Important Update on UM Staff Union

Dear Colleagues,

In the coming months, you will be asked to sign a membership card for University Staff United, our union for University of Michigan staff. We’ve spent the past three years in conversations with more than 1300 of our colleagues, and we’ve heard many of the same needs and desires again and again:

  • pay that reflect the value of our work, that keeps up with the increasing cost of living, and that’s equitable across all three of our campuses;
  • reasonable workloads that allow us to perform at our best, and freedom from ever-growing responsibilities without compensation;
  • real opportunities for career advancement and meaningful rewards for experience
  • greater support for families and caregivers;
  • fair policies for flexible and remote work, grounded in genuine operational needs and trust for staff;
  • protection from discrimination and mistreatment and the security to stand up for ourselves and for one another.
  • Most of all, we want a real seat at the table where decisions are made about our work.
  • This is why we’re forming University Staff United (USU) — one big union made up of almost all nonsupervisory staff at UM. A recognized union will allow us to negotiate a legally-binding contract with UM, both to secure what’s good about our jobs and to push for improvement.

    Our vision is one big union that represents a number of groups (called “bargaining units”), each made up of staff in a particular category of work and with its own contract attuned to our particular needs. After many months of growing momentum, we’ve decided to move forward this fall with a membership drive in the first bargaining unit, Educational Staff (Student Services & Instructional Services). This drive is the process of bringing together a strong majority of staff in your bargaining unit as USU members, which will allow us to request official recognition under the regents’ policy of neutrality.

    This is our union, and it’s up to us to grow and shape it into a powerful, democratic force for justice at work. That’s why we need more of you to join our Organizing Committee and help build USU by talking with your coworkers this fall. If you’re interested in helping out, please fill out this form (both pages!) and we’ll be in touch to help you get started. We’re holding an Organizing Committee retreat on September 9 to prepare for the membership drive, and we’d love for you to join us!

    Otherwise, you’ll have the opportunity to show your support by signing your membership card later this fall. Together we can make a huge difference in our working conditions.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to reach us at

    In solidarity,
    University Staff United Organizing Committee


Everything You Need to Know About House Calls

Summer is here, and our campaign is in full swing! Our goal is to talk with each and every staff member in the Academic, Student, and Instructional Services Job families this summer before moving into our fall membership drive. These one-to-one conversations give staff a chance to tell their stories, and help organizers learn more about the experiences staff have in our workplace. USU organizers will be visiting homes, offices, and reaching out to individual staff via email and social media. Below are some FAQs about house calls.

Why do we do house calls?

House calls are a long-standing tradition in labor organizing. Many people are hesitant to talk about their workplace in the office where there is limited privacy. Emails often go unanswered or to spam. House visits allow staff to talk in a comfortable place on their own terms, without supervisors overhearing, or worrying about being on the clock. USU organizers are your colleagues. We are also staff at U-M, and we want to hear what you have to say so that we can take action.

Who are USU organizers?

Organizers are U-M staff volunteers from all 3 campuses. We are doing this work because the wellbeing and advancement of ALL staff is important to us. We want to preserve what we like about our workplaces, and organize to make change where it’s needed.

How do we gather address data?

USU organizers use publicly available white pages data to look up home addresses. We will do our best to find your house, apartment, or condo with this information. For the most part, these matches are accurate. Occasionally, we’ll have incorrect addresses or people. We will do our best to follow up with you via email.

Are USU organizers engaging in soliciting?

We are your colleagues and coworkers. Our goal is to share information about your union, your workplace rights, and to give you space to share or ask questions. We are not selling anything, or trying to talk you into anything. You can share your thoughts on our union effort, unions in general, and/or what you like about your work and what changes you’d like to see. This is also a good opportunity for you to learn about getting involved.

What if it’s not a good time to talk?

