Recent University graduates were not the only community members with cause to celebrate this weekend – many lecturers and non-tenure-track faculty members from all three campuses also assembled for festivities in celebration of their recent vote to unionize.
The election results released by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission show that in a vote of 631-135, about 64 percent of the 1280 eligible faculty on the three University campuses voted to form the Lecturers Employee Organization (LEO).
Jon Curtis, an organizer for the Michigan Federation of Teachers and School-Related Personnel, said one of the most important issues among LEO membership is job security. Another important concern is salary, as many non-tenure faculty members make a lot less than public school teachers. Improving health care benefits and professional development are two other important issues that LEO wishes to address during forthcoming negotiations.
Members will be surveyed over the summer in order to identify other key concerns and gain a consensus on issues with which LEO should begin. Chairperson of the Dearborn organizing committee Bonnie Halloran said that LEO organizers are, “very concerned about being in touch with [their] entire membership.”
Over the summer, organizers from all three campuses plan to formalize their new organization by drafting a constitution, putting together a slate of officers and also a bargaining unit.
“There is a lot of work that has to be done behind the scenes,” said University spokesperson Julie Peterson, “and both the union and the University are engaging in these necessary discussions.”
Curtis, a full-time union organizer, said that the effects of recent University budget cuts on these negotiations remain to be seen, but to keep in mind that “a union is a long term proposition that requires a commitment to long term change.”
Halloran said that last week’s voting results were a big success because winning by such a large margin shows the dissatisfaction of many lecturers and non-tenured faculty members at this University.
“I hope that the administration recognizes this as a strong statement,” said Halloran.