U of M asks Washtenaw County Circuit Court to order striking GEO members to return to work

Sep 14, 2020
Originally published on September 16, 2020 6:27 am

Members of the Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO) at the University of Michigan have voted to continue their strike for another week. The university has called the strike a "profound disruption" to students' education, and has asked the Washtenaw County Circuit Court to order striking GEO members to return to work.

U of M filed a restraining order and preliminary injunction against GEO with the Wastenaw County Circuit Court. GEO leadership assured members that no individual is at risk because U of M filed an injunction, and promised to update its members as it has more information.

This comes after the school filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union last week.

Erin Markiewitz is the vice president of the GEO. She says striking members are aware of the legal situation and the risks that come with it. 

"We have been in conversations with AFT (American Federation of Teachers) lawyers, and are not willing to discuss the specifics. But we are very confident that we are mobilized, and our strike will continue forward in light of those legal proceedings," says Markiewitz.

Amir Fleischmann is the secretary for the GEO. He says the university has not made the union an offer since Wednesday.

"They still have a ways to go," he says. "Last Wednesday, our membership voted overwhelmingly to reject their offer, because it didn’t give us anything on our policing demands, and did not give us a real expansion of testing, which is one of the main things we’re looking for, which is super important for our entire community."

Markiewitz says the work graduate students do on campus is absolutely essential – and that is what makes the strike so effective.

"I think there’s always a concern during labor actions that they’ll bring in temp workers," says Markiewitz. "That said, graduate students are highly specialized labor that also receives a very low wage, so it’s very hard for us to replace us, especially given the current workload it takes to run in-person, hybrid, and online classes. So we're not necessarily concerned that temp labor will be able to overcome the obstruction graduate students are causing through striking."

Fleischmann says GEO members are energized, and have received a great deal of support from faculty, striking resident advisors, and dining hall employees.

Both Fleischmann and Markiewitz were guests on Stateside on Monday.

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