We hope you will take some time to chat with your colleagues, but we recognize that life is busy and hectic. We welcome you into a conversation so that we can learn more about what issues are important to staff. If it’s not a good time, we will leave our contact information and can follow up by email. If you would prefer to talk on Zoom, we are happy to set up a meeting at a time that works for you. If we visit, and you aren’t home, we’ll leave a slip indicating that we visited, and how you can get in touch.

Want to schedule a one to one conversation at home or on Zoom? Email us at


Information Resources Workers at U-M First to Join New University-Wide Staff Union

August 1, 2022 —

More than 200 information resources and museum workers from all three University of Michigan campuses today announced majority support for their union, the newly formed University Staff United (USU), AFT Michigan Local 284. The workers, who care for U-M’s libraries, museums, and other collections, are taking advantage of the university board’s cooperative framework for union organizing. Active campaigns to unionize other U-M staff units are underway. 

The information resources and museum staff building  the new union work in libraries and museums across University campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint. They maintain and share the university’s celebrated, world-class collections, from state-of-the-art and up-to-the-minute publications to unique, ancient, and endangered materials. Their care for these wide-ranging resources requires a mix of technical, ethical and practical expertise that deserves fair compensation. Onsite and online, information resource staff enhance and inform the university experience for all ages and levels of scholars.

“On so many issues right now, university staff are at the mercy of the department’s and the school’s leadership. If we’re unionized, management has to come to the table and brainstorm solutions alongside us,” said Samuel Simpson, a resource-sharing specialist with Illiad/Collections on the Ann Arbor campus. “We’re not organizing to go against ‘them.’ We’re organizing to work better together. For example, many teams could have more flexible and remote work opportunities if we could work together and create an in-person work rotation– but management often won’t allow this and won’t take the time to even listen. A union will make sure staff are heard.”

U-M staff in a wide variety of jobs share this desire for an equal voice, having found themselves in a position where a small number of high-ranking managers often make decisions that affect their indispensable work. Some of the specific conditions cited by information resources workers include:

  • Increasing responsibilities without commensurate increases in pay or recognition – especially due to vacancies that go unfilled
  • Little opportunity for advancement, including for staff with specialized experience or advanced degrees
  • Pay that is inequitable, stagnant, and inadequate for the cost of living
  • Discrimination, favoritism, and failure to provide needed disability accommodations
  • High cost and inaccessibility of childcare
  • Flexible and remote work policies that are arbitrary in nature and do not meet the demonstrated needs of each unit

Many information resources and museums staff work closely with non-tenure-track faculty librarians, archivists, and curators, who gained their own union representation in 2021 as members of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization – Galleries, Libraries, Archives, & Museums (LEO-GLAM), AFT local 6244. Meredith Kahn, librarian on the Ann Arbor campus and LEO-GLAM campus chair, expressed support for the newly-organized staff: “The librarians, archivists, and curators of LEO-GLAM are proud to offer our congratulations to USU! We stand in solidarity with our staff colleagues, and we look forward to building collective power together in the service of a more equitable and humane workplace for all.”

US Representative Debbie Dingell, whose district includes U-M’s Ann Arbor and Dearborn campuses, said: “The university staff who announced their union today are building on a long and proud labor history here in Southeast Michigan. U-M is an anchor of our regional economy, so when workers there speak up and fight for the solid, dignified, middle-class careers they deserve, that sets an example that benefits our whole community.”

Michael Behm, member of the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan, said: “We know from experience that when workers here at U of M organize unions, their involvement in the decisions affecting their work leads to improvements both in their own lives and in the quality of the education, research, and healthcare the University is able to provide. Staff are at the heart of our libraries, cultural institutions, and every part of U of M. I’m looking forward to working more closely with them through USU.”

University Staff United urges staff from across U-M to join in pursuing dignity, equality, and justice through democratic organizing and collective bargaining. USU aims to provide collective advocacy for all University of Michigan staff by expanding to include additional job categories such as student services, research, and communications.