University of Michigan graduate employees hold sit-in over contract

ANN ARBOR, MI – Members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization at the University of Michigan are making it clear they want to see better progress in contract negotiations with administration by holding a sit-in Tuesday, March 28, at the Fleming Administrative Building.

The sit in was meant to catch the attention of the university, GEO member and UM graduate student Rachel Miller said, claiming four months of negotiations have not yielded satisfactory progress.

“We are here today in order to make it clear to the university that the university works because we do,” said Miller, a labor historian in UM’s Department of American Culture. “Graduate students currently provide 23 percent of all contact hours in the university. We’re a huge part of the teaching of this institution and many of us are really dedicated to that.”

Since December, the union and the university have been unable to reach consensus on issues like wage increases, work hours and a cap on health insurance copayments.

The union, which represents around 1,800 graduate student instructors and graduate student assistants at UM, is looking for wage increases of 5.5 percent in the first two years of a new deal and a 6 percent increase in the third year, President John Ware said, to keep up with cost of living increases in Ann Arbor.

Union members have received 2 percent pay increases annually over the last four years of their current contract, which expires at the end of April.

“We made some progress early on, but we’re pretty frustrated with the way the university is approaching the negotiations,” Ware said. “They don’t seem to be approaching it in the spirit of dialogue or problem solving.

“As of last week they are actually refusing to make any counter offer at all,” he added. “That’s why we are out here trying to get their attention and unstick the bargaining process.”

UM Spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen said the university’s current proposal for a new three-year deal include wage…

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