Bargaining Update 3/23: Some Movement on Non-Economics, but More Peanuts for Salary

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For most people, peanuts are delicious. For most people, peanuts don’t trigger anaphylaxis. Most people can eat whole bags of them without gasping in shock. Still, one cannot live on peanuts alone. And there was a lot of gasping in Flint last Friday because of them.

We began the day by delivering proposals on both of the packages management had delivered so far: Package A (a memorandum on articulating some sort of bridge between the I/II and III/IV tracks, as well as articles on appointments, layoff, recall, and performance evaluations) and Package B (agreements to help part-timers with appointments and benefits, plus articles on posting, benefits eligibility and plans, sick pay, modified duties, and unpaid leaves of absences). Our cover sheets often read, “We [LEO] accept your [management’s] language.” We accommodated and facilitated. We bargained in a spirit of compromise. And we made progress as management seemed to understand at least some of our concerns.

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The march and rally following the morning session rivaled the most recent Ann Arbor march in size and volume. People were fired up, and we learned to better appreciate how the situation of UM-Flint and its lecturers reflected the plight not only of lecturers on all three campuses, but also of the greater Flint-area community. We heard from a political candidate, fellow lecturers, and a representative from a sister union. The final speeches by Flint campus chair Stephanie Gelderloos and by Residential College lecturer Bob King particularly struck loud, resonant chords with the hundred-plus people gathered together.

In the afternoon, after another set of compelling testimonials from lecturers, management presented their long awaited second counter to our salary proposal, now packaged with provisions for professional development and DEI initiatives. They again figuratively tossed us peanuts, this time a double handful instead of a single one, but still not anything approximating a healthy diet of compensation for any LEO lion (or hardworking professional academic Wolverine).

More specifically, while management did agree to raise starting salaries for each new lecturer by $5500 over three years, it would be business as usual for current lecs on all three campuses, with annual raises tied to the tenure-track in Flint and Dearborn (usually between 2 and 3%) and 2.25% for Ann Arbor — just about keeping up with the projected 2018 inflation rate. There would be no additional raises for any current LIIs or IVs (and many LIs and IIIs). And they refused to even entertain the possibility of any kind of equity adjustment for long-time lecs. Management offered no cogent response when we openly asked, Why don’t you want us to make decent livings? Their rationale for the missing planks in their counterproposal was also somewhat less than compelling:

Admin: We believe the focus should still remain on annual increases and minimum salaries. That’s where the focus has been, and we feel it should remain there.

LEO: Why should it remain there?

Admin: I’ll have to get back to you. We feel that when we spend the money, that’s where the money should be.

LEO: We need to caucus.

And so we caucused. After taking a moment to gasp at the underwhelming provisions of the second counterproposal, those gathered in the bargaining room considered how to respond, eventually deciding to tweak a couple of packaged items while once again presenting our original salary proposal. We returned our slightly amended Package C to management once they returned to the room, giving them one more chance to do right by us.

But it’s not all up to management, far from it. It’s time for us — lecturers and allies alike — to ratchet up the pressure.

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So what do we do next?

  1. We need to display our strength in numbers at bargaining. In addition to the regular Friday sessions, there will be a number of extra ones (open to all U-M lecturers) squeezed in at odd places and times, since both management and we would like to wrap up negotiations before the spring/summer break. The first extra session will take place on Wednesday, March 28, starting at 3:30 PM, location tba. We are hoping to settle most of the remaining non-financial issues.  Keep checking social media (Facebook, Twitter, LEO Matters blog) for more up-to-date details about each upcoming extra session.
  2. On Thursday, March 29, beginning at 2:00 PM outside the Anderson Room of the Michigan Union, we will hold a grade-in to demonstrate our contributions to the university. Come join us! At 3:30, the Regents’ Meeting will take place inside the Anderson Room, where community voices will speak out, in favor of our ongoing campaign for a better, more equitable contract. Those who ultimately control the university’s pursestrings must see us and hear us!
  3. This coming Friday, March 30, the site of regular bargaining shifts back to Ann Arbor, back to Palmer Commons on the 4th and 6th floors, from roughly 10 AM to 5 PM. Although it won’t be an open session, so only lecturers will be allowed in the bargaining room (4th floor), allies are always welcome in the caucus rooms on the 6th floor, where we will meet, eat, and discuss proposals. This is another great opportunity to watch, listen, and otherwise bear witness to the truth! (Parents and guardians — there will be child care available!)

Let’s help shift a paradigm together! In short, let’s save the peanuts for the circus.