Following New Budget, Coalition of Unions at the University of Michigan Calls on University to Commit to Protecting Students, Patients, and Workers

Ann Arbor, MI – After the University of Michigan passed a new budget, the All Campus Labor Council – a coalition of unions representing nearly 15,000 workers employed at the University of Michigan – is calling on the University to unequivocally commit to use its endowment to avoid making any further cuts in the short term and to develop a plan to reverse previous cuts to jobs and benefits in the long term.

Dr. Howard Bunsis, a professor at Eastern Michigan University who is an expert in university finances, has highlighted that the University has billions in the endowment and additional reserves it could be using instead of raising tuition or making cuts. The Regents’ first proposed budget did not pass. While the second budget was voted for on June 29, the decision was not unanimous and was made without allowing space for public comment.

Given the controversial way in which the new budget was passed, the ACLC is calling on the University of Michigan to make a firm commitment to using all the resources at the University of Michigan’s disposal to protect students, patients, and workers.

Bret Kelly, RN, a member of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (MNA) said: “As a nurse who is working in the hospital during the pandemic, I am deeply concerned by the actions of University of Michigan and Michigan Medicine. I am worried about the impact that these cuts could have on our patients. As the pandemic rages, we need more resources, not less. Lives are literally at stake.”

Paloma Contreras, a member of the Graduate Employee Organization (AFT) said: “The University has denied me the emergency summer funding I need, and I know many of my fellow graduate workers are in the same position. These are four months in which I will not be receiving a stipend, and as an international student, I won’t receive the stimulus check issued by the government. On top of that, many of us don’t receive tax exemptions that US citizens do receive. Coming from a working class family, my parents and brother do not have access to health care in my home country, and the three of them are currently unemployed. How am I supposed to survive financially?”

Tina O’Donnell, a lecturer at UM-Dearborn and a member of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization (AFT) who was recently laid off from her previous position said: “It was just like a dream job. I think for me, the hardest thing has been that I was getting some internal hope of having financial stability for the first time in my life. Maybe more than not having the work, it is most depressing to look at not having health insurance.”

Michelle M. Shnayder, MD, MPH and member of the House Officers Association said: “In times of crisis as has occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, workers look to their leadership for guidance and support. Unfortunately, for Michigan Medicine it feels that the University is prioritizing their bottom line and investments ahead of the needs of their employees and their futures. An incredible institution like Michigan Medicine should have an emergency plan and budget rather than offload the financial burden on their staff.”

Megan Williams Morad, PA-C, and member of the Union of Physicians Assistants of Michigan Medicine (AFT) said: “It is appalling that Michigan Medicine has chosen to devastate the lives of many of its hard-working health care workers and their families due to position eliminations when there is another financially feasible option – make use of its endowment. Not only will these lay-offs affect those immediately involved, they will have negative consequences on the quality of care we are able to provide for our patients and on the economy of southeast Michigan. These cuts are short-sighted and we should be able to expect better from the University of Michigan.”

According to the report conducted by Bunsis, the University of Michigan has $6.7 billion in unrestricted reserves. Additionally, the University of Michigan’s AAA bond rating indicates strong financial health.
The next currently scheduled Regents meeting is on July 16.

The UM All Campus Labor Council (ACLC) is a coalition of unions across University of Michigan representing nearly 15,000 employees.

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Contact: Amelia Dornbush, 517-896-7478

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