Univ. of Mich grad employees

Charles Brown CharlesB at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Mon Mar 15 14:02:45 PST 1999

>From The Detroit Sunday Journal (paper of striking newspaper workers)

Strike, sweatshop at U-M forefront

By Michael Betzold Journal Staff Writer

Two labor issues at the University of Michigan were heading toward a showdown late last week. A two-day walkout by graduate student instructors caused some classes to be canceled last week, and members of GEO (Graduate Employees Organization) planned a walkout for Monday if last-minute bargaining didn't produce a settlement of a new contract.

Another student group, SOLE (Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality), was turning up the heat on its anti-sweatshop campaign. It hoped to use a rally held Friday to pressure the U-M administration to implement a strict code of conduct for apparel manufacturers licensed to use the university logo.

The GEO walkout, which came in the middle of midterm exams, lasted all day Wednesday and was continued Thursday morning. Several hundred GEO members staffed picket lines; GEO leaders said many classes were canceled. University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said most classes were held as scheduled.

The 1,700 graduate instructors at U-M teach about a third of undergraduate class hours. They are seeking pay increases to cover high living costs in Ann Arbor.

Negotiations between GEO and U-M officials took place late Wednesday and again on Thursday. GEO negotiators were optimistic that bargaining could avert the indefinite walkout planned to start Monday.

SOLE's Peter Romer-Friedman said U-M officials have informally agreed to a strong code of conduct that would end sweatshop abuses. But SOLE wants a promise that the university would demand changes in conduct within a year or discontinue its licensing agreements. As anti-sweatshop protests have swept the country in recent weeks, other universities have agreed to such deadlines.

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