The University of Michigan filed a complaint and motion in Washtenaw County Circuit Court on Monday, requiring the Graduate Employee Organization to return to work. 

U-M is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the graduate instructors union’s strike. On Sunday, 80% of union members voted to extend the strike, which started on Sept. 8, for another five days.

“Going to the court was our only choice after learning the strike would continue. We’d much rather our classes be in session while we work out our differences,” U-M President Mark Schlissel said in a video to the campus community. 

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If the court grants the injunction, GEO members — who refuse to work — could be held in contempt of court, according to a university statement. The group could also face civil damages because of the strike, which violates the union’s contract with U-M. 

The union released a response statement on Monday saying no individual member is at risk because of the injunction and the group knew legal action was a possibility.

“We’re disappointed that President Schlissel has chosen to immediately abandon these promises in favor of trying to shut down our strike by brute force,” the statement said. “Shame on the University of Michigan for using their immense resources to bully their graduate workers out of striking — instead of using those same resources to create a safe and just campus for all.” 

According to the U-M court filings, “Not only are GEO’s members interfering in the university’s mission to educate students by unlawfully withholding their labor, they are encouraging impressionable undergraduate students, over whom they exercise significant authority, to forego their education.”

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On Sept. 8, the university also filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union through the Michigan Employment Relations Commission. This  demands the union “cease and desist from unlawfully striking or conducting a work stoppage against the University of Michigan.” 

U-M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said there’s been no ruling on either case yet.

The union is demanding better transparency for COVID-19 testing, a universal remote option to work, child care subsidies, a repeal of the $500 international student fee and a demilitarized campus. 

The group is also asking for more graduate student support through degree timeline extensions and funding, a $2,500 emergency grant, rent freezes and flexible leases for on-campus housing, according to GEO’s website. 

On Wednesday, U-M faculty will vote on a motion of no confidence regarding the university’s reopening and COVID-19 plan, according to the Michigan Daily. 

U-M currently offers a mixture of face-to-face and remote classes for students. Twenty-two percent of undergraduate credit hours are being taught with an in-person component, according to university officials, and three-quarters of graduate students are teaching remotely. 

Contact Slone Terranella: [email protected]

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