making progress. So far, the University and the librarians have tentatively agreed to four proposals, she added.
Those proposals include the University’s agreement to classify residence hall librarians as graduate student staff assistants for the purposes of the GEO contract. Librarians will also receive additional supplies, such as computers, to use in their workspaces in order to help them with their jobs, Peterson said.
The parties have also agreed to a plan that would move residence hall librarians out of the residence halls, giving them compensation through tuition instead of room and board. As part of that agreement, the University has set up a plan to provide transitional housing options for current librarians who are planning to keep the position next year.
“We were really disappointed when the University made the decision that living in the residence halls was not a necessary part of our job, because we feel that being part of the community has been really important to the residence hall librarian program,” Basket said. “But we were really glad that they came up with a transitional agreement. It’s late in the year to be looking for housing in Ann Arbor, and housing is really expensive.”