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University of Michigan graduate students continue strike after rejecting university’s offer

GEO members said offer did not meet demands

University of Michigan School of Education.
University of Michigan School of Education. (Credit: Dominick Sokotoff)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Graduate student instructors at the University of Michigan will continue their strike after rejecting an initial offer from the Ann Arbor university.

Update Sept. 17, 2020: University of Michigan graduate students accept school’s latest offer, end strike

On Wednesday night, more than 1,250 members of the University of Michigan’s Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO) gathered online to discuss the offer, according to a release.

A proposal by the university to end the strike was supported by GEO leadership, but members ultimately rejected the university’s offer saying that it did not meet their demands.

“Membership decided by an overwhelming majority that the university’s offer did not constitute continued progress on these demands,” the release states.

GEO members have been on strike since Tuesday, Sept. 8, protesting the university’s return to in-person learning.

“GEO members will continue to withhold labor over these demands and encourage our allies to join us on socially distanced in-person and remote picket lines,” the release states.

The strike was initially planned to last four days.

The strike has received support from undergraduate students, U-M resident advisors, Ann Arbor community members and student organizations from other universities. The University of Michigan’s Lecturers' Employee Organization (LEO) released a statement Monday saying that the COVID-19 testing plan is inadequate, and that they support GEO’s decision to strike.

Resident advisors and student residence hall staff at the university have also gone on strike demanding an increase in coronavirus protections.

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Earlier in the week the U-M released a statement stating that the strike violated GEO contracts and state law. It added that the union “has raised a number of issues that cannot be resolved as a matter of their contract or through a collective bargaining procedure."

On Thursday, the university released a more detailed response to GEO’s demands after its offer was rejected.

According to the university, its proposal addressed a number of issues raised by GEOs including the availability of COVID-19 supplies, providing more details regarding testing through its Campus Maize & Blueprint website, clarifying how graduate student instructors teaching in-person can address face-covering non-compliance, and temporarily enhancing student child care subsidies for this academic year.

The university also stated that some of the union’s demands are not subject to bargaining and that they would need to be part of a discussion with the larger U-M community.

Although the university filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union, its update states that it would withdraw the charge and not penalize employees involved in the strike if an agreement can be made and the strike ends.

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