Newsletter 3/12: Run for GEO Office, Climate Action, and GMM

Consider Joining GEO Leadership

In April, GEO members and stewards will be electing new officers of the union, according to the provisions in our Constitution. In addition to the usual officer positions, we will also be electing the members of the Bargaining Team who sit across the table from the University during negotiations. These positions will be especially important as we enter contract negotiations with the University in the upcoming academic year.

We encourage you all to participate in the election process.

1. Attend the Informational Meeting

Wednesday, March 20, 6pm in the GEO Office, 399 E Liberty St, Suite 340

If you are interested in running for any GEO leadership positions, please join us! Interested members can discuss various roles with current officers, staff, and other leadership. This meeting is a requirement for anyone who plans to run as a candidate. If you are unable to attend, you can instead schedule a meeting with a current officer or staff organizer. See our contact page here.

Candidacy statements are subsequently released in the announcement of the April 5th GMM.

2. Attend the General Membership Meeting + Year-End Party!

Friday, April 5, 6pm at Neutral Zone

At this GMM, we will be electing the Bargaining Team, comprised of six members who will represent GEO to Human Resources during contract negotiations next year.

We will also elect the four constitutional officers:

  • President
  • Vice President
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary

3. Final Stewards’ Council

Wednesday, April 17, 6pm in the GEO Office, 399 E Liberty St, Suite 340

At this meeting, Stewards will elect:

  • Bargaining Committee Chairs (researches and drafts contract language to bring to the bargaining table)
  • Communications Chairs
  • Grievance Chairs
  • Organizing Chairs
  • Solidarity and Political Action Chairs
  • Head Steward
  • Web Administrator

Additionally, the chairs of caucuses or ad hoc committees are non-elected officer positions. They include, Disability Caucus Chair, Electoral Action Subcommittee Chair, International GSI Caucus Chair, North Campus Organizing Committee Chairs, Parents Caucus Chair, and Trans Health Caucus Chair.

If you have any questions about this process or wish to learn more about the positions to be elected, please write to secretary@geo3550.org. You can also get in touch with other officers by emailing the addresses on our contact page.

For more details about the various leadership positions, please see:


Nationwide Climate Strike on March 15

Some of your students might be involved in the Washtenaw Country Student Climate Strike, part of global efforts to call for action on climate change. The activists involved in the Climate Action Movement have created teaching resources on on Friday’s action.


Students of Color Town Hall

It’s clear from platform development results that racial justice is a key priority for GEO members. We want to make more space to hear from members of color directly on racial justice issues. Please join us at our Students of Color Town Hall on Wednesday, March 27 at 7pm in the GEO Office, 399 E Liberty St, Suite 340. We hope you’ll join us for food, solidarity, and to make your voice heard! RSVP on Facebook.


Take 5 Minutes to Rank Your Priorities!

Next year, the contract governing GSI/GSSA pay, benefits, and workplace protections expires and GEO will negotiate a new contract. We need to know what graduate students at UM need from our next contract.

To assess what issues are most crucial to graduate students, we’re asking you to take our Platform Priorities Survey. It only takes 5 minutes!

Any graduate student at UM can take the survey and responses are anonymous. After completing this survey, our members will vote on a bargaining platform (the things we try to add to our new contract), and member energy and involvement is how we win them. To become a member, visit geo3550.org/member

If you want more background information about the issues on the survey, check out our Planks Explainer. Email platformcommittee@geo3550.org with any questions or comments!


General Membership Meeting & End-of-Year Party

At this GMM we will:

  • Elect members of the Bargaining Team that will be negotiating our new contract next term
  • Hold elections for GEOs constitutional officers for the upcoming academic year
  • Listen to updates form the platform development committee, reporting on the results of last GMM and of the Rankings Survey

RSVP on Facebook.


Not Teaching this Term?

GEO is a labor union representing graduate student employees, yet many of the benefits we negotiate in our contract become the baseline for graduate student packages and are extended to graduate students even when they don’t teach. These include GradCare, tuition waivers, and annual raises. All graduate students benefit from GEO and have a vested interest in keeping our union strong. See your options for contributing solidarity dues in terms you do not teach!

Newsletter 1/22: Solidarity Dues, the Value of your Benefits, and GMM on 2/13

All Graduate Students Benefit From a Strong Contract

GEO is a labor union representing graduate student employees, yet many of the benefits we negotiate in our contract become the baseline for graduate student packages and are extended to graduate students even when they don’t teach. These include GradCare, tuition waivers, and annual raises. All graduate students benefit from GEO and have a vested interest in keeping our union strong. See your options for contributing solidarity dues in terms you do not teach!

Know your Rights and Benefits

If you a GSI or GSSA this term, make sure to get informed of your rights and benefits in our GEO contract digest, or the full contract.

A few important start-of-term reminders:

  • Track your hours! Make sure your work expectations remain within your appointment fraction. Keep track of your hours now get in touch with GEO if you end up going above your hours during the term. Check out resources for tracking hours on our website.
  • Our newly won $700 annual cap on mental health copays in now in effect! You can track your spending by logging into you healthcare benefits account.
  • Alert Rackham at the start of the term if you plan to use your Childcare Subsidy by filling out this form. Doing so will avoid retroactive reductions of the subsidy from need-based grants you receive. Contact denise@geo3550.org with questions.

