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University of Michigan pushes back against graduate student strike

university of michigan grad students marching
Members of the Graduate Student Organization (GMO) went on strike Wednesday seeking better pay and benefits from the University of Michigan. (Photo courtesy Amir Fleischmann)
  • University of Michigan graduate students went on strike Wednesday morning demanding a 60 percent pay increase. 
  • The University filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union representing the grad students 
  • The next bargaining meeting between the two parties will take place on Friday

April 10: Judge declines to order University of Michigan grad students back to work

The University of Michigan filed an unfair labor practice charge against the University’s Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), the union representing graduate student workers, after it went on strike Wednesday morning in protest for better wages and changes to healthcare benefits among other issues.

“Beyond any legal considerations is an ethical one: if collective bargaining is to retain its value, all parties must honor the terms of the contract they signed,” Rick Fitzgerald, interim vice president for communications at the University of Michigan, said in a press release. “We urge GEO to reconsider its breach of the agreement we reached through good faith collective bargaining.”


Earlier this month The Graduate Employee Organization also filed unfair labor practice charges against the university with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, accusing U-M of not bargaining mandatory issues and a lack of transparency. 

“All of our members are fighting for …  things like smaller class sizes, which directly benefit undergraduates and to have more secure lives so that we don’t have to be worried about making rent or affording groceries and can be focused on doing the teaching and research that we love doing,” Amir Fleischmann, chair of the contract committee for GEO, told Bridge. 

The GEO held a press conference at Hatcher Library Wednesday after launching the strike. 

“We’re not asking for much,” Jared Eno, president of GEO and a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and public policy, said at the press conference. “ We’re just asking for a living wage, affordability and basic dignity in our workplaces.” 

The union group is seeking a 60 percent pay raise for members from an annual salary of about $24,000 to about $38,000

The union, which represents over 1,315 UM graduate student instructors (GSIs) and graduate student staff assistants (GSSAs), voted to authorize the strike with 95 percent approval. 

Negotiations between the university and the union have been continuous since November. Both parties met twice just days before the strike.

“Our focus remains on continuing instruction for our students and achieving an agreement with GEO through the negotiation process,” Fitzgerald said.

Though GSIs and GSSA have refused to grade assignments and hold office hours for the undergraduate classes they teach during the strike, the university says classes will continue as scheduled. The spring semester will end on April 23. 

 “The next bargaining session is scheduled for Friday and the university remains ready to meet at any time,” Fitzgerald said. The current contract will expire on May 1. 

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