It’s Flu Season… What are You Going to Do about it?

Have you ever lost your health insurance and wondered what you would do if you got sick? broke a leg? needed antibiotics? Have you ever had so much teaching work in the fall you didn’t know if you could survive it, only to become almost or totally unemployed in the winter semester and also lose your benefits?

I was in this situation for three years before I started getting UM benefits year-round. For three fall semesters I had four appointments across two UM campuses, and two other jobs outside of that so I could have money to make it through winter when I knew there would be less work. And I had health insurance from Sept-Dec and then it ended. One year I finally got ACA insurance when that became available. One spring I applied for medicaid, and that got approved almost a year later, after I had gone back on UM benefits in the fall and then lost them again in the winter. Ironically though, my job–that should be considered a profession but is respected no more than that of a temp worker–is to help students succeed in their English and writing courses, in order to graduate, and to then get quality professional jobs with benefits. My students are preparing to become engineers, doctors, lawyers, and more, but helping them to do those things doesn’t qualify me as a professional who is respected with fair pay and benefits. I have multiple degrees and years of professional work experience, and the admin. takes that for granted. But Lecturers deserve to be treated like professionals for the work we do.

This Friday at bargaining, Benefits are on the table. We have already proposed various improvements, including these:

∙         Expanding benefits eligibility to those who average 50% for the year, so folks don’t keep going in and out of benefits eligibility

∙         Paid benefits during a one-year unpaid leave for long-serving lecs

∙         Childcare benefit

∙         Enhanced parental leave, especially for recently hired lecturers who don’t qualify for long-term sick pay.

∙         Summer benefits bridge for those who were first hired in winter, who have a confirmed appointment for the following fall

And we should get the admin’s proposals back to negotiate.

So far though, they have basically said NO to most of our proposals, handing us back versions of our documents with our proposed new language crossed out. Admin doesn’t believe we should improve our contract to the benefit of Lecturers.

We need members in the room to help convince them we do deserve respect.  Not only do we teach a majority of undergrad students across campuses, it is our labor that keeps many students in school, keeps departments and programs running, that makes the university work as an institution of higher education. If UM advertises excellence, LEO Lecturers play a huge role in providing that excellence in terms of quality of teaching and all of the other professional responsibilities and unrecognized labor we take on.

Help show admin that we do more than they want to admit we do, and that we are worth more than they are offering. Come to bargaining this Fri anytime between 9am and 4pm in Palmer Commons and then come socialize with other LEOs at the Social after to learn more about how you can be involved.

We also always need more member volunteers so ask any organizer how you can participate today! 

social jan 19

Celebrate MLK, Celebrate Labor Unions

Martin Luther King Jr. was an advocate of strong labor unions because he believed in economic justice. Below are some excerpts from an article that show the importance of labor unions to help workers unite and work toward economic and professional respect… ideas and arguments that we are still making today. Unions are attacked because workers come together and demand better treatment. See the whole article by Michael Honey here.

from “Martin Luther King and Union Rights”:

Throughout his life, King stood up for union rights. His teachings about the rights of labor can serve us well in our own trying times, when those rights are under fresh assault.

One of King’s phrases that we rarely hear is this: “All labor has dignity.” King spoke these words to a mass meeting of over 10,000 people in Memphis on March 18, 1968, in the midst of a strike of 1,300 black sanitation workers. Some 40% of these workers were so poor they received welfare benefits even though they worked 60-hour weeks. Speaking of both sanitation workers in Memphis and the working poor across the country, King said, “You are reminding, not only Memphis, but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.”

But the strike was not just about pay. “Let it be known everywhere,” King declared, “that along with wages and all of the other securities that you are struggling for, you are also struggling for the right to organize and be recognized.” The key issues for the Memphis strikers were their demands that the City of Memphis grant collective bargaining rights and the collection of union dues – the very two items that Gov. Scott Walker targeted in Wisconsin. Like city officials in Memphis, Walker knows that if you can say no to bargaining rights and dues collection, you can kill the union.


The Memphis sanitation workers’ strike was part of the black freedom struggle. Jerry Wurf, national president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), to which the sanitation workers’ Local 1733 belonged, defined Memphis as “a race conflict and a rights conflict” as well as a union conflict. But white municipal workers had also suffered from local government’s hostility to unions. While many of the city’s white craft workers got paid at union scale, they had no contract. And when white firefighters, teachers and police officers tried to organize unions, the city fired and blacklisted them; city officials did not want organized workers exercising any independence or raising the costs of their labor.

