On the Line

Student workers at the University of Michigan head into the summer without a contract.

At the end of March, graduate student workers at the University of Michigan rejected a 5 percent raise—which, taking inflation into account, effectively would have amounted to a pay cut—and walked out on strike for the second time in three years. The nearly 2,400 workers, represented by the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO), American Federation of Teachers Local 3550, are demanding, among other things, a living wage of $38,537 per year, standardized hiring practices, and increased childcare subsidies. The workers are now entering their third month on strike, with graduations having come and gone and a grade strike subsiding, and still without pay, which the university docked. At Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the strike has surfaced tensions between the college’s mission and its actions.

This is in part due to the strength and longevity of the labor action, which GEO leadership took measures to ensure. Most notably, it adopted an open bargaining model (meaning that all bargaining meetings are open to members of the unit, allowing th…

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