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U of M graduate employees go on strike, higher pay a key demand

A rally of grad students on a rainy day on U of M's campus. Several people stand in the front, facing the crowd with a sign that reads "U-M Works Because We Do, GEO"
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Striking University of Michigan graduate employees rally on the Ann Arbor campus after walking off the job Wednesday.

Striking graduate students waved signs and chanted as they crossed the Ann Arbor campus Wednesday.

The university’s graduate employees perform numerous academic jobs on the Ann Arbor campus. Members of the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) walked off those jobs Wednesday morning.

The union and the university are at odds over several contract issues.

The GEO’s main demand is a big pay increase. Graduate employees on the Ann Arbor campus make roughly $24,000 a year. The union wants the average wage increased to closer to $38,000. Union leaders say that would be a “living wage” in Ann Arbor. U of M is offering a smaller pay hike.

“We care about our students, and we want to do that work,” Jared Eno, president of the Graduate Employees Organization told hundreds of grad students who rallied on the university Diag Wednesday, “But we can’t do it if we’re worrying about whether we’ll be able to afford our rent or food to eat.”

University President Santa Ono issued a statement before the walkout which read, in part, “a strike would needlessly hurt undergraduate students.”

The university has said classes on the Ann Arbor campus will go on as scheduled. A university spokesman said the strike violates the current union contract that remains in place until May 1.

Both the university and the union have filed unfair labor practice charges against each other with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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