GEO members have voted overwhelmingly to strike, with 95% voting in favor of a work stoppage. After four months of being stonewalled at the bargaining table by the University of Michigan, Members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization AFT Local 3550 sent a clear message to the administration: We are serious about winning a living wage, affordability, and dignity for all grad workers. According to President Jared Eno, “grad workers voted to strike in large numbers because we know a better University is possible. U-M has the resources to pay its workers a living wage, to protect marginalized workers – like parents, international grads, and transgender workers – and guarantee our well-being and safety.”

The vote authorizes GEO’s leadership to call a strike. Graduate workers will bargain with Academic Human Resources today (March 24th).

The strike vote is a response to U-M’s refusal to adequately address the affordability crisis facing GEO members. Graduate students have witnessed the gap between the cost of living and their salary nearly triple over the past three years, to almost $14.5k in 2022. With 80 percent of graduate workers rent-burdened, consuming as much as 30 percent of their salary, graduate workers are struggling to meet their needs on the current stipend. Without a living wage, as well as additional support for the extra costs parents, international workers, and disabled workers bear, graduate school at U-M is inaccessible to anyone who isn’t independently wealthy. According to GEO Contract Chair Amir Fleischmann, “I’ve spoken to countless grad workers who are skipping meals and rationing medication just to get by. The Administration should be embarrassed that it’s put so many of its workers and students in this situation.”

Despite this stark reality, the University persits in offering ‘raises’ below the rate of inflation, continuously failing to make serious offers that match the serious issues graduate workers face. No progress has been made on many other critical issues, ranging from transitional funding for survivors of harassment; to better and more affordable mental healthcare;to funding for an unarmed, non-violent police alternative on campus; and to a more accessible and adequate childcare subsidy. The University’s representatives have flatly rejected all of these proposals. HR’s refusal to problem-solve at the table have pushed negotiations past the March 1 deadline for a new contract, rendering graduate workers little choice but to strike.

GEO Vice President, Ember McCoy noted that “This is not a step that grad workers take lightly, but the University has for months totally failed to adequately address the serious problems grads are facing. Our members are fed up and ready to fight.” Grads have long-argued that our bargaining platform will create better learning conditions for U-M students and help the University attract high-quality graduate students. “The Administration can avert a strike and keep its students and workers back in the classroom anytime it wants”, McCoy said, “they have the power and the resources, but do they have the will?”

Press Contact: Amir Fleischmann (he/him); – (734) 476-4632


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