Opposition to public-employee unionism was a strong tradition in Memphis. Sounding like Fox News today, City Councilmember Gwen Awsumb warned in 1968 that the “ultimate destruction of the country could come through the municipal unions.”

Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb III came from a family of anti-union employers. Like Gov. Walker and other Republicans today, he held that public employees should not have the right to collectively bargain over their conditions of work, and said he would never sign a union contract. Like Walker, Loeb wanted to cut public jobs to help end an operating deficit: he wanted sanitation workers to do more work for less pay. If they didn’t like it, they could quit.

King’s support for the sanitation workers reflected his long-held concern for economic justice. With some 25 million unemployed and many more underemployed, with 50 million without health insurance and 44 million living in poverty, King’s prophetic words in Memphis ring true today: “Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working every day? And they are making wages so low that they cannot begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation.”


The second phase of the civil rights movement, King said, would have to be the struggle for “economic equality.” To that end, he came to Memphis as part of his Poor People’s Campaign. He sought to organize a mass movement to demand that Congress shift its priorities from funding military buildup and war to funding jobs, housing, health care, and education. The richest country in the history of the world, he said, could easily afford to eliminate poverty. What it lacked was the will to do it.

Racial justice is at issue in today’s attacks on public worker unions. Thanks to the destruction of manufacturing jobs and unions, the one toehold many black and minority workers (and especially women among them) still have in the economy is in unionized public employment. Now, the Republicans want to take that away.

The GOP not only wants to eliminate public employee unions but also to pass “right to work” (for less) laws that take away the requirement that workers in unionized jobs pay union dues or their equivalent. Just as it has done throughout the South, this type of law would undermine unions by starving them of funds, while, in King’s words, providing “no rights and no work.”

In King’s framework, killing public employee unions today would be immoral as well as foolish. He said the three evils facing humankind are war, racism and economic injustice. The purpose of a union is to overcome the latter evil, and without them, unions wages and living conditions will go down for a significant number of workers, especially women and workers of color.


King’s rhetoric spotlights the central question in today’s budget battles: Who should pay? Today’s public employees have won better wages and conditions than those faced by Memphis sanitation workers 43 years ago. But they still live fairly modest lives – and it was not teachers, firefighters or sanitation workers who caused our nation’s economic and fiscal collapse. Why, then, should they be asked to pay for its cost, instead of the private-sector profiteers who created a gambling casino on Wall Street and left the public to pay the bill? Is that economic justice?

King believed that power concedes nothing without a struggle, and for that reason he long supported union organizing. Indeed, he went beyond that to support other forms of direct action that may be increasingly appropriate today as Republicans try to break the last hold of public employees on a living wage.

In Memphis, King called for a general strike in support of the sanitation workers’ demands. “You may have to escalate the struggle a bit,” he told his audience. “If they keep refusing, and they will not recognize the union, and will not agree for the check-off for the collection of dues, I tell you what you ought to do, and you are together here enough to do it: in a few days you ought to get together and just have a general work stoppage in the city of Memphis.”


King’s audience responded with thunderous applause and cheers, because they knew that African Americans did so much of the city’s work. If teachers, sanitation workers, students, and workers across the board went on strike they could definitely shut the city down.

King said, “All labor has dignity.” There is no more important time than the present for us to remember his words and to follow King’s lead in fighting for union rights as human rights. In the wake of the anti-union assault and pro-union protests in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states, let us reflect on where King would have stood in that fight were he alive today.

My bet is that he would be in the streets, fighting for the rights of workers.


Support your union and yourself by coming to bargaining to demand a fair contract. Every Friday in January and Feb 2 at Palmer Commons in Ann Arbor. Feb 9 in Dearborn.

Don’t forget to follow this blog to get email updates, and follow LEO on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date and join the conversation!

Respect Means an Improved Contract for Lecs

Today and Every Friday: Bargaining from 9 am until 4 or 5 pm.

Put it on your weekly schedule…we will only get a strong contract if we show up and demand it (history as well as the current political climate shows this to be true).

