U-M grad student union approves university's offer, ends strike

Posted at 4:27 AM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-17 04:27:47-04

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — The University of Michigan Graduate Employees Union (GEO) voted Wednesday night and approved the university's second offer, ending the strike after more than a week amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the union, 1,074 members voted to accept the officer, 239 to reject it and 66 abstained.

The GEO represents graduate student instructors and staff assistants at the university. They voted to strike on Sept. 8 with several demands for U-M, including transparency for the university's plans for COVID-19, the ability for instructors to work remotely and others relating to police.

The university went to court this week, asking the Washtenaw County Circuit Court to require union members to return to work.

"In the face of our power, the University of Michigan decided to lean on a nearly hundred-year-old union-busting law to sue their own graduate students," the union said in a release. "President Mark Schlissel belittled our months of persistent negotiation and organizing as 'screaming' and tried to paint us as unreasonable, all while COVID-19 outbreak after outbreak on campus proved our fears for our community’s safety all too accurate."

According to the union, the accepted offer will include transparency surrounding COVID-19 testing protocols, pandemic childcare options, support for international grad students and others.

They also wanted the university to demilitarize the department of public safety, and end its relationship with other organizations. The union said the offer made "incremental but real movement" on the policing demands.

"We’re not giving up. We need each other still, and we need to show up where and when we’re called. We have built relationships of trust and support not only amongst ourselves, but with various other groups on this campus," the union added in the release.

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