Detroit Today: University of Michigan in labor dispute with graduate students

“We’re just trying to peg our pay to inflation and the local costs of living,” says the president of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor’s graduate union, Jared Eno.

Santa Ono stands in front of a University of Michigan sign

Santa Ono is introduced as the new president of the University of Michigan, Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Ann Arbor. Ono becomes UM's 15th president and its first minority and Asian chief executive — the son of Japanese immigrants who came to the United States after World War II. The 59-year-old Ono has led the University of British Columbia for nearly six years after guiding the University of Cincinnati for four years.

On top of learning and earning higher degrees, graduate students do a lot for universities. They help teach students, lead seminars, grade papers and often conduct research alongside tenured professors.

In late March, the University of Michigan Ann Arbor graduates went on strike.  Among their demands, they are seeking a livable wage of at least $38,500 a year.

The strike comes after the union’s Graduate Employees’ Organization had a big win. The University of Michigan administrators lost an injunction it had requested in court, in which it claimed the union’s strike was illegal because it breached their contract.

University of Michigan spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald responded to graduate student union demands with the following statement:

“Instead of working toward real compromise, the Graduate Employees’ Organization has refused to move from its insistence on a 60% raise — a compensation demand that is vastly out of step with wage increases for all other employee groups — and instead opted to violate its own contract and state law and walk off the job.

“The university is eager to negotiate and get to a contract. That requires long hours at the bargaining table and real compromise. We’re prepared for that, and we call on the union to join us.”

Listen: Why University of Michigan graduate students have been on strike.


Jared Eno is a graduate student at the University of Michigan and the president of the Graduate Employees’ Organization union. He says inflation has made graduate student life almost impossible as graduate students can’t afford basic things, including housing, food and transit.

“The gap between what we are paid and the local cost of living has tripled during the current life of our contract, which was the last three years,” says Eno.

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