U-M grad student worker strike continues; judge won’t end walkout
- A Washtenaw County judge opted out of ordering University of Michigan graduate students to end a strike that started last week
- The university argues the graduate student union strike is causing irreparable harm to the university
- A hearing is scheduled for next week
ANN ARBOR — The University of Michigan graduate student workers will continue to strike after a judge on Tuesday opted against ordering an end to the work stoppage.
The strike began Wednesday and continues after Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Carol Kuhnke opted against issuing an injunction or temporary restraining order following arguments between lawyers for U-M and the Graduate Employees’ Organization.
“I don't agree that the university has yet demonstrated irreparable harm,” Kuhnke said. “I will give the university the opportunity to do that by way of an evidentiary hearing.”
- University of Michigan sues graduate union over strike, bargaining continues
- University of Michigan pushes back against graduate student strike
- University of Michigan graduate student workers vote to strike
- University of Michigan graduate workers set to begin strike Wednesday
Kuhnke has scheduled another hearing for April 10.
As with many universities, U-M relies on graduate students to teach classes. The dispute centers around pay and other benefits.
Ahead of the hearing, graduate student union members and supporters marched from campus to the courthouse in downtown Ann Arbor in purple ponchos. Many also attended the hearing.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” Amir Fleischmann, chair of the GEO contract committee and member of the bargaining team, told Bridge after the hearing. He said the next bargaining session with the university is on Wednesday.
A university spokesperson did not immediately respond to comment.
The university wants the court to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. It alleges that striking breaks the rules of the labor contract with the union, violates Michigan law and irreparably harms the students, their families, the university and the public.
Craig Schwartz, representing the university, said if the strike continues, classes won’t be taught, students won’t receive tutoring or their grades, and that they will experience additional rent and child care costs.
He urged the judge to consider the “direness of the situation.”
Mark Cousens, representing the union, said the court proceedings do not help the union and university come to a collective bargaining agreement. Additionally, he said, as of Tuesday, whether tutoring sessions and final grades happen is “speculative.”
“The union’s perspective is that the strike was forced upon it, not a matter of choice,” Cousens said. “It was their only response to the employer’s unfair labor practices.”
Both the university and the union have filed allegations of unfair labor practices to the state.
The two groups have been bargaining since November 2022.
The union wants a 60 percent pay raise in year one of its new contract, which would increase pay for grad students who teach in the fall and spring from about $24,000 a year to about $38,000.
The university is proposing an 11.5 percent increase over three years, with a 5 percent raise in the first year, a 3.5 percent increase the following year and a 3 percent increase the year after.
There are about 2,200 graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants who teach or co-teach a class at the university, the university said in court filings. The union has 1,315 members from both classifications.
Classes are set to end April 18.
See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:
- “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
- “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
- “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.
If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!