Encourage Your Friends to Become Dues-Paying Members

Dues for a .5 FTE GSI appointment average to about $44 per month (deducted from paychecks in three installments of about $60). The benefits GEO has won in our contract more than make up for this contribution! When you become a dues-paying member of GEO, you help your union stay strong and ensure we can continue to win crucial benefits and raises in future contract negotiations. Encourage your friends to sign up!

Learn how to become a dues-paying GEO member, and for other ways to get involved.

Save the Date!

General Membership Meeting

Wednesday, February 13, 6:30pm

Rackham Amphitheater (4th floor)

This semester, GEO members are developing a bargaining platform as we prepare to negotiate our new contract in the Fall. Be a part of this process and GEO’s many ongoing campaigns by attending the first General Membership Meeting of the winter term. RSVP on Facebook.

Student Organizing in Albania and North Carolina

It’s been an incredibly long several weeks between the election, lame duck, and issues of academic freedom. In light of that, we wanted to share a couple of incredibly inspiring actions to uplift us all as we move into the break. GEO proudly stands in solidarity with students all over the world pursuing justice through political and job actions.

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GEO expresses solidarity with public university students in Albania who have been protesting the government’s neoliberal education reforms of recent years. The protests began on Wednesday, December 5 with a walkout from University of Tirana buildings and a subsequent march to the Ministry of Education. The protests have continued since Wednesday with regional public university students in the cities of Shkodra, Vlora, Korça, Durrës, and Elbasan also staging their own walkouts. Students are demanding the government take immediate action against public university fee increases. While the Minister of Education has agreed to cancel the implementation of a new exam fee, they have not addressed the students’ demands to repeal tuition increases that began in 2014. Students will continue to protest over the weekend holiday and into next week until the government takes action to address tuition increases. #mestudentet #peruniversitetin

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GEO expresses solidarity with TA’s and faculty at the University of North Carolina withholding grading labor in the pursuit of campus racial equity and safety. Though collective bargaining is banned (in part to divide white workers and workers of color) and they have no union to speak of, these brave individuals are resisting an administrative push to build a $5.3 million dollar structure to house a previously torn down confederate statue and efforts to hire more law enforcement to surveil protestors. This money would come straight from student fee increases, which is an incredible insult to students of color who would be forced to pay more to feel less safe on campus. TA’s and faculty are now withholding grades to fight back against a continuing legacy of exploitation of workers of color, and GEO is in strong support.  #StrikeDownSam

Read the call to strike and support the UNC Activists Fundrazr.

Newsletter 11/27: GMM on Friday, plus Midterm Updates

Share Your Views and Get Informed


  • Platform Development: Share and discuss ways to improve our contract as we develop our bargaining platform over the next term; hear updates on results from our ongoing bargaining priorities survey.
  • Michigan Lame Duck Session: Yousef Rabhi, Ann Arbor’s State Representative will speak about the threats to Michigan workers during the lame duck session, and on the importance of getting involved to fight against cuts to the minimum wage and paid sick leave.
  • Updates: Progress on solidarity dues, Grievance Committee on letters of recommendation, membership “data dashboard.”
  • Join us after the GMM for a party at the GEO Offices (339 E. Liberty St. Suite 340 – above Isalita)! BYOB please.

Attend the GMM From North Campus

Can’t make it to Central Campus for the General Membership Meeting? The North Campus Organizing Committee will be teleconferencing into the GMM from EECS room 1311. If the north campus location is more convenient for you, join us there with full participation in the GMM.


Lame Duck Threats to Workers!

Using lame duck to pass controversial and partisan legislation is undemocratic. Since 2010, politicians have used lame duck to pass or repeal laws to serve their interests rather than the interests of Michiganders. This year’s lame duck session looks to be no different. Find out more about lame duck at this FAQ.

This year, politicians are expected to gut the Paid Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Increase initiatives, which are both widely popular measures. Republicans have already introduced legislation to rescind many basic rights of unions. It’s important for all Michiganders to pay attention during lame duck and to fight back in every way we can. You can do your part to support working people and promote democracy by signing this pledge and sharing it with your community.

Learn more about how lame duck legislation can affect workers in are linked video below:


Trans Health Caucus

Our trans friends and colleagues are facing a new and increasingly frightening political landscape. Legal protections for trans people under Title IX are eroding, and without them, the fight for trans rights at UM is becoming more and more urgent. This includes, in particular, the fight for equitable healthcare – a fight in which UM has responded to GEO’s efforts with antagonism at nearly every step.

Without Title IX protections in place, the University will be empowered to uphold its openly transphobic coverage exclusions. These exclusions are not based on research or on best practices — for example, if you ask why an often life-saving procedure like gender-affirming facial surgery is excluded, the response will be a hastily cobbled-together string of outdated, unscientific arguments. The exclusions are ultimately based on the fact that it’s cheaper to deny trans people care than it is to provide it. Cutting costs at the expense of trans lives is always morally reprehensible, even if it becomes legally permissible under the Trump administration.

If you are wondering what kind of concrete steps you can take to support and show solidarity with the trans community at the University of Michigan, our Trans Health Caucus has some ideas. See their write-up on Transgender Rights and Title IX.


Not Teaching This Term?

GEO is a labor union representing graduate student employees, yet many of the benefits we negotiate in our contract become the baseline for graduate student packages and are extended to graduate students even when they don’t teach. These include GradCare, tuition waivