University of Michigan Donors – ACT NOW!

Anyone who regularly donates or has ever donated to the University of Michigan has power to help us get a fair contract. This letter provides two templates: 1) a letter for you to reach out to potential donors whom you might know, and 2) a template for you and them to reach out to the University Regents, President, and Provost to tell them that you will not donate to the University again until Lecturers have a fair contract.

PDF VERSION
EASY-TO-COPY/PASTE VERSION

If you are a donor, 1) write to the University leadership yourself, then 2) forward this template to everyone you know who might be able to use it. If you are not a donor, forward the template anyway to ask donors you might know to use it.

Please do this today if you believe that we are the Leaders and Best and that the education that we received from University of Michigan is worth more. It is an embarrassment for any faculty at this renowned institution to rely on food stamps and other public assistance, or work 2-4 jobs, to support their families. The working conditions of our high-caliber faculty are the learning conditions of current University of Michigan students. We owe it to future generations to use our power and Build a Better Blue.

 

(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!

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.

Bargaining update 3/28 & 3/30: Some excellent movement on benefits, MUCH work left to do on salary

This update covers two bargaining sessions — Wednesday March 28 and Friday March 30 — since the pace of bargaining is quickening along with the pace of the semester in general.

Here’s a look at negotiations this past week; let’s use what we have to shed light on the University’s responsibility to those of us who too often have to burn our candles at both ends to support ourselves so we can support the U’s mission.

A one-sentence summary is that good progress was made on benefits and other non-salary issues, and that a little progress was made on salary for Ann Arbor.  

(Sorry for the level of detail in what follows, but as we get close to the end, it is important for members to have a clear understanding on where we are on the key issues.)

 

Salary

In their third salary proposal, there was only one significant change:

  • For Ann Arbor, the minimum starting salary went up fairly significantly for the first year ($34,500 to $40,000), plus another $1000 for 2019-20, and 2020-21, ending at $42,000 a year. Annual raises remain at 2.25% a year.
  • For Flint and Dearborn, admin offered no increases to starting salaries, which remain at $29,300/$30,300 for 2018-19, $31,300/$32,300 for 2019-20, and $34,000/ $33,000 for 2020-21, respectively. Annual raises remain tied to tenure-track faculty.

Management did indicate some interest in an equity increase for long-serving lecs (w/o committing to any specific sum of money) and asked for a small group discussion to lay out a “road map” for further discussion. During small group, some of the principles we discussed were the worry about compression (e.g. having a new hire make the same as someone in the fifth year), and the basic principle that if the mins go up by a certain amount, everyone else needs at least that same raise.  

Although all this is movement in the right direction, we are very far apart on reaching agreement on fair and equitable compensation.  

They told us that other than raising the mins they had no interest in doing anything for those who have not yet had both reviews, and we told them their position was unacceptable to our membership.

 

Everything Else

  1. On appointments, we are close to an agreement where lecs get an open-ended appointment after the first continuing review, and reframing that review, which will occur every seven years, as more of a professional development opportunity, rather than an evaluation.
  2. We also have an agreement that lecs will no longer have to submit materials already in the department’s possession (student evals and classroom observations) for their reviews, hence avoiding the several hundred page long review files.  
  3. For benefits we have gained two big concessions and several smaller ones:  Summer benefits for those who are at 50+% for winter and have a confirmed benefits eligible fall appointment, AND averaging of benefits, for those who average a 50% appt for the year.
  4. On bereavement leave, they agreed to our proposal of an extra two days of paid leave (for a total of five days) when there are extenuating circumstances, such as travel, for the death of a loved one.
  5. They agreed to include assuming legal guardianship of a child up to 6 (or a disabled child up to 12) as a ground for an unpaid leave of absence.
  6. Finally, they agreed to pay for benefits for a long serving lec (i.e., someone who has passed two major reviews) who take a one-semester professional leave (aka “sabbatical lite”).  
  7. And we are very close to agreement on a professional development fund and a diversity in teaching fund.  

 

So what remains on the table, apart from salary? (See a detailed table of each proposal’s status here.)

