University of Michigan lecturers demand higher salaries as contract ends

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Lecturers’ Employee Organization at the University of Michigan continues to lobby for higher salaries entering the final week under its current contract.

Some of the nearly 1,700 non-tenured faculty on each of UM’s three campuses crowded the university’s Board of Regents meeting last week in Dearborn, claiming the administration still hasn’t addressed what they believe to be low starting salaries and average salaries on the UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn campuses. 

Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering lecturer Roger Klungle said he has taught courses on the UM-Dearborn campus for 36 years – the last 10 in a full-time role – earning a salary of $42,000. 

Teaching either four or five courses per semester, Klungle said he and other long-time professors who teach graduate students and upper level undergrads bring much greater value to the university through tuition dollars than they are compensated for. 

“The last time I received a significant raise was about 20 years ago, based on a department survey of former graduate students,” Klungle said. “These students said that the number one strength of your program was your part-time faculty. It mentioned my name repeatedly along with other lectureres. As a result, the department gave us a 25 percent raise. It increased our per-course rate to a whopping $3,000. 

“Lecturers at Dearborn and Flint teach more than 50 percent of the student credit hours,” he added. “So I ask: Are we worth so little? You have the tremendous opportunity right now to end the current system of exploiting nontenure track.” 

Although the current contract expires early next week, most of the terms of the contract will remain in place as the two parties continue to work toward a deal, UM Spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said. Bargaining sessions are scheduled for Thursday, May 24, with additional sessions scheduled past the expiration of the contract on June 1 and June 7. 

University of Michigan sets deadline for lecturers union contract

UM recently offered increases to both the minimum salaries and the base salaries of existing lecturers it claims would raise average annual salaries over three years to an estimated $79,000 in Ann Arbor, $46,000 in Dearborn and $49,000 in Flint. 

UM’s bargaining website claims lecturers currently average an annual salary of $68,000 in Ann Arbor, $39,000 in Dearborn and $43,000 in Flint for eight months of teaching.  

The LEO says the administration’s use of an average salary to gauge the earnings of all its members is “a trick” to avoid addressing the numbers that accurately reflect the situation of lecturers on all three campuses.  

UM’s latest proposal, the LEO contends, would pay 30 percent of Flint and Dearborn lecturers a full-time rate of less than $40,000 per year. On the Ann Arbor campus, UM’s proposal would pay one in four faculty in Lecturer I, II, III and IV positions a full-time rate of less than $50,000 per year, the union said. 

Following its last bargaining session on May 18, the LEO said it remains committed to reaching a contract that recognizes the contributions made by lecturers on all three UM campuses.  

“As you know, we had a ‘Picnic for Fair Pay’ in Dearborn last week, because we’re calling attention to long-standing inequities at the Dearborn and Flint campuses,” the LEO indicated in a statement Monday, May 21. “For example, initiatives like UM’s ‘Diversity, Equity, Inclusion’ program and the Go Blue Guarantee are now available at the Ann Arbor campus only. 

“A better wage scale for lecturers on all three campuses is necessary to create a diverse, sustainable teaching and learning environment, with quality education for all UM students. Right now, poverty pay for lecturers teaching in Flint and Dearborn is disproportionately (impacting) students of color and working class students – exactly the opposite of what should be happening if we are committed to DEI principles.” 

UM-Flint Biology lecturer Danielle Potts said she currently earns a salary of $31,600 to teach full time – which isn’t enough to support herself and her 17-month-old daughter as a single mother. 

“I can pay my bills, but honestly, I cannot buy diapers or pay for daycare,” she said during last week’s Board of Regent meeting. “I’m also scared the courses I teach will be taken away from me due to low enrollment, causing me to lose my income. 

“If the university refuses to grant a real salary raise in this contract, that will mean leaving this establishment and potentially going to the local community college in Flint where I’d get paid more,” she added. 

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The university noted it has proposed raising minimum salaries by 30 percent over three years, with an increase of $10,500 in Ann Arbor and $8,700 in Flint and Dearborn.   

That would raise the minimum annual salary in the first year to $43,000 in Ann Arbor, $35,000 in Dearborn and $34,000 in Flint. In the third year of the contract, the minimums would increase to $45,000 in Ann Arbor, $37,000 in Dearborn and $36,000 in Flint.  

The university has proposed annual increases as follows: In the first year, on all three campuses, a guaranteed increase of at least 3 percent when taking into account equity and minimum salary increases. 

For Ann Arbor, in year two, the annual increase would be 2.5 percent and in year three, 3 percent. For Flint and Dearborn, annual increases in years two and three would be tied to the salary program for tenure-track faculty on their respective campuses, or 2 percent, whichever is higher.  

The LEO’s current five-year contract saw incremental raises ranging from zero percent in the first year of the contract in 2013 to 2.75 percent in 2017.