The graduate student union at the University of Michigan has voted to go on strike beginning Tuesday, the group announced Monday.
The Graduate Employees’ Organizations represents Graduate Student Instructors and Graduate Student Staff Assistants at Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan.
The four-day strike is protesting the university reopening for in-person classes during the coronavirus pandemic and has the potential to be reauthorized for a longer work stoppage. The union called the strike a “historic moment.”
The vote passes! GEO membership has authorized a strike, effective TOMORROW.
This is a historic moment: we are striking at the beginning of the year, in the midst of a pandemic, to protect our whole community.
IMPORTANT THREAD WITH NEXT STEPS: pic.twitter.com/oRm0PvNgPy
— GEO at U-Michigan (@geo3550) September 7, 2020
Nearly 80 percent of voters said they wanted to strike. The protesters are calling for increased coronavirus testing and contract tracing, support for employees who want to work remotely, subsidies for caregivers such as parents, and more support for international students, including the “repealing of the discriminatory, termly international student fee.” The group is also calling for a “demilitarized workplace,” decreased funding for campus police and ending “any and all ties” to law enforcement and other agencies like the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
“We highlight that GEO views our anti-policing demands as inseparable from our COVID demands,” the group said in a statement. “They are linked explicitly, through the University’s decision to expand the policing of our community in a perverse effort to enforce social distancing, and implicitly, through the ways the crises of the pandemic and racist policing both disproportionately affect the most vulnerable among us. Policing and surveillance are not ‘public health-informed;’ they are harmful to physical and mental health.”
The strike saw support both online and from the University of Michigan Lecturers’ Employee Organization.
“After weeks of futile negotiations, GEO members have decided to go on strike. GEO leaders, in turn, have chosen to use that tool to pressure the Administration to take their demands more seriously,” said LEO President Ian Robinson in a statement. “Like our graduate student colleagues, LEO condemns the way the Administration has mismanaged the return to classes this Fall: employees, including Lecturers, were not properly consulted; information about the Fall plan, and internal disagreements over it, have been withheld; and the testing regime in place appears inadequate to the task of keeping students and employees safe.”
We stand together with labor struggles on this Labor Day and every day! https://t.co/n379wCB5JS
— Marquette Academic Workers Union (@MarquetteUnion) September 7, 2020
Solidarity with the Michigan @geo3550 from a former member of the @LEOUnionUmich ✊ As a Michigan undergrad in 2005, friends & I stood on the GEO picket line in support of their 1 day strike—a more foundational educational experience than any class I missed could offer https://t.co/VGUy3gJI8x
— Emily Hilliard (@hey_emhilly) September 7, 2020
1. a virtual picket offering various possible actions, like contacting U of M president https://t.co/LJRIqEjLUB
— Adan Quan (@aquandiary) September 7, 2020
GEO said it will hold an emergency meeting Monday to discuss next steps and “any new offers from the university.”
Jordyn Pair is a reporter with The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair.