published : 2023-08-26

UMich Graduate School Strike Concludes as Semester Approaches

Strike spanning over 5 months concludes after a landmark contract approval

A determined group of graduate instructors holding placards showcasing their demands, taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

After an arduous five-month standoff, the strike by the University of Michigan's graduate student instructors has finally ended, following the approval of a contract just mere days before the commencement of a new academic year.

This newly ratified deal promises annual salary increases of 8%, 6% and 6% over the next three years on the Ann Arbor campus, not to mention a sweetener of a $1,000 bonus.

"We endured over 10 grueling months of negotiation and five months of relentless strike action, compelling U-M to agree on the largest salary increase in the history of GEO," the Graduate Employees’ Organization declared triumphantly on social media last Thursday night.

A photo of a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor campus building in the backdrop of sunrise, symbolising new beginnings and hopes, taken with Nikon D850

To be sure, the fairness of the strike had been subjected to legal scrutiny, with a ruling that found UMich grad student strike to have been unjust.

The contract was met with an overwhelming approval of 97% from voting members. The union stands as the representative for approximately 2,300 people across the Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn campuses, albeit not all of them initiated the strike back in March.

"There’s something deeply satisfying in finally having a new contract," expressed elaborated university negotiator Katie Delong.

University President Santa Ono, holding a cello, in a deep thought, with a blurred background of an empty auditorium, taken with Sony Alpha a7 III

Under the terms of this contract, by its third year, instructors in Ann Arbor will, on an annual basis, earn up to $29,190, whereas graduate student instructors in Flint and Dearborn will see wages of $26,670 appear on their paychecks thanks to a distinct cluster of raises.

The strike found its inception toward the end of winter term in March. The university had recently issued a statement warning that the instructors risking their jobs if fail to return to work by fall term, that is slated to begin Monday respectively.

Undeniably, moments of tension have characterized the strike. Notably, University President Santa Ono, a cello aficionado, took the decision to cancel his April guest performance with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, amid worries that the picketers might cause disturbance to the concert.