University of Michigan faces student strikes over COVID safety

Graduate employees also demand cuts to police funding, demilitarization
By: | September 11, 2020
COVID policies and policing have led to strikes by graduate students and R.A.'s at the University of Michigan. (GettyImages/Andy Sacks)COVID policies and policing have led to strikes by graduate students and R.A.'s at the University of Michigan. (GettyImages/Andy Sacks)

R.A.s, graduate student employees and some student dining staff at the University of Michigan have gone on strike this week over COVID safety precautions.

The resident advisers went on strike first, saying in a press release cited by The Michigan Daily, that the university had not responded to their concerns about adequate COVID testing, insufficient personal protective equipment and an inability to enforce social distancing and guest restrictions.

“Failing to adhere to social distancing practices should result in real consequences such as a note on student’s permanent record/transcript that can be seen by future employers or academic institutions,” the R.A. press release says.

The R.A.s have also demanded hazard pay and rapid notifications of any positive COVID tests on their floors.


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The Graduate Employees Organization went on strike demanding similar COVID precautions.

But it demanded further that university administrators slash the Division of Public Safety and Security’s budget by 50%, and reallocate the money to community-based justice initiatives.

The organization also wants the university to cut ties with the Ann Arbor Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Graduate Employees Organization wants “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.”

Regarding COVID, the organization is asking that graduate employees be allowed to work remotely, no questions asked, and be provided with the resources needed to work from home.


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They have also asked for degree extensions, $2,500 unconditional emergency grants, rent freezes and flexible leases for on-campus housing.

Finally, a group of University of Michigan student dining employees said they would walk off the job Friday night over unsafe working conditions, The Michigan Daily reported.

The employees want frequent COVID and “a clear and transparent sanitation plan which is consistently enforced by management,” the student newspaper reported.


UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.