As a new school year looms, U of M presents striking graduate workers with final contract offer ⋆

A five-month strike by graduate student employees at the University of Michigan could come to a resolution just before the start of the fall semester next week.

University administration released its “last, best and final” contract offer to the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) on Aug. 21 addressing several areas of concern to the union, including pay raises, parental leave and resources for employees with disabilities.

The GEO is set to meet Monday night to consider ratifying the contract offer, according to an email from union president Jared Eno. University of Michigan Provost Laurie McCauley said in a statement that the offer on the table is a “historic” proposal of support for graduate employees by the university.

“The university provided the union with an offer that is historic and wide-ranging in its compensation, benefits and enhancements,” McCauley said. “It is our belief that this proposal is more than sufficient to make a positive vote for a tentative agreement by GEO members a clear-cut decision.”

Salary increases offered by the university in the proposed contract would include a 20% raise over three years for Ann Arbor campus employees, alongside 10.5% and 9% raises for employees at the university’s Dearborn and Flint satellite campuses, respectively. 

Parity between the three campuses has been a long-time priority of the union, something that GEO officer Amir Fleischmann said is an aspect of the latest offer the members may want to see improvement upon before ratification. 

“There are some areas where I think it’s still coming up short,” Fleischmann said. “That includes the issue of pay parity for Dearborn and Flint and eliminating low-hour contracts.”

Additional offers of commitment to GEO priorities have been made outside of the bargaining process, including expansions to Ph.D. funding programs and a pledge from university President Santa Ono to make a statement in support of an unarmed non-police program on campus. 

As for whether or not an agreement will be reached before the beginning of the school year, Fleischmann said he’s cautiously optimistic.

“I think we’re pretty close to an agreement,” Fleischmann said. “I think this looks pretty good, but there are still a few areas where it’s not there, and whether that’s make or break is going to be up to the members.”

It’s unclear what would happen in the event that an agreement is not reached before the fall semester begins on Aug. 28, but McCauley said she’s hopeful an agreement will make for a “harmonious” term. 

“As much as the union and the university have been at odds regarding various aspects of negotiations, I respect the work, tenacity, and organization it requires for a union to run and complete a successful negotiation,” McCauley said. “The end result is the possibility of a contract that will offer graduate students a spectrum of substantial support for years to come.”

Fleischmann said the offered contract’s provisions for employees seeking gender-affirming healthcare or disability resources, as well as the creation of a program offering financial assistance to employees attempting to leave a toxic workplace relationship, are a reflection of the values the union hopes will become standard on campus. 

“We’ve been fighting for a University of Michigan that is really a public university for everyone, where anyone can come and thrive as a grad student, no matter their social identity or economic class,” Fleischmann said. “I think their contract that we have on the table gets us a good deal closer to achieving that goal, even if it’s not all the way.”



authored by Lily Guiney
First published at

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