Bargaining Update 4/6: SO MUCH SUPPORT -- and Some Progress

In one sentence, you might describe Friday as incredibly inspiring and uplifting in some ways (so much solidarity!!) and frustrating though potentially productive in others (no real movement on salary, though some hints of collaboration).

A packed room--on the right, many rows of chairs, all filled, people along the walls on the sides and in back. On the left, bargaining team member Stevens Wandmacher provides an update.
A packed room--on the right, many rows of chairs, all filled, people along the walls on the sides and in back. On the left, bargaining team member Stevens Wandmacher provides an update.

First, we want to celebrate the fact that 160 lecturers and at least 250 allies signed in to open bargaining Friday! The bargaining room, caucus room, and second caucus room were constantly full of people — which is to say nothing of the second-floor hallway being occupied all day by our amazing students.

More than one lecturer has noted that while the University doesn’t always live up to its claim of being “The Leaders and Best,” the students certainly do. We LEO lecturers are lucky enough to have them on our side. THEY are why we teach, and their support — not to mention that of our tenure-track allies, sister unions like the nurses’ union and GEO, local and state politicians, and others — means the world.

Hall at the Michigan League full of students sitting against the walls and in the middle of the floor with "Respect the Lecs" signs, working on laptops and talking.
Hall at the Michigan League full of students sitting against the walls and in the middle of the floor with "Respect the Lecs" signs, working on laptops and talking.

On to business:

After a slow start, we met at the table for a conversation that was probably shorter than the time it took to complete introductions in the packed Michigan Room. We were ready in the morning with four items:

  1. Our response to their proposal on MoU Z (diversity in hiring)
  2. Our response to the latest offer on Package B (We continue to advocate for a childcare subsidy and 6-8 weeks of maternity leave for birth mothers)
  3. Our newly proposed Package D (union rights-related items and the right to have lecturers’ names listed on public departmental faculty lists)
  4. Our response to last night’s inadequate salary proposal (Package C)

Items 1-3 were items on which we have already reached much agreement and on which they had no questions. On salary, they also had no questions, but they did observe (correctly) that “we’re still very far apart.”

We broke so they could caucus, and we engaged our members and allies, who asked questions and offered their ideas about where we were. Then we marched over to the Office of the Provost to deliver scores of “direct interest” postcards voicing support by students and other allies before we returned for lunch.

At about 1:15, Admin came back to the table, where Gary Downen presented compelling data about minimum salaries, salary structures, and workload expectations at local community colleges. Then Tom Foy spoke movingly about his twenty-odd years of experience, struggling to make a living as a lecturer in Dearborn at less than $40,000 a year by cleaning offices on the side.

We broke again so the Admin team could caucus about our proposals. During this break, lecturers, students, and allies held fast. LEO President Ian Robinson read the text of a letter of support that eleven legislative representatives had written to U-M President Mark Schlissel.

The Admin bargaining team came back a couple of hours later with some concepts — no numbers — for how salary equity adjustments might work. We asked a couple of clarifying questions and talked about where their proposal could be potentially helpful and also where it is deeply problematic, and then we broke for small-group conversations.

Today we meet again in Academic HR at 11 am.

We’re exhausted, and we know there’s still a long road ahead. But we’re lifted by the groundswell of support and by our commitment to getting a strong, fair contract. Let’s make it happen!

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