Sometimes bargaining finishes early but you can come for any part of the day that you can make it. Usually there is a sign at the Info desk to direct you where to go. This week (today!) JANUARY 12, we will be in Palmer Commons on AA Central Campus, in the Great Lakes North Conference Room on the 6th Floor. During the day we move between the bargaining room and the caucus room, which is where LEO-only folks hang out to discuss how negotiations are going, eat lunch and drink coffee, actively work on our proposals, and more. And we need folks from all three campuses to represent… if you can get to AA, come sit in the bargaining room, or talk to organizers in the caucus room to get updates and info, and participate in the conversation! So far the administration has not been willing to do much negotiating on our proposals… we need to show them we are entitled to the respect these contract improvements will offer.

Lately on social media, we’ve also started sharing stories of things that have happened to members that we are fighting to prevent from happening to others. If you have a story to share in writing or on video, let us know! We’re trying to show the administration who we are, the work we do across campuses and disciplines, and the ways that we’ve been treated unjustly. If you’ve been in bargaining, you may have heard LEOs give statements about the work they do in Computer Science and STAMPS in Ann Arbor, work comparable to tenure-line work, work that goes above and beyond the short time spent with students in classrooms but that enhances students’ educational experiences many times over. In STAMPS, many Lec IIs are nationally recognized artists, they run programs and do serious administrative work in their departments, and the administration refuses to create more Lec III positions that would give them more job security, pay, and recognition for the work that they do.

In another school, a LEO lecturer going through a major review was denied the customary raise because the department thought that lecturer was already being paid enough.

denied raise

There are so many stories. If you work in Dearborn or Flint we especially want to hear from you. Let us know about the work you do that benefits students and the ways you have felt disrespected as a professional. Contact us to find out more or tell us your story.

Come to bargaining today. Come next Fri. Come to Bargaining in Dearborn on Feb 9 and in Flint in March. Bring colleagues. Help share stories of LEOs on social media. Let an organizer know if you want to get involved more… there’s plenty to do because WE ARE ALL LEO AND THIS IS OUR CONTRACT. 

And come hang out and meet other Lecturers Fri, Jan 19 at the Social:

social jan 19

Don’t forget to follow this blog to get email updates, and follow LEO on Twitter and Facebook!

A Clean Slate

If you’re anything like me, you have a list of New Years’ resolutions long and complex enough to rival one of those Norwegian crime novels they’re always selling at Costco. (Not that I’ve ever read one. Too busy! Resolutions!)

My plans for 2018 include the doable (run three times a week), the ambitious (average an essay a month), and the insane (washboard abs). But in terms of my career security, the most important resolution I’ve made is to be in the room where my future is being decided, starting tomorrow, January 5, in Palmer Commons.

We’re bargaining every Friday in January from 9-5. (More on February-April dates as those approach.) I teach on Fridays, but I intend to be there every minute I’m not in the classroom. Everybody doesn’t need to make that level of commitment (I don’t, for example, live far away from campus, or have small children at home). But find the hour or two that you can commit and spend it with us. Bring stuff to grade, or paperwork to fill out.

Nothing you can do as a single individual will improve your job security as much as a decent contract.

On 1/5/18, LEO returns to the table!

As we say goodbye to the surreal and exhausting 2017, let’s greet the new year with renewed determination to win fairness and justice in our workplace. Please mark your calendars for January 5, 2018 (less than a week away!), when your union returns to the table!

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 2.58.27 PM.png

On January 5, we will convene from 9am to 5pm in the Great Lakes North Conference Room (6th Floor) in Palmer Commons on Central Campus in Ann Arbor.

We have some easy and not-so-easy matters to discuss with management next Friday.

First, the easy. We will sign two articles: Article VI on Union-Employer Conferences and Article VII on Scheduling and Reduction in Appointment for Union Representatives.

Now the hard stuff—but made easier if turnout is BIG.

We will deliver a new version of Article V or “Union Rights.” Presently, the administration treats LEO like it’s an outside entity, rather than the union representing 1660 faculty members, in the way it grants access to basic university resources, like office space and printing. We hope to change that with our Article V.

We will also present our latest proposal on Layoff and Recall (Article XII), with earlier notice dates for LIs and the right to keep your recall rights, even if you turn down an assignment for cause (for example if the class meets at a time when the lecturer is teaching elsewhere.  

