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University of Michigan president on student instructors strike: ‘Going to the court was our only choice’

President Schlissel announces legal action against union strike

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel (Photo: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy)
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel (Photo: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy)

ANN ARBOR – In a video message released on Monday afternoon, University of Michigan’s president Mark Schlissel revealed that the school has asked the courts to intervene with the ongoing graduate student instructors strike.

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

According to university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald, the move includes a “temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the union strike.”

Around 2,100 members of the school’s Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) have been on strike for nearly a week, calling on U-M’s leadership to ensure better protections from COVID-19 on campus. The group’s demands also include the defunding and disarming of U-M’s Division of Public Safety and Security, a universal remote work option and subsidies for child care.

The group rejected an initial offer by the university last week, saying it did not meet their demands.

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“Following the announcement that GEO will continue to strike and not teach for at least five more days, I made the very difficult decision to seek help from the courts so we can resume all of our remote and in person classes," Schlissel said in the video message.

Schlissel called the strike a “profound disruption to the education we’ve promised our undergraduate students.”

“The university is functioning like a business, rather than a public institution,” Kate Castle, a PhD student and steward for the sociology department told Local 4. “The way that they responded to COVID is very much like valuing profit over human lives.”

The strike has garnered national media attention as well as support from federal, state, and local government officials.

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