  1. Admin remains adamantly opposed to letting units who want to use the title of “teaching professor.”
  2. Admin remains opposed to our child-care proposal and any kind of parental accommodation either for birth mothers who are not eligible for long-term sick or for non-birth parents.
  3. They object to our proposal that lecs need input into the reviews of their supervisor.
  4. We are still working on ways to diversify lecturer hiring.

 

We have added additional bargaining sessions before this Friday’s OPEN BARGAINING in Ann Arbor:

  • Tuesday, April 3rd: Starting at 4:30 and continuing as long as necessary (at Academic HR in the Administrative Services Bldg., 1009 Greene St.)
  • Wednesday, April 4th: Starting at 4:30 and continuing as long as necessary (TBD, but near the Michigan League to facilitate transit to and from the GMM #3)

 

We also have three crucial General Membership Meetings–one on each campus.

You do NOT have to attend the meeting on the campus where you teach. You’re welcome at ANY location, depending on what corresponds best with your schedule:

Flint: Monday, April 2nd, 6:30-7:30 PM, at the IBEW Hall (1251 W Hill Rd, Flint, MI 48507)

Dearborn: Tuesday, April 3rd, 5:00-6:00 PM, at 1030 CB (Mary Kochoff Auditorium, CASL) — NOT Kochoff Hall in the University Center!

Ann Arbor: Wednesday, April 4th, 6:00-7:00 PM, in the Ballroom on the second floor of the Michigan League (911 N Univ Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109) — NOT Rogel Ballroom in the Michigan Union!

 

Please check your schedules and attend as many sessions and meetings and functions as you can!

Many are open to allies. All are open to LEO members!

The time is now. What could become the home stretch is here, provided we keep amassing and even increasing our support at this critical juncture.

 

“You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Room.” -Chief Brody

Will this be it? The last bargaining session? If so, it’s time to rally, time to gather, time to come together and make one last, enormous show of support for a fairer, more equitable, and overall great contract for U-M lecturers!

I wrote a possibly lovely, arguably clever, yet certainly long-winded introduction to writing about the next regularly-scheduled bargaining session. But let’s not bury the lead too much: Next Friday, April 6, will mark the third and final OPEN bargaining session, running from about 10 AM until about 5 PM. It will NOT take place in Palmer Commons. Instead, bargaining will take place in the Michigan Room on the second floor of the Michigan League (911 N. University Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48109. There’s also a MUCH-smaller Michigan Room in the Michigan Union on S. State St., but we’ll be at the Michigan LEAGUE.)

This may be the final bargaining session before LEO membership partakes in a major job action, so the agenda could be quite something! Events are speeding up!

Keep in mind that each open-bargaining session is a very big deal, perhaps most visibly on the University of Michigan’s biggest campus, in Ann Arbor. On open-bargaining days, more of us lecturers come. On open-bargaining days, we’re joined in the bargaining room by our allies who have “a direct interest in the working conditions of lecturers.”

We’re joined by our students who understand that we care deeply about teaching them, about being compensated enough to afford to keep teaching them here at U-M.

We’re joined by our tenure-track-faculty allies, our fellow educators.

We’re joined by our family members who rely on our hopefully-regular paychecks and benefits.

We’re joined by allies from fellow U-M unions, like the nurses’ union, which is also bargaining its new contract at this time.

On the last open-bargaining date, March 16, the number of attendees was around 250 — not a bad turnout! True, we had to order extra pizza to feed everyone. True, the fire code limited the number of chairs in the bargaining room and the number of people who could sit on each chair. True, also because of the fire code, a number of people had to stand or sit in the sixth-floor caucus room or the hall outside, at least until more chairs opened up in the fourth-floor bargaining room, Great Lakes Central* in Palmer Commons.

But ultimately, LEO truly generated a lot of visible, audible support on that day, just as it did in Dearborn on March 9, the first open bargaining day, and in Flint on March 23.

Again, open bargaining is a very big deal. So let’s take advantage of it! Invite your students! Invite your colleagues! Invite any U-M parents and/or alums that you know! This will probably be the last chance for many who care about the lecturers in their lives to watch history be made regarding the working conditions of U-M’s thousands of lecturers.

