We publish here a statement by the Graduate Employees’ Organization, the labor union representing graduate student workers at the University of Michigan, detailing and condemning the repressive tactics of the university administration in response to the strength and resilience of striking grad workers.
On Sunday, May 21, 2023, at 6:30pm, DPSS police officer John Buehler (#167) approached a graduate student in GEO (AFT Local 3550) at their home. Buehler knocked on the door and the student answered, and the cop proceeded to attempt to intimidate the student as they stood in the doorway. Buehler threatened to file a report with the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office regarding a previous picket action, advised the student to “reach out to Student Legal Services,” and left his business card. On Monday, May 22, 2023, at 10:00am, another graduate student with GEO received an email from the same cop, John Buehler, making similar demands of this student. Both instances were in response to the April 20, 2023 picket of President Ono at a downtown restaurant at which DPSS briefly detained two graduate students. Neither student spoke to or made any statements to Buehler or to DPSS.
This strikebreaking tactic is intended to instill fear; our strongest defense is to support each other and to know our rights. The graduate students who have been targeted by DPSS, along with the other graduate students who were involved in the picket action, are in touch with and receiving support from each other, legal counsel, and GEO leadership. We take this opportunity to emphasize that you are never required to talk to police. Below, we share some tips on how, as activists and union members, to keep yourself and each other safe when interacting with police.
The experiences of these two union siblings show again that UM and Academic HR are afraid, and are resorting to intimidation tactics to break our strike. They have filed an injunction, docked our pay, called campus police on us, submitted fraudulent grades for our students, and now they have sent police after two of our members. Harassment and intimidation from law enforcement in response to political organizing and labor actions is a common tactic. At Northeastern University this year, armed campus police approached two graduate student union organizers at their desks in retaliation for their participation in a pro-union sidewalk chalking activity. During the 2019 wildcat strike at UC Santa Cruz, UC police used military-grade surveillance equipment on loan from the California National Guard to monitor striking grad workers and plan repressive and brutal crackdowns on campus actions. And the use of campus police to crack down on other political organizing here at the University of Michigan is not new: with the aid of Washtenaw County prosecutor Eli Savit, UM and DPSS have sought extreme and reactionary charges of assault, battery, and malicious destruction of property against two activists organizing against the presence of the US Army on UM campus and the now-reduced Camp Grayling expansion. DPSS intimidation of our union siblings is part of a larger political pattern of repression against political organizing broadly, and we must use this as a moment to educate ourselves on our legal rights, as well as strengthen our solidarity with each other.
Never give law enforcement any information whatsoever, no matter how innocuous or incidental it may seem.Working with the police puts you and your friends, the union, and your community at risk. Buehler’s targeted attempts to speak to GEO members is part of a broader strategy to isolate people, sow fear, and generate panic. In the face of this, our strongest defense is our solidarity, our care for each other, and our collective commitment to non-cooperation with any level of law enforcement. By exposing UM and DPSS’s blatant attempts to scare us away from our political organizing, we can build stronger connections and deepen our commitment to abolitionist practice and community safety. After all, the police don’t keep us safe — we do.
IF YOU, OR ANYONE YOU KNOW, IS EVER VISITED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT:
- Say only: “I am going to remain silent. Give me your card and a lawyer may contact you.”
- If the police come to your door, you do not have to open it unless they have a warrant! If they do have a warrant, you may ask them to slide it under the door or mail slot.
- Contact your nearest National Lawyers Guild chapter to let them know about the encounter. If you are in Michigan, contact the Detroit and Michigan Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild at (313) 925-2626.