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January 2020 –

In this month’s edition, you’ll find articles on:

  • AFT Fighting for Members with Visa Issues
  • FNTFO and UTF Working Together
  • Kalamazoo locals are Hiring a New Organizer
  • GEO Kicks Off Negotiations
  • Century Foundation Report on Michigan’s Community College and University Affordability in a Regional Context
  • Governing Board Nominations for the “Big Three”: How to Get Involved

AFT Fights for Members with Visa Issues

David Hecker, President

As you would surmise, there have been numerous reports of Iranian-Americans and Iranian visa holders being held for additional screening when entering the United States. Many are AFT members.

If you have a visa issue or know a member who does please contact your local president who, in turn, can provide us with the information. We will work with AFT’s Legal Department to provide assistance.

The AFT has been fighting against unfair visa policies on many fronts. In 2018, the AFT and others sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, challenging a rule that would ban workers on certain visas for even unintentionally violating their visas. We have fought for workers dealing with administrative delays for visa renewals. The AFT is part of a coalition called Migration that Works, which fights for structural changes to visa programs so that all workers and their families have mobility and robust labor rights under the law. Our union is on the forefront of this fight. 

FNTFO and UTF Hold Joint Bargaining Training  

Sonya Alvarado, Field Representative

As part of the LEAD program, FNTFO at Ferris State and UTF at Central Michigan University are holding a joint bargaining training on January 31st in Mt. Pleasant. The two unions decided to share resources and joint training sessions as well as support each other in collective actions throughout this semester while they are bargaining. The teams will participate in a bargaining scrimmage at this training session. Each team will act as the administration for the other bargaining team during the scrimmage to allow some time to practice presenting proposals and discussing them at the bargaining table. Here’s to AFT Solidarity in Mid-Michigan.

AFT Kalamazoo Locals are Hiring!

Taylor Monday, Organizer

Heads up that there is a position posted to hire a full-time Staff Organizer working with the three AFT locals in Kalamazoo representing graduate teaching assistants and adjunct instructors at Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. This is an exciting position working with great people – members are encouraged to apply and/or forward to people you think would be good candidates.

GEO Kicks Off Negotiations

Jon Curtiss, Higher Ed Organizer

At the end of last semester, the Graduate Employees Organization / AFT #3550 kicked off contract negotiations with the University of Michigan by sending its bargaining team off to the first negotiation session with a march and rally. Over 200 members of the local also attended a membership meeting to set priorities for the local’s bargaining.

“If we, the graduate employees and GEO members at the University of Michigan, continue to show up every step of the way to show support for our team, for our platform and for our union, the University will hear us,” said GEO President Emily Gauld at the rally. “We get what we are organized to take.”

State Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, also spoke. “On behalf of the people of the 53rd District, I want to thank you for your work in furthering the issue of social justice and furthering the issues of economic justice in our state. What you’re doing here in Ann Arbor is setting the stage for what can happen in other parts of the state, too, when graduate employees organize, stick together and fight for their rights.”

Proposals will include improving mental health and transgender health coverage, eliminating pay inequity across Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn, and mandating gender-inclusive restrooms available across campus.

Rally photo by Mike Mei

Century Foundation Report on Michigan’s Community College and University Affordability in a Regional Context

 Julie Rowe, Legislative Mobilization Coordinator

The Century Foundation released in December a new report in on college affordability, analyzing the tuition costs, state aid, and local revenue directed to universities and community colleges in the Great Lakes region. Highlighted findings from the report include:

  • Michigan’s public higher education funding as a percent of the state budget—4.1 percent—places it in the bottom ten states nationwide, and most nearby states provide more higher education dollars per student.
  • Of the six states (Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, and Wisconsin), Michigan offers the least in state grant aid for college students — one fourth as much per student as Indiana — though Michigan institutions provide more institutional aid than schools in other states.

Four-year institutions in Michigan have some of the highest public tuition prices and take in more in tuition and fees per student than institutions in any other state in the region.

Michigan’s higher education system serves a population that is higher-poverty than its neighbors and serves a higher percentage of students who receive a Pell grant.

While Michigan does a better job than its neighbors in keeping the net price low for low-income students, the average net price for all students at four-year colleges as a percentage of median income is higher than that for the rest of the region.

Community colleges in the state have a slightly lower net price than those in most neighboring states, though there is a significant variation because so much of the public investment supporting these schools comes from uneven local support.

Michigan public university bachelor’s degree graduates have the highest average student debt in the region, taking on about $25,000 in debt by graduation.

To read the full report, click here.

Governing Board Nominations for the “Big Three”: How to Get Involved

Jon Curtiss, Higher Ed Organizer

Unlike the governing boards at most state universities in Michigan, which are appointed by the governor, the boards at Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University are elected by voters in the general election.

Every two years, two seats are open for election on each board. If you are one of the approximately 5,000 AFT members who work at one of these schools, getting involved is easy:

  • Let AFT Michigan and your local leaders know if you have ideas about candidates to support. AFT Michigan supports candidates based on their support of educational policies, civil rights, and organized labor;
  • Come to the state party convention to circulate nomination petitions, lobby for the candidates we support, and vote on the floor;
  • Engage your colleagues in a Get-Out-The-Vote plan in the general election; ask for volunteers to knock doors and volunteer however they can to get the best candidates elected!

In 2018, the Lecturers’ Employee Organization / AFT #6244 took a busload of members to the state Democratic convention and helped nominate one of their own members for one of the open board seats at UM. That member–now UM Regent Paul Brown–has of course been very supportive of the local in his tenure on the board so far.

In Solidarity,

David Hecker President

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