SIX DAYS Left to Evaluate UM Admin

Hi LEO lecs and allies!

Just a note to amplify Ian’s email message going out this morning. We’ve been getting repeated emails reminding us to evaluate our university administrators. (“As a reminder, you can participate in the annual online Evaluation of Administrators at http://aec.umich.edu.“) This includes President Schlissel and Provost Philbert.

SO LET’S DO IT. We have until the 18th, which is 2 days before our contract expires!

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Picket sign by Alla Dubrovich

You may have heard that over the weekend Philbert sent a message down through an associate that we shouldn’t “think that [he] was moved by a bunch of form letters from students.” OH REALLY?

  1. That’s disrespectful. Students deserve ALL of our respect.
  2. They were NOT form letters.
  3. They included missives from allies from every corner of the community.

Maybe they’ll respect us when we tell them exactly what we think on their evaluations? Word is, a lot of people neglect to fill these in.

LET’S NOT NEGLECT TO DO THIS.

There are two or three questions in particular that have to do with how well they support teaching excellence and how they manage the university’s finances.

Well, we’ve SEEN the answers to those questions. Let’s remind them on their evals, shall we? 

Don’t forget to write detailed comments supporting your answers!

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Don’t Dream It’s Over

On Sunday night, some lecturers were glad to hear there’d been enough movement from administration for the UC and bargaining team to temporarily call off our planned strike.

And some lecturers were less happy.

One thing we all agree on is that nobody is happy with our existing contract, or the way U of M has traditionally treated us. We also all agree that we are not taking the proposal admin offered Sunday night. Thus, we did not, contrary to some early reports, sign a Tentative Agreement, and we have no intention of taking this deal.

So what did the proposed deal look like?  Minimum salaries for LI/IIs would increase over three years as listed below.

Ann Arbor Dearborn Flint
Current $34,500 $28,300 $27,300
Admin’s proposal $43,000, $44,400, $45,000 (2018-20) $35,000, $36,000, $37,000 (same) $34,000, $35,000, $36,000 (same)
Our proposal $58,000, $60,000, $62,000 $54,100, $56,100, $58,100 $54,100, $56,100, $58,100

For LIII /IVs, add $2000 to all figures above.

On the equity adjustments for years of service, they are proposing between $200 and $470 per year of service (with long-serving lecs getting a higher adjustment). They offered this after repeatedly saying that no way no how would they move on the principle of equity between the three campuses. Find more detailed calculations here.

We have agreement that of those who make between  $80,000 and $95,000, the boost will be a combination of $$ added to the FTR and a lump sum payment. For those over $95,000, the entire equity pay will come as a lump sum.

Finally, annual raises were proposed as 2.5% a year in AA, and tied to tenure-track in Flint and Dearborn.

Obviously, Admin’s numbers are still far from what we’ve demanded, and there was no question of taking the deal. That isn’t what we voted on. The question we were presented with was this: Has the administration moved enough that we now believe we can get more by not striking than by striking? And though everyone in the large majority that voted “Yes” took a slightly different path there, “Yes” is where we ended up.

Why did we call it off?

  • They moved. The current numbers represent a move from “insulting” to “inadequate.” That may not sound like much, but it’s a break not only with the University’s practice throughout this contract campaign, but with the University’s treatment of lecturers since before the organization of LEO. The proposed raises that we pointedly did not accept are … also higher than our last four contracts combined. For Ann Arbor lecturers making the minimums, it is, by the end of three years, a five-digit raise. For Dearborn and Flint lecturers, it is, by the same point in time, close to that. There were at least a few in the room who literally never imagined we’d get this far. The administration needs to throw millions more at us for this to be over, but our mantra going into this past weekend was “significant movement, or we walk,” and we could not honestly claim that insulting-to-inadequate wasn’t significant movement.
  • We arguably get more out of not striking than striking. We believed that absent something bigger than a two-day strike, admin was not going to put much more on the table to reduce, say, a two-day strike to a one-day strike. Another way to put this is that, by 6PM Sunday, we were looking at an offer that already fully reflected the threat we were able to put together, and that, if we spurned it, we’d be looking at the same offer on Tuesday … having just played every last card.
  • We were voting on behalf of everybody. Many people signed up to picket because they wanted to picket. More signed expressly because they’d been told, correctly, by organizers or fellow members, that — say it with me now — “The best way to make sure we don’t have to strike is to be ready to strike.” Personally, I woke up Sunday morning absolutely convinced we’d walk. But when we voted, we all knew we had to weigh both these very numerous sets of people in mind.
  • Striking under our current contract would alienate the Regents and other potential allies. Members of the bargaining committee and the UC differ in terms of how much we believe the Regents are willing to or can help us. But their support in this campaign is public and unprecedented, and striking would have moved them out of the “support” column.
  • Retaliation from Lansing. We had wrestled with this possibility in a more general way throughout the campaign, and most of us felt that Michigan’s anti-union legislators are gonna do what Michigan’s anti-union legislators are gonna do, and that we can’t be ruled by such considerations. But a high-profile strike at U of M, occurring on the very day that legislators return from home districts, with an offer on the table that the press would be sure to characterize as “a five-digit raise,” along with all these other considerations, made this particular strike right now (not any strike ever) seem like less of a good idea.

