University of Michigan lecturers stage sit-in as their labor contract expires

Published: Apr. 20, 2018 at 2:33 PM EDT
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(4/20/2018) - The labor contract for lecturers at the University of Michigan's three campuses expired Friday with little hope of a new deal being worked out.

The Lecturer's Employee Organization, which represents about 1,700 non-tenure track instructors in Flint, Ann Arbor and Dearborn, occupied a floor of the Fleming Administration Building in Ann Arbor to protest for higher wages.

Students and other supporters joined lecturers during the protest. The union had planned to strike beginning April 16, but called it off after negotiations last weekend began showing signs of promise.

The union released a statement just after the sit-in began at 1:30 p.m., saying its members want a fundamental change in how the university treats lecturers to account for how the role of lecturers has changed over the years.

Currently, starting pay for lecturers on the Flint campus is $27,300, which falls below what the United Way has calculated as a basic needs budget for a family of three or four in Genesee County.

However, lecturers teach half of the classes in Flint.

University negotiators offered higher wage increases last week, but the union says they are not enough. The union has said the university ended the last two fiscal years with budget surpluses of more than $500 million, which is more than enough to cover the wage increases they want.

The administration "expects us to settle soon without more than marginal improvements to its current offer. But that expectation is neither realistic nor fair, and it is not going to happen," the union statement says.

The union says lecturers 20 years ago generally were teachers with other full-time jobs in their career fields, newly minted doctoral graduates or spouses of sought-after tenured professors. Most universities had few lecturers.

Nowadays, lecturers teach half of the classes in Flint and Dearborn, as the university has relied more on them rather than create more tenure-track positions. With fewer tenured professorships available, people who want to teach college students often rely on being lecturers.

"We want the Administration to recognize that being a Lecturer can and ought to be a financially viable career option," the union statement says.

University of Michigan spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen did not directly respond to points made in the union's statement. She offered a brief statement reading, "The university continues to bargain in good faith this afternoon and next week with (the) LEO."