Graduate student instructors at the University of Michigan are on strike today.  University administrators say the action is illegal and also violates their contract. The U of M student instructors say the threat of the COVID-19 virus is too great and the University is not doing enough to stop the spread of the virus. There’s another side to this. The student-instructor union at the U of M is also demanding the University cut its law enforcement budget by 50%.  The 1,000-member student-instructor union is also calling for an end to cooperative efforts between the U of M law enforcement department and Ann Arbor Police. The student instructors also demand no cooperation between the U of M and the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE.

The University is continuing operations including classes, in spite of the strike. The student instructors voted on the strike call Monday. 79% were voting in favor of the action. A statement from the union says it is a historic action and members are striking, “…in pursuit of a safe and just campus for all.” The union, called the Graduate Employees Organization, is releasing a position paper that indicates, it began its move in this direction over the summer.  “The demands were presented in an open letter to University of Michigan administrators, which was signed by over 1,800 graduate workers and community members.”  The union claims the University administration issued, “…an insubstantial reply in response.”

Even though many of the University classes have shifted to online, graduate student instructors have been a key element of the U of M teaching program. Yesterday's open-air protests included strikers chanting under the cover of umbrellas as they marched in the rain at the Ann Arbor campus. One of them posting on Twitter, “I do not want my students and colleagues to get a chronic illness because this university decided it was most important to collect tuition.” The union leadership approved the strike to run through Friday. But the union threatens to continue the strike if the University administration does not respond in what the union thinks is acceptable.

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