The Graduate Workers of Columbia organizing committee stands in solidarity with members of GEO 3550 at the University of Michigan who are currently striking for a safe and just pandemic response from their administration. U-M’s administration has chosen to ignore its own Ethics and Privacy Committee’s warnings about campus reopening, and has consistently refused to respond substantively to the concerns raised by GEO and other U-M campus groups. U-M must do more to protect vulnerable members of its community. We want to emphasize particularly how GEO’s demands reflect the fact that the fight for fair labor practices is inseparable from the fight against racism and public health measures in this pandemic. U-M has expanded its use of policing in response to the pandemic, which unnecessarily exacerbates the threats and harms faced by Black and brown members of the U-M community. We wholeheartedly support and stand with our fellow workers at GEO as they make the following demands.

COVID-19 Demands

  • For the whole community, sufficient, transparent, robust plans for testing, contact tracing, and campus safety.
  • For graduate employees, a universal right to work remotely without documentation, resources for remote work, better representation in the decision-making processes of the university surrounding health measures, and access to the health models motivating current policy.
  • For parents and caregivers, care subsidy regardless of a care provider’s license status and location and the age of those who need care; allow for healthcare plans to be maintained and available even during leaves of absence taken by anyone, at no extra cost
  • For international students, better International Center support and the repeal of the $500 international student fee and document shipping fee.
  • For graduate students, unconditional support in the form of extensions to degree timelines and funding, a $2,500 unconditional emergency grant, rent freezes and flexible leases for on-campus housing.

Anti-Policing Demands

  • Access to a disarmed and demilitarized workplace, where lethal weapons are prohibited, our security services do not receive military funding, there is transparency around the use of surveillance technology, there is a standard of force for campus police, and no one faces retaliation for being unable to work due to police presence.
  • The defunding of the Division of Public Safety and Security (DPSS), involving a cut of 50% of their annual budget and a reallocation of the funds to community-based justice initiatives.
  • Finally, we demand U-M cut all ties with police, including Ann Arbor Police Department (AAPD) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The U-M have described these reasonable demands as “not financially feasible.” Finances should not be put ahead of worker safety. We call upon the University of Michigan administration to fulfill these reasonable demands. It is the duty of U-M administration to provide a safe and just working environment for its academic employees – a duty that they are failing to meet at present. We also call on the University of Michigan not to retaliate against striking workers who are taking this action for the benefit of the U-M community.

In solidarity and care,

Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW, Organizing Committee