A Simple Way To Help UM Grad Students
Today's note from LEO President Ian Robinson laid out some ways that LEO members can support our graduate student colleagues in GEO during their likely walkout this week. As Ian points out, it's important for us to advocate for GEO during their contract negotiations, both because of the essential justice of their cause—they're striking for a living wage and for paid positions for diversity education—and because of their history of strongly supporting us.
Though we as LEO members cannot participate in the strike—which will begin Wednesday and continue Thursday if an agreement isn't reached—we can educate our students on the issues their GSIs are fighting for before or after class, we can refuse to cross picket lines (simply find another route to your building), and, most importantly, we can make a few phone calls. We can call UM President Mark Schlissel at 734.764.6270 and UM Provost Paul Courant at 734.764.9290.
Let's be honest: many of us LEO members would rather not do this. The stereotype of the awkward, absent-minded professor is mostly anti-intellectual nonsense, but it is true that many of us are more comfortable planning a lesson, conjugating a verb, or plotting a graph in R than politicking on the phone with a stranger. Because of course we are. Those things are our jobs, while talking to strangers on the phone is weird for everybody.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. I have learned to make political phone calls fairly comfortably since November 9, 2016. Here are some suggestions and observations I've gathered along the way:
1. Don't worry: you don't have to be pushy. In fact, it's better not to be. Call the number, wait for a human to pick up, give your name and affiliation with the university (or just say "I'm a lecturer employed by the University of Michigan"), and calmly state your spiel.
2. Know what you're going to say. Here's a script that works fairly well: "I'm just calling to say that I agree with the Graduate Employee Organization's demands and that I hope the university will agree to them immediately. Graduate student instructors should be paid a living wage, and diversity education is too difficult and too important to expect people to do it for free. Thanks very much! Have a wonderful day."
3. Get in, get out. Say your spiel and finish up. You don't have to add anything.
4. Be nice. The person who's answering the phone is probably not the person who's trying to keep graduate labor down! They're probably employees like us, having a lousy time answering phones. Thank them for taking your call and wish them well.
5. Remember, this actually makes a difference. If phone calls can stop bills moving through Congress, they can change UM policy. The volume of calls LEO members make on behalf of this issue also serves as a reminder of our strength as a union: if we'll make a strong showing for our sister union, what won't we do on our own behalf?