University of Michigan residence hall staff strike, demand increase in coronavirus protections

‘We will not be patronized and pushed around by the University of Michigan anymore’

East Quadrangle Residential Halls on University of Michigan's campus in Ann Arbor. (Photo: All About Ann Arbor)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Student residence hall staff at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor have gone on strike over what they say are insufficient coronavirus protections.

The strike, which started on Tuesday, Sept. 8, is happening alongside a strike by U-M graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants protesting the university’s return to in-person education.

According to a news release, the student workers have several demands relating to the university’s coronavirus protections and policy enforcement including:

  • Regular access to testing for all of residence staff
  • Sufficient and effective personal protective equipment for staff and students
  • Enforcement of social distancing and face coverings inside and outside of residence and dining halls
  • Hiring and staffing to normal capacity for all facilities and housing teams
  • Hazard pay for residence staff
  • Formal no retaliation statement from U-M Housing Administration if a ResStaff Union is formed

Find the list of residence hall staff demands here.

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"This was not an easy or hastily-made decision. We recognize the impact that a ResStaff strike will have on our residents, and it was our biggest reason for not striking during move-in. However, we have reached a breaking point,” the release states, saying that communication with U-M Housing has been slow and ineffective.

"We have tried the official methods that we have access to, but it is clear that Housing is not engaging with us in good faith and has given us all that they are willing to give. It is only by leveraging our power and our unity that we can make the dorms and this campus a safer place for students and staff.”

Through the release, student residence staff detailed their concerns starting with a lack of sanitation materials, guidance and policy enforcement during move-in week on Aug. 24 when University of Michigan students began returning to campus.

Before returning, students were to test for COVID-19 and to show proof of a negative test result. The release states that staff were not made aware that they needed to check student test results and had no way to log results.

Residence staff said that there has been a lack of enforcement of social distancing policies in campus dining halls, and they have been informed to enforce the policies themselves, according to the release.

“We will not be patronized and pushed around by the University of Michigan anymore. We are the students they promised to keep safe. We are putting our lives on the line for a University that shows us every day how little it cares for us, and we will stand for it no longer,” staff said in the release.

Michigan Housing has professional and student staff working in the resident halls.

Through email, senior associate director of Michigan Housing Amir Baghdadchi said while some student staff have decided to strike, other resident advisors plan to continue their duties.

“Our student staff have a critical job to do, so we take all concerns seriously. Through forums and meetings since the beginning of the term, we have gathered input and have already addressed a number of requests, such as providing additional PPE,” said Baghdadchi.

“Our student staff care deeply about their communities, and they care about safety. We share those same priorities, and look forward to coming to a better understanding, to support our residents.”


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About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.