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.

 

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.

“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.

What does a 12+ year career at the University of Michigan-Flint look like?

We’ll be bargaining in Flint this Friday, with counterproposals from the University on salary. In this guest post, Stephanie Irwin-Booms, a Lecturer II at UM-Flint’s English Department reminds us why much higher salaries–and greater economic justice for lecs at all three campuses–will be a big part of any final contract that LEO signs on to. Be there on Friday to keep the pressure on!

It is sometimes hard to look at an experience with open eyes. When I think about my 12+ years at the University of Michigan-Flint, I am often only using one set of glasses: rose or pitch-dark.

Here is the view through the rose-colored classes. I have fond memories of my years at UM-Flint. The faculty and support staff are friendly and helpful. I have developed bonds that will last longer than my years as an instructor. The English Department faculty and staff helped me get 4 weeks off for the birth of my first son when it fell in the middle of a semester, as an emergency, two months earlier than planned. They also worked with me to get an online teaching schedule during the next semester when they didn’t have to do either. The University of Michigan-Flint allows me to support my family with medical and dental insurance. With a 7-year-old Autistic son, I have had to use all of my deductible several years running for his ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Therapy. If I had a different insurance plan, I might have had to pay all of the cost out of pocket: instead of $3,000 in one year, it could have been $140,000.  I am the second longest running Writing Faculty member in our department, and I have plans to stay another 20+ years. Sometimes I end the story here. But this isn’t the whole story.

I started my time at UM-Flint in Fall 2000, before we had LEO on our side. I lost all winter classes three years in a row and was forced to drop UM-Flint as an option for several years. They were only offering me one or two classes in the fall, and I knew what that meant for the Winter. During those first couple of years, I felt disconnected from other employees and my department.

That did change in Fall 2006. I came back with 3 classes and had reasonable assurance that I would get classes in the Winter as well. As years went by, I wasn’t the instructor who got bumped anymore, and I built my reputation as a quality Lecturer. I have been a solid part of the Faculty since then, teaching a class during the summer as well. These changes were made possible because I was part of LEO.

I only took four weeks off when my first child was born, and I was even more calculating when I had the second. I planned for a summer birth, so I wouldn’t have to ask for time-off when it isn’t a guarantee for Lecturer I or IIs. I have always worked, so often the task of caring for my children fell on my support system: my mother-in-law and other close family. I know many who don’t have that option.

Today as a Lecturer II, I still make under $40,000 base pay after working for UM-Flint since Fall 2000. This means I have other part-time jobs to help me earn a living wage. I am the primary earner in my family, but my husband isn’t far behind. We both work what might be considered “overtime.” I have been an instructor for 7 colleges since I started my career in 2000. I have taught at over 20 different campuses in that time-frame as well. I am down to three now and have been for a while, but like many others, I stress over every semester and whether I will struggle to pay bills (including a student loan) and if I will be comfortable in my ability to balance my work life with that of a husband, 5 year old, and 7 year old special needs child.  

After my time at the University of Michigan-Flint, I see where we were and where we have yet to go. What do I deserve as long-running faculty member at a prestigious University? Will it be possible to be a Lecturer here and have that be my only job title? Can I do that and support my family? Will I ever move on to Lecturer III? Will someone value the education and hard-fought teaching experience I have developed in my career?

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?

[OUR RESPONSE TO ADMIN] This is not business as usual. The exploitation of Lecturers cannot continue.

On Monday, February 12, University of Michigan administration finally came to the bargaining table to give Lecturers a counterproposal on our salary ask. Administration’s proposal for alleviating the extreme economic burden that Lecturers bear – despite their vital contribution to the core mission of the university – was absolutely pitiful.

The response from Kirsten Herold – LEO’s Vice President, Contract Administrator on Ann Arbor campus, and bargaining team manager (i.e., Superwoman) – made it clear to administration’s bargaining team that this disgraceful treatment of Lecturers cannot stand. Read the transcription (created by LEO’s bargaining team notetaker, staff organizer, and laid-off Lecturer Alex Elkins) of her blistering, incisive response below. And remember as you read: We will get what we are organized to win. We’re mad, and we need to show up and declare as loudly as possible that we will not accept this. Let’s do it together.

________________________________

KH: All right, we’re not gonna thank you for your proposal. As far as we can tell your basic argument is you’ve exploited us for so long, you’re gonna keep exploiting us. You’re actually exploiting us more.

As I noted in my opening statement, in the last fourteen years, the salary minimums have gone up 11% in Ann Arbor, 14% in Dearborn, and 18% in Flint – and in that time period tuition has gone up about 90 percent. That means every year you make more money from our work. Our undergraduate students can expect to make much more than us – their first job offer is more than you pay us.