Finally, we will present new arguments concerning Article XI on appointments and major reviews. Last time we met, on December 15, the administration rejected our proposals to redefine the LIII title to protect LIs/LIIs who are required or strongly encouraged (read: coerced) by their units into doing LIII work (i.e., service and research) but without the corresponding title and compensation. The administration did not believe this was a serious problem affecting many departments. We know that it is, and we intend to tell them. (If you have a story to tell and feel comfortable sharing it, please get in touch with At 1:00PM, right after lunch, a lecturer from the Stamps School of Art & Design will address administration about their own experience with required research commitments under the LI title. 

The administration has also rejected our proposals concerning Continuing Renewal Reviews. We want to end reviews in perpetuity and instead have only one CRR and an open-ended contract. After meeting with them in small group, we think we can make progress on an issue of great importance for long-serving Lecs.

Management refuses to tell us when we should expect to receive a counterproposal to our economic proposals, which we presented back on October 27th.  

Next Friday, let’s start the new year off right. Please join LEO – and bring at least two coworkers! – at Palmer Commons on January 5. Lunch will be available from 12-1pm.

You can register here.

~Alex Elkins

Bargaining Update 12/15

This is our last blog post until after the holidays–get some rest in the way-too-brief break!

Our final bargaining session of the year took place on a cold and snowy Friday (Dec. 15th) in Pierpont Commons on North Campus. Once again, we had great turnout — more than 50 lecs, many from North Campus, took time off from grading and attended part or all of the day. (By the way, someone left a very attractive green hat in the room — please contact to retrieve it).

The main events of the day were that management gave us response on our layoff article. On the layoff article, they agreed to increase compensation for cancelled spring and summer classes, which was positive. But they have no interest in our various proposals to improve job security for LIs. They also rejected, quite angrily, a proposal coming from some of our language departments that lecturers be asked for feedback in the review of their supervisors and that the feedback be communicated to the review committee. It seems to us a shared interest that we should have good supervision — but judging from their reaction, this would somehow challenge the entire academic hierarchy. We will continue to speak on this topic.

First caucus of the day on December 15th

We also presented our second go on Appointments and Performance Reviews (for which we had received responses the previous week). We noted that in many cases they acknowledged that we were trying to address legitimate problems, yet they just crossed out our language, with no counterproposals of their own. We continue to assert that continuing renewals reviews till the day we retire are a waste of time and that once someone successfully completes a remediation plan they should not have to undergo yet another major review. We think there is a lot of review fatigue in departments around the U and that there are many other ways to supervise than to conduct regular reviews.

Finally, we had a very effective presentation from a member in Computer Science and Engineering who explained to management why it is important to have a title like teaching professor as a possible incentive for recruiting new lecturers. We hope to see movement on this point soon.


Bargaining will resume Friday, January 5 in Palmer Commons. Have a great and well-earned break and happy holidays to all, if you are so inclined.

In Solidarity,

LEO Bargaining Team

North Campus? Seriously?

Yes, that’s right, this Friday’s Bargaining Meeting is in Pierpont Commons on the Ann Arbor North Campus from 9am-3pm (when you get to Pierpont, go to the info desk to find out where the bargaining and caucus rooms are). Now you may be thinking, I don’t even know anything about North Campus, how could I possibly have any fun going there!? Well, in addition to the good times that any bargaining session offers, here are some other suggestions for making your visit even more enjoyable… take a walk around and see if you can find these gems…

  • The Bell tower: it’s a carillon, the bells can be played like an organ by someone sitting inside. Seems like it’s not much to see, but still cool while you’re walking around The Grove.
  • ENIAC: the biggest remaining piece of the first computer is on display inside the vestibule of the Bob and Betty Beyster building, the entrance off The Grove. The helix-shaped staircase inside is pretty cool too. And also, it’s the best name for a building ever.
  • The 3 Cubes in a Seven Axis Relationship sculpture is in front of the main entrance to the G.G. Brown Building. Watch the video to learn more!
  • The World’s largest Rubik’s Cube, inside the lobby of the G.G. Brown Building.
rubix cube
See You Friday on North Campus!
(This Friday is the last session for the semester; bargaining will resume on Jan 5 in Palmer Commons on Central Campus. Put all of the dates for next semester on your calendar: see the list of Upcoming Events on the right side of this page.)