Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

U Hears Voices

10. February 2005 • Scott Trudeau
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VOICES of the Staff logo
In my mailbox today landed a postcard about the U-M administration’s new project: VOICES of the Staff.

So, what exactly is VOICES?

VOICES of the Staff, also called VOICES, is a new volunteer-based initiative to give all staff, at all University campuses and the Health System, a stronger voice in addressing campus community issues.

In the near future, about 100 staff members from all areas of the University community will be selected from staff nominations to become the VOICES team. A subset of that group will have a direct dialog with the University’s executive officers and serve in an advisory capacity to President Mary Sue Coleman and Chief Human Resource Officer Laurita Thomas.

I can think of a few initiatives, old and new, that seek to give staff “a stronger voice in addressing campus community issues.” They’re called unions.
> Union of Professional Office Workers
> Graduate Employees’ Organization
> Lecturers’ Employee Organization

  1. *** WE HEAR “VOICES” ***

    The Administration has also introduced a program to “give staff members a formal mechanism to help define the most widely shared concerns and put them on the agendas of top University leadership.” ( This program is called “Voices of the Staff.”

    Gaining a voice a work is clearly a good thing—it’s what a union is all about. And as the UPOWER campaign continues, we will probably hear a lot more about why—from management’s perspective—we don’t need a union to have our voices heard. They will tell us that they will work really hard to address issues at work and that we don’t need a union to “interfere” in the good relationship we already have.

    Here are the three most important differences between a union and this kind of management “employee input” process:

    1. With a union, we’ll choose our representatives from among ourselves. With the administration’s plan, supervisors must approve of those who “represent” us to management! (See

    2. With a union, office workers meet with management as EQUALS at the bargaining table. Both sides must agree on what the salaries, benefits, and working conditions will be for office workers. In an “employee-input” program, management still holds all the cards. “Thank you for expressing your opinion,” they can say, “but we have decided to increase your insurance costs anyway…”

    3. With a union, our voice is here to stay. Whatever gains we make in negotiations are part of a legally-binding contract and management cannot take them away. We negotiate a new contract every few years to make more improvements. A “voices of the staff” program is only here as long as the administration wants it. They can take away our “voice” whenever they want!


    Please reply to this message with any questions, concerns—or if you’re interested helping to make UPOWER grow! The address is ; the phone number is 734-995-1865.
    —The UPOWER Organizing Committee
       —UPOWER Organizing Committee    Feb. 13 '05 - 11:46PM    #
  2. This whole Voices thing definitely sounds like a lower rung on the ladder of participation. On the level of writing a letter to your City Councilmember: it may be received, but may go straight into the trash.
       —Murph    Feb. 14 '05 - 06:16PM    #