Wednesday, April 02, 2008

From the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) Blog

April 01, 2008


The Graduate Employees Organization/AFT at the University of Michigan pulled off a major coup last week, using a well-timed job action to convince administrators to reach a tentative agreement on a three-year contract. GEO members had voted overwhelmingly on March 22nd to execute a two-day walkout March 25th and 26th. This came five months into negotiations on a contract set to expire March 1, but that was extended twice.

On the morning of March 25th, graduate employees blocked the entrances to classroom buildings, and were first to arrive at two major construction sites, the Michigan Stadium and the Ross School of Business (I MARCHED AT ROSS!). Construction workers declining to cross the picket lines around these multi-million dollar projects quickly got management’s attention. So did shows of support for the GEO that came from faculty and students. UM went back to the table and before midnight, the two sides had come to an agreement.

At stake for the graduate student instructors (GSIs) were salary increases, health care and child care coverage. Seeking equity for all their members, the GEO membership emphasized the need to help one group in particular—those GSIs who worked the fewest hours and thus had the lowest income and fewest benefits to support them.

The final agreement featured:

**Salaries increases of 6.2 percent in the first year and 3.5 percent in the next two years. In the last year of the contract, the average GSI will make $17,395 for two semesters’ work.
**Increased mental health care coverage.
**Better health insurance coverage for all GSIs, even those working fewer than full-load hours.
**Full tuition waivers for all GSIs working 7.5 or more hours per week.
**More family-friendly policies, including increased childcare subsidies and six weeks of paid maternity leave.

For more about the settlement, go to

On Friday afternoon, we're headed to Detroit to march in solidarity with the American Axle workers, who've been on the line for 5+ weeks. I'm bringing (copies of) my mom's ancient songbooks, and have threatened my car that we're singing, damnit. I considered suggesting singing to the picketers, but I thought it would be too reminiscent of that Simpson's episode where Lisa gets the cheap braces, you know:

So we'll march day and night 'neath the big cooling towers.
They have the plant, but we have the power.

For the Axle workers, it's more like this song I found in "The People's Song Book":

I don't want your millions, mister;
I don't want your diamond ring.
All I want is the right to live mister;
Give me back my job again.