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University of Michigan graduate students demand pay raise

In the wake of the graduate workers’ strike at University of California, the graduate student union at the University of Michigan is clamoring for pay raises and other benefits from its university administration.

The Graduate Employee’s Organization (GEO) at the University of Michigan published an opinion editorial in the Michigan Daily student newspaper. The editorial outlined main demands of the GEO to the university administration. Demands include: “a living wage for all graduate workers,” hiring more staff to reduce wait times for transgender health care, higher childcare subsidies, an emergency fund for international graduate workers, minimum wage for graduate internships in social work, and a “community-based, non-violent emergency response program.”

GEO posted its full list of demands online, with the most pressing demand being a 60% pay raise for grad workers in the first year of a new contract.

Currently, part-time graduate student workers earn $24,050 per year, have health insurance with no monthly premium, a tuition waiver which covers up to $12,947 per semester for in-state students or up to $26,062 for out-of-state students, and have access to childcare subsidy of $3,043 per semester for one child or $6,631 per semester for three children or more.

But the union continued to apply public pressure to the University of Michigan to agree to pay raises in the name of fairness. GEO picketed outside the university’s administrative building on January 10 and carried signs which read, “We Show Up for A Living Wage.” On social media, GEO said, “There can be no DEI @UMich when some of their lowest paid employees i.e. grad workers are making  ~ 62% below the living wage.”

The union mentioned that it took issue with university administration’s approach to negotiations, where administrators allegedly placed limitations on public access to attending live negotiations. GEO claimed the university “has not seriously engaged with a single one of our substantive proposals” and said that it has submitted “over 50 proposals for changes to our contract.”

University of Michigan associate vice provost and senior director for academic human resources, Sascha Matish, said that GEO’s proposal for larger rooms to allow for spectators make “creative problem solving and frank discussions that occur in negotiations between the parties much more difficult.” Matish added, “The university is committed to bargaining in good faith with the union in order to reach agreement on a new contract that is good for the members of the bargaining unit and the university.”

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.