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Local News

U of M Grad Workers Continue to Strike While Appealing Ruling

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by Laina G. Stebbins, Michigan Advance

A ruling from a state administrative law judge on Monday has not stopped graduate workers at the University of Michigan from picketing in Ann Arbor this week, as the workers continue to seek higher pay, better services and more supports from the university by picketing through Friday.

On Monday, administrative law judge (ALJ) David Peltz ruled that the University of Michigan Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) AFT Local 3550 violated the no-strike clause in its current contract when the workers walked off the job on March 29.

Peltz then recommended that the full Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) order GEO to cease and desist violating its contract, effectively ordering the end of the strike. GEO is now appealing the ruling.

“It is unfortunate that the university is continuing to pursue the legal route rather than taking their ethical obligation to fix the myriad of problems that graduate students face seriously,” said Amir Fleischmann, GEO’s contract committee chair, while graduate workers picketed on U of M’s North Quad on Tuesday.

“We will appeal the ALJ’s recommended decision to the entire commission, until which time the order is not final. … No court can decide to suspend our strike as the decision to strike (or not) is up to the rank-and-file members of our Union.”

Fleischmann added that Monday’s bargaining session ended an hour early with no progress on key issues, giving grads “no choice” but to continue striking.

GEO is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), representing nearly 2,300 Graduate Student Instructors and Graduate Student Staff Assistants at the university.

Workers are striking for a living wage of $38,500 per year, protections from sexual harassment and discrimination, better mental health care and gender affirming care, and additional supports for parents, international student workers and disabled grads.

Graduate workers make up nearly 30% of all instructors at the University of Michigan.

A university spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This story was written by Laina Stebbins, a reporter for the Michigan Advance, where this story first appeared.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.