As Jill Darling puts it: “Because we saw so much active support from lecs and allies who were willing to stand up on the picket lines, we were able to get stronger proposals on pay and equity than we have seen before. But these proposals are still far below our goals: to raise all lecturers out of poverty wages (eg. standard of living reports for all three campus counties) and to get pay that reflects our professional value.

And so we need to keep the momentum, keep putting pressure on the administration, keep demanding more. And we won’t settle for anything less than fair and respectable.”

We bargain again this Friday from 10-5 in Palmer Commons.

Maybe you think we should have struck. Maybe you’re thanking your stars we didn’t.

Either way, we all need to continue to show up.

(Updated Monday, 4/9) NO STRIKE TOMORROW AND TUESDAY, DUE TO SUBSTANTIAL MOVEMENT.

UPDATE 4/9: Good news! The five of us writing this post and press release together last night, at the end of a long weekend, input the Flint & Dearborn numbers incorrectly. We’re actually up to an $8,700 increase on those two campuses. 

Dear LEO members & Allies:

We have been in bargaining all week and weekend — Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. After some very slow days, we have finally made headway on important points. On Saturday at 10 pm, they agreed to the concept of equity raises and how to do them. Today, we finally got some movement on minimum starting pay: a more than $10,000 increase in Ann Arbor, and over $7,500 in Flint and Dearborn. This is already the biggest salary gain ever, although still not nearly enough for a living wage.

We have reached this point due to the overwhelming support of members and students and other allies at the University and throughout the state, including Regents and other elected officials. Unfortunately, President Schlissel and Provost Philbert have not yet fully acknowledged the legitimacy of our demands.

Nevertheless, the progress made this Sunday persuades us to delay the job action for now, in the conviction that we will make more substantial progress. We feel empowered to keep bargaining for the coming days and weeks for the truly outstanding contract we all deserve.

In the next day or two, we will be announcing times for meetings on all three campuses, at which we will answer questions and discuss strategies to build on the power we have already generated.  

We cannot begin to express the gratitude we feel for the groundswell of strength and solidarity our members and allies have shown each other. This is not the end!

Bargaining Update 4/7

Bargaining, a haiku:

Long day in HR,

Equity calculator

Tentatively done.

In all seriousness, we’ve made great gains on non-financials (including appointments and performance reviews) and benefits. Although we’re still a long way apart on salary, we know that things can happen very quickly in the 11th hour.

PLEASE BE SURE TO KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR EMAIL AND SOCIAL MEDIA FOR UPDATES ON THE STATUS OF THE STRIKE. Though we are admirably mobilized, a walkout is not a foregone conclusion.

As you may have seen on social media yesterday, we waited five hours for Admin’s response to our elegantly crafted equity calculator and — we thought — a full salary proposal, with dollars and everything. What we got was a far less elegant calculator with some numbers too laughable to print.

We heard the concerns driving their proposal and went back to the table to come up with a solution that would solve both their problems and ours. After many sidebars and back-and-forth tinkering with ideas, we finally finished our twelve-hour day with a calculator for equity that we think both sides can live with.

Today we expect to see a serious, fully-fleshed out salary proposal and start to bring their vision closer to ours.

In good news, although we had to give up paid parental leave for birth parents, it isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility. They offered us “me too” language saying that if and when other bargaining units at the University get this benefit, so will we. As it turns out, HR is “studying” the idea.

We start again at 10:20, in the same place: Academic HR (ASB, corner of Hoover and Greene). If the door is locked, call (917) 628-8483, and someone will come let you in.

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.
Lecturers and allies in caucus April 6, 2018

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.
Students line the hall outside the bargaining room as part of their all day sit-in.

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!

Make sure to follow LEO on social media for regular updates. Click on the links below to join the conversation!

