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University of Michigan grad assistants go on strike

University of Michigan grad assistants go on strike
University of Michigan grad assistants go on strike 02:09

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - Graduate assistants at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor announced they're going on strike to fight for better pay. 

Right now, teacher's assistants account for nearly 30% of the staff at the university.

On Wednesday, the union that represents graduate assistants walked out at 10:24 a.m., which is symbolic of the $24,000 per year salary they're trying to get increased by 60%. 

"It was a great turnout," said Amir Fleischmann, contract chair for the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO). 

Members of the graduate assistant's union and supporters gathered in the center of campus at the Diag on South University. 

It was there that Fleischmann fired up a large crowd as they walked off their jobs as teaching assistants. 

"As of this morning, I am on strike," Fleischmann shouted to the crowd. 

Fleischmann said the reason for the strike was due to the low pay graduate assistants receive. Currently, they receive free tuition and $24,000 per year. 

Fleischmann said that salary is too low and it's causing union members to struggle to get by. 

The union is fighting for a variety of changes, but the main issue is a pay raise of up to $38,000 per year, with 5% increases over the next two years, but Fleischmann said negotiations have failed. 

"We just really want to get back to the table and resolve these issues," said Rick Fitzgerald, a University of Michigan spokesperson. 

Fitzgerald said the school is prepared to take legal action against the union and force them back into the classrooms because the strike is a breach of the current collective bargaining agreement in place. 

"Because they violated that contract, we're asking an administrative law judge to ask the GEO members to go back to work, that's the best interest of the undergraduate students who are the ones most affected by the strike," Fitzgerald added. 

Meanwhile, Fleischmann said he is aware it's a violation of the current agreement and against current state law for public workers to strike, however, he said the union plans to continue to fight for better pay. 

"We think it's unfortunate that the university would take advantage of the anti-worker, anti-labor, anti-democratic laws in this state. We are fighting for a fair contract and we're prepared to do what it takes to make that better university a reality," Fleischmann explained. 

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