You talk about the market and what it can bear but there’s a lot of different ways to talk about the market. Universities have created the market. You turn out PhDs and then say we’re not gonna pay you. It’s completely disgusting. The numbers you gave us, the people here are insulted. Members who have – all they want to do is make $40,000 before they retire. Members cannot afford to have children. Members cannot afford to buy a home because under these salaries they can’t pay off their student debt. You bank on every year hiring 300 new people, a lot of turnover, and you bank on the fact that a lot of the people who stay long-term, they have a spouse who makes more money. You’re like Walmart — you’re expecting other area employers to subsidize your poor employment practices.

I’m going to respond to the specific pieces of your proposal.

You say minimums should go up. We agree with you on that. They need to go up a lot more than you offered.

As you put the annual raises, people will lose ground on their annual raises.

As far as long-term Lecturers, your statement that we’re not interested in equity adjustments and longevity raises, there are so many things you’re not interested in. It’s astonishing. Last time we bargained, you said you’re not interested in our proposals twenty-one times. People are literally losing money every year. We need to signal to you that wherever we end up on salary, long-term raises for people who’ve been here a long time will be part of the final package.

We’re gonna leave now. We’re not giving you Article XI. We’re extremely angry. This is not business as usual. That’s it.

[Lecturers stand up in unison and walk out]

What Kind of Future Do We Want?

A statement by Teia McGahey (recent graduate of the UM-Dearborn campus and part-time staff organizer for LEO)

As a recent graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, I’m deeply saddened by and ashamed of the way my home university is treating its Lecturers. I understand that this is a nationwide issue, reflecting a lot of the corporatization and privatization that is corrupting our values as a society, but as a leading institution, we have an obligation to do better.

In so many ways, I see this contract campaign as a fight against the corporatization of America. Universities across the nation are not only catering to private interests and wealthy people far more than the students and university community, but they are essentially becoming corporations themselves. They thrive off of extracting wealth from “customers,” also known as students, and exploiting the labor of Lecturers.

The skyrocketing tuition, defunding of essential services, and refusing to pay our educators a living wage are all symptoms of this problem. While our universities prefer to fund the more profitable parts of campuses, classrooms are being left in the dust. Our Lecturers, who spend most of their time in the classroom and teach the majority of classes at the school, are also being left in the dust. While their sole job is to educate and empower students, they aren’t the priority of our university anymore. So what are our priorities, then, if not students and Lecturers?

When our teachers are being underpaid the way they are today, we are essentially saying that what they do has no worth. I believe, as many do, that their work is the most valuable work that we have as a country. Without teachers, we don’t have schools, and without schools, we don’t have a future. If we don’t adequately support our educators, we won’t have a future. 

Our fate, as students, is inextricably linked to this battle in more ways than I can count. This issue is at the root of the majority of the problems we face in school and also outside of school. We have a duty to fight with our Lecturers so that they are treated and paid equitably for their work, and so that we have a future that isn’t terrifyingly cold and hopeless. 

Central Student Government Representative Frank Guzman’s Remarks to Administration on Friday, January 26, 2018

On Friday, January 26, administration’s bargaining team heard from Frank Guzman. Frank is an elected representative for the College of LSA to Central Student Government in Ann Arbor. Read Frank’s strong reflections on why he as a student believes that we must treat our educators with dignity and respect below. Frank also read aloud the resolution that was recently unanimously passed in Central Student Government in support of Lecturers’ fight for a fair contract.

LEO Speech (1)

LEO Speech (2)

LEO Speech (3).jpg

It’s in the Syllabus…

First of all, Happy Labor Day! If you’re anything like most lecturers we know, you’re probably laboring on wrapping up your syllabus today. If that’s the case, maybe we can all help each other out here. Writing a syllabus can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility:

In-the-syllabus_phd.comics_5.10.2013

If we had a nickel for every time we said “It’s in the syllabus” or, “did you check the syllabus?” or, “what does the syllabus say about that?” we’d all be very wealthy people. Likewise for every time we’ve grumbled about how little attention students sometimes pay the syllabus.

But maybe there’s a reason for the seemingly disproportionate attention to syllabi among students and instructors?

Here’s a terrific post by genre scholar Amy Devitt on what a syllabus does and can do. Some of her insights about underlying assumptions of the syllabus inspire me to take a breath, take a step back, and assess what my syllabus is actually doing. How can I make it more inclusive? More engaging? A better representation of the ethos of the course I want to create with and for my students?

Let’s use this space to share ideas and insights, and to ask each other questions, to troubleshoot as we get ready to step into the chute of the semester tomorrow. What do you do with your syllabi that you find particularly effective and engaging? How do you navigate the tension between Canvas (or other course sites, if you use another platform) and hard copy?