On Striking Through

The writer Annie Dillard tells the story of the time she learned to split wood with an ax. She couldn’t do it till she realized that you needed to aim at the ground beneath the wood–not at the wood itself. Only then could she strike with the necessary intensity.

It seems like a law of adult life: everything hits at once. The month when your students need you the most is also the week when your volunteer commitments heat up, your boss at your side gig imposes twenty deadlines, the kids need you to go to their school play (or their rally to save America from gun-worship), and the LEO contract negotiations that may save you from that side gig get pretty crazy too.

But with all this, it’s important not to forget the bread-and-butter activity of a contract campaign: Going to bargaining! Friday is our last open bargaining session of the year, meaning you can invite your students, spouses, tenure-track friends, and other allies.

A big turnout on a day like this lets the administration know, as we go into a weekend that very likely eventuates in a strike, that LEO stands united, and that we carry the support of our allies.

Let’s keep the pressure on through the weekend. Let’s aim at the ground beneath.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Potential LEO Two-Day Work Stoppage

Lecturers have been taking action: showing up to bargaining, attending regents’ meetings, and making other public statements about our situation. In response, administration has started improving their financial offer, but not by enough. Over 80% of LEO members responding to electronic ballot voted last week to authorize the bargaining team and elected Union Council to call the work stoppage on April 9 and 10 if we don’t see significant improvement on our most important demands. Administration is moving because we’ve built a movement; let’s see it through.

What is “the contract”? Why is there a campaign for a contract?

“The contract” is the general term for the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the university. During negotiations for a new contract, the union engages in a “campaign,” a series of events designed to show power and encourage the university to sign a favorable contract.

When does the current contract expire?

April 20, 2018.

What events has the union planned as a part of the campaign?

We’ve had rallies, opened bargaining sessions to our allies, held grade-ins and spoken publicly at Board of Regents meetings, and marched on the Diag. So far, 375 members have attended at least one bargaining session. We’ll hold another bargaining session open to allies this Friday, April 6, at the Michigan League on Ann Arbor’s campus.

How will we decide whether we actually do the work stoppage?

A lot is happening this week. We’ll bargain at least three more times with administration (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday). We’ll also hold membership meetings in Flint (Monday), Dearborn (Tuesday) and Ann Arbor (Wednesday) to give members the latest information from the bargaining table. Members will vote at these meetings on the decision-making process we’ll use in the final hours leading up to the potential Monday-morning work stoppage.

Wouldn’t a strike be illegal?

While there’s a law in Michigan that says public employees cannot go on strike, and our current contract contains language that we won’t strike during it, we’re compelled to take action after months of administration not making movement towards our proposals. LEO and GEO have waged strikes in our past; no one was ever disciplined for taking part in these actions.

We have bipartisan support on the Board of Regents, which is a huge deal. At the regents’ meeting last week, Democrat Regent Mark Bernstein said, “I want to declare publicly and proudly solidarity with our Lecturers.” And Republican Regent Andrea Fischer Newman said that LEO had put our issues on the table “in a thoughtful and collaborative way…in a way that makes us want to work with you, that makes us sympathetic to what you’ve brought forward.” The regents are the bosses of our bosses. What they say matters. A lot.

What about the picketing? What will that look like?

Members will carry signs and engage in chants at selected building entrances, loading docks, and construction sites. A picket line must always be moving, or else we would be considered to be blocking entrances. We don’t want to prevent anyone from entering buildings, but we do want to disrupt normal operations. Each site will have a picket captain, someone in charge of making certain that the picket functions properly and members are arriving for scheduled shifts.

Why loading docks and construction sites?

This is about disruption of normal business operations for the university. We’ve spoken with many of the unions involved in construction and delivery, and they’ve agreed not to cross the picket line, even though it might be mean losing a day’s pay for their own members. This is one way that unions show solidarity.

What if I am hesitant to join in the job action because I do not want to hurt my students?

Lecturers’ very low pay and lack of respect from the administration already hurts students.  Dramatically raising our pay will dramatically improve the quality of education we can provide for students.  This is why so many students and all three campus student governments have taken strong public positions in favor of LEO’s bargaining proposals and this job action.

How can I join the walkout?

Sign up to be a picket captain or for a shift on the line! You can do so here: leounion.wordpress.com/petitions.

A walkout means you won’t hold your classes on April 9th and 10th, at any point in the day. By not crossing our picket lines, you honor the commitment of your colleagues to an equitable contract, and the solidarity of other unions who are not crossing our picket lines.