U-M's grad student instructors are not fucking around, voting to go on strike over Labor Day weekend amid coronavirus concerns

click to enlarge STEVE PEPPLE, SHUTTERSTOCK
Steve Pepple, Shutterstock

Isn't it ironic: The University of Michigan celebrated Labor Day by reminding its graduate students that, as public employees, they were not allowed to strike.


How did we get here? Over the weekend, members of the Graduate Employees' Organization labor union — which represents more than 2,000 of U-M's graduate student employees, including instructors and instructor assistants — called a four-day strike amid concerns about the coronavirus, which has already sickened at least 36 students and 22 non-students on the campus just as the new school year begins. Last week's Metro Times cover story looked at concerns students, parents, and teachers had regarding the new school year at U-M and Detroit Public Schools Community District, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise on school campuses.

According to a press release, 79 percent of GEO voters supported the work stoppage. It began at midnight on Tuesday.

"This is an historic moment," GEO said in a statement. "GEO membership has voted to strike in the middle of a pandemic at the beginning of the academic year, and is prepared to withhold our labor in pursuit of a safe and just campus for all."

GEO is calling for a ramped-up coronavirus safety response on campus, including expanded testing, contact tracing, remote learning, and rent freezes at U-M housing, among other demands.

The strike follows news that Ron Weiser, chair of the school's Board of Regents, who also happens to be one of Ann Arbor's biggest landlords and a billionaire megadonor of President Donald Trump, pushed for the school to reopen despite the raging pandemic — even greasing the wheels with a $30 million gift in the days ahead of U-M's decision to reopen.

We're haunted by what one U-M student told us in our cover story: "I've kind of realized that Ann Arbor isn't always as liberal as everyone wants it to be."

The strike is expected to continue until Friday, with the potential for reauthorization if U-M does not meet GEO's demands.

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About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland "Lee" DeVito grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, where he read Metro Times religiously due to teenaged-induced boredom. He became a contributing writer for Metro Times in 2009, and Editor in Chief in 2016. In addition to writing, he also supplies occasional illustrations. His writing has been published...
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