Let’s each fill a seat, get something to eat, and help support LEO to negotiate a contract that can’t be beat!

************

* – According to the numbers I ran across, the Michigan Room in the Michigan League has a maximum capacity of 125, which is thirty-five fewer than Great Lakes Central. So don’t worry if you can’t stay all day. Plenty of people should be waiting outside to fill that seat! In fact, there’s a certain beauty to supporters coming and going in waves, like an ocean of well-wishing and witnessing, washing away at the shore…

Image: Kirsten Herold, captain of The LEO Bargaining Team, leads a caucus discussion during Ann Arbor’s first open bargaining session.

Two More Extra Bargaining Sessions

There will be two extra bargaining sessions next week, sessions which any U-M lecturer may attend. Both sessions will start at 4:30 PM and take place in Ann Arbor.

The first extra session next week will be on Tuesday, April 3, at the Administrative Services Building (home of Academic Human Resources), , on the southeast corner of Hoover. The meeting will probably take place in the South Room. (And if you attend, whatever you do, don’t touch the markers!)

The second extra session next week will be on Wednesday, April 4, on Central Campus somewhere — we’re hoping a place close enough for us to zip to and from the third Ann Arbor General Membership Meeting in the Ballroom of the Michigan League at 6:00 PM. Once again — go to extra bargaining at 4:30 somewhere, hustle to the League ballroom by 6, and then go back to the first place at 7ish to wrap up bargaining for the day. Keep your eyes peeled on social media (Facebook, Twitter, this blog) to discover the location of “somewhere,” once this location has been determined.

LEO members, we each still play an important role in demonstrating the frankly impressive levels of support and interest that have marked this bargaining campaign. Let’s keep coming to bargaining, even on these weird off days, especially insofar as they fit our schedules better than the regular Friday sessions. Let’s keep contributing to this collective endeavor, this perfect storm of opportunity! We can do it, together! Inch by inch. yard by yard, week by week, we ARE doing it!

Ballots & Meetings & Walkouts, Oh My!

Time to Vote!

As of Sunday, March 25, an electronic ballot has been sent to all union members in good standing, asking whether to authorize the union leadership to propose a major two-day job action. These ballots will be accepted until noon, Wednesday, March 28.

Depending on the results of the electronic ballots, we will hold a third, even more crucial round of General Membership Meetings during the first week of April.

  1.    The Flint GMM #3 will be on Monday, April 2, from 6:30 to 7:30 PM;
  2.    the Dearborn GMM #3 will be on Tuesday, April 3, from 5:00 to 6:00 PM;
  3.    and the Ann Arbor GMM #3 will be Wednesday, April 4, from 6:00 to 7:00 PM.

All locations are currently TBD, so keep checking your email and LEO social media!

At these third General Membership Meetings, we will vote on taking a major job action on Monday, April 9, and Tuesday, April 10. (Although this job action has been called a “walkout,” it goes far beyond walking out of class to gather outside for a few minutes! It will be a widespread, all-day affair on all three campuses on both days.)

Time to Sign and to Sign UP!

Hundreds have already signed the petitions. Hundreds have already signed up for picket shifts, just in case we commit to the job action. (Preparation is at least half the battle!) But we’d love to stand thousands strong. We want a mighty and lasting movement, not a valiant moment! If you haven’t already, speed over to https://leounion.wordpress.com/petitions/ to sign the walkout petition (lecturers), the Change.org petition (both allies and lecturers), and the picket-shift form (again, both lecturers and allies). We get what we are organized to win. Let’s get organized!

4 Lessons for #Umich from West Virginia

The just-concluded teachers’ strike in West Virginia is historic. At a time when labor power is assumed to be on the decline — and when many worry that the upcoming Supreme Court decision in Janus vs. AFSCME will gut public-sector unions throughout the country — it’s a big victory for teachers, for West Virginia public employees, and really for anyone who works for a living. In particular, it reminds us of four things that workers are all too prone to forget.

  • If you’re being badly underpaid, and the resources are there, a big raise is both reasonable and doable. The West Virginia teachers asked for a five percent raise. That sounded ambitious to some people, but in the end, the state granted it not only to them, but to all the state’s public employees, and fairly quickly too. (The state is currently refusing to tax various energy companies that can’t exist without WV’s natural resources.) Similarly, the cost of the pay increase we’re asking for at all three campuses has surprised some members of the administration’s bargaining team. But as large as it may be, it barely rises to the level of a market correction for a school with an $11 billion endowment (over twice the size of the budget for the entire state of West Virginia, by the way). As the writer Marilynne Robinson once remarked, “Plainly bookkeeping is as expressive of cultural values as any other science.” Management will always credit to hard math what is actually about politics and morals: how much do we actually value teaching? How much can we make those who pay our checks value it?
  • When workers fight for themselves in the right way, they fight for everybody. The West Virginia situation makes this pretty explicit: the teachers won a raise that will apply to every public employee. But more generally: every time a group of workers reminds a large, powerful institution who it really exists for — whether that institution is a state government that has turned into an energy-sector-lobbyist’s paradise or a “state” university that sometimes seems to forget about students, teachers, and classrooms — it’s a victory for every worker.
  • Workers have power. The West Virginia strike continued even over the objections of union leadership, who reached a tentative and seemingly toothless deal last week, which the membership promptly rejected.
  • Go big or go home. The West Virginia strike worked in part because the teachers abandoned an early plan to do a rolling strike — a handful of school districts at a time — and simply all went off the job en masse. The scale of the strike also meant that its technical illegality didn’t matter. They can’t fire everyone.

All the odds, all the calculation, all the political conventional wisdom went against these teachers. But they won. So can we.

See you at Open Bargaining on Friday. And at the membership meetings next week.

For more on this inspiring and historic strike, see here, here, here for some historical context, and here for a sense of why West Virginia is only the beginning.

West Virginia and Us: Back to the Fight

I almost began this post by writing “welcome back from Spring Break,” but of course, if you’re a teacher, you don’t really get a break. How did you spend your week away from classes? I graded, finished three pieces of writing, got notes back on two more, and moved house. Nobody becomes a teacher because they don’t enjoy work.

But as I did all that, I took every opportunity I could to read up on the incredibly inspiring teachers’ strike happening in West Virginia. Here’s a good overview. Part of what’s inspiring to me about the situation is the sheer determination of these workers. When their union reached an “agreement” with the state of West Virginia that didn’t have majority support, they went right on striking. I hope we’ll see the same level of determination from teachers in Oklahoma, one of the most exploitative states in the union, who seem to be mulling a strike of their own.

But what’s also inspiring to me about recent events in West Virginia is the way that, even as they planned to withhold their labor (the only thing a worker can withhold) from a system that exploits and abuses it, the West Virginia teachers reminded us what a teacher’s heart looks like. They knew that school cancellations would prevent many needy students from getting what was in some cases their only meal of the day. So they packed lunches for those students, by the thousands. 

That’s who teachers are.

The West Virginia teachers, and maybe now the Oklahoma teachers, are doing their part and more to raise the price of their labor, improve students’ learning conditions (which are their working conditions), and redistribute power in their states from a self-interested governing elite to the people who do the actual work of building a civilization.

Are you ready to do yours?

Yes, We Can! How Lecturers AND Allies Can Build Power

The time to act is now.

This is our best shot to get a #faircontract4lecs. We CAN build the power to do it – here’s how.

Even when you don’t feel brimming with time and energy, even when your personal bandwidth seems narrow and clogged, you can still help LEO to claim the compensation Lecturers have deserved, continue to deserve, and will keep deserving for decades.

We invite Lecturers and allies to check out our Power Building Toolkit. This toolkit contains materials and instructions for how you can spread the word about our fight for a fair contract and help us build power within the university and larger community. Our asks are simple but make a big difference.

Link to sign up for the LEO listserv? You’ve got it!

Brief but action-packed PowerPoint presentation? You’ve got it!

Pithy but potent flyer for students and similar potential allies? You’ve got it!

A letter template to customize and send to tenure-track faculty? You’ve got it!

Access to brilliantly eye-catching door signs for days? You’ve got it!

Although none of us can do it alone, we sure as hell can do it together.

-John F. Buckley