Residence Hall Staff and Grad Students at U of Michigan On Strike

Residence hall staff and graduate students at the University of Michigan are on strike due to lack of coronavirus health protections on campus. The grad students and residence hall staff began separate strikes on the same day, Sept. 8.  

Residence hall staff have several demands, including regular access to testing for all residence hall staff, providing sufficient PPE to all staff and students, enforcement of social distancing and face coverings inside and outside of residence halls, hiring and staffing to normal capacity for all facilities, and more transparency and communication with staff.

“We will not be patronized and pushed around by the University of Michigan anymore,” a press release states. “We are the students they promised to keep safe. We are putting our lives on the line for a University that shows us every day how little it cares for us, and we will stand for it no longer.”

The resident hall staff cite many problems in the area of housing. When students began moving in on Aug. 12, blue bins used to move furniture into dorms were not sanitized and cleaning materials were not available to staff. Testing for COVID-19 was inconsistent, with some students not being tested at all while others tested only after they moved in.

The university’s newspaper reports some of the residential advisors participating in the strike will stop work and their participation looks different from residence hall to residence hall. RA’s choosing to participate will not staff mailrooms or community centers and will not perform duty shifts.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, the union who represents thousands of graduate student instructors and staff assistants at UM, voted to strike to protest the university’s fall reopening plans. This is the first GEO strike since 1975.

The grad students are demanding the right to work remotely and protection from hiring discrimination for those who wish to work remotely, more transparency in plans for the fall semester amid the pandemic, and cutting funds from campus police. The strike is slated to end on Friday but could be reauthorized.

“We see our policing demands and pandemic demands as inseparable,” secretary of GEO, Amir Fleischmann, told a local newspaper. “The university has shown how connected these are by in their reopening plans, seeking to expand cooperation with law enforcement, even as there are uprising against racist police all over the country.”

On Thursday, the union rejected a deal from administrators in a membership meeting Wednesday night.  

About the Author

Yvonne Marquez is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].