Wearing T-shirts that said “What do all Michigan teachers deserve?” members of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization began negotiations on a new contract with the University administration on Friday.

The current contract of the 1,300-member union of non-tenure track expires in July. LEO members worked last semester to identify specific problems with the last contract, which was the first collective bargaining agreement between the union and the University.

“First contracts always have problems,” LEO President Bonnie Halloran said.

The organization has five primary platform issues: increased base salaries, the same title for all LEO members, greater transparency in employment reviews, better health care and more flexibility in working off-campus while employed by the University.

A University spokesperson declined to comment on the negotiations.

Cedric de Leon, a sociology lecturer and the grievance chair of the Ann Arbor LEO chapter, said the organization seeks equal pay for lecturers at each of the University’s three campuses. Base pay differs from campus to campus, he said.

While a lecturer at the University’s Ann Arbor campus makes at least $31,000 a year, lecturers at Dearborn have a base pay of $25,000 and those at Flint make no less than $23,000.

“We think no teacher at the University of Michigan should make less than $35,000 as a starting salary,” Halloran said in a press release. “Even in hard economic times, the University should be paying all its teachers a decent wage.”

De Leon said the University has created a system where some lecturers are treated as second-class citizens.

The University ranks lecturers on a 1 to 4 scale. Lecturers 1 and 2 only teach, while lecturers 3 and 4 may also serve on committees and usually teach a more advanced class schedule.

To move from class 1 to class 2, a lecturer must teach at the University for three years and pass a faculty review.

To move from class 3 to class 4, a lecturer must teach for four years and pass a review.

There is no official bridge from class 2 to class 3.

De Leon said the system of ranking lecturers divides lecturers unfairly.

“It creates a sort of inequality,”‘ de Leon said.

At negotiations for LEO’s first collective bargaining agreement in 2004, the organization asked for a uniform title for all lecturers but was denied.

“We’d rather have it flat with recognition of the duties we do have,” de Leon said.

De Leon also said there is currently little or no transparency in the faculty review process.

“In some departments people have no idea whether they are passing or failing,” he said.

LEO is proposing that the University sponsor international lecturers for citizenship after they have passed their second faculty review – by which time, most are eligible to apply for United States citizenship or residency. Currently, many lecturers must apply to renew visas to stay in the United States after each performance review.

LEO also wants to increase access to medical services. Many lecturers who work part time don’t have access to health care, de Leon said.

Many lecturers are restricted from taking certain second jobs, a policy that de Leon said LEO disagrees with.

“We don’t believe the administration has any authority to tell what you can do when you’re not here,” he said. “It’s so basic that no one ever talks about it.”

Many lecturers have second jobs to supplement their salary at the University, de Leon said.

Other University employees are allowed to hold positions elsewhere, even prominent professors and high-profile administrators who are less likely to need the money to support themselves, he said.

“Everybody at this university does something outside of this university,” de Leon said. “We don’t understand why the administration wants to curtail our ability.”

Provost Teresa Sullivan officially represents the University administration in negotiations. Assistant Provost Jeff Frumkin and Labor Relations Consultant Rebekah Ashley will also help represent the University.

Negotiations will continue between LEO and administrators each Friday until they reach a settlement.

“We expect to be in these negotiations all semester long,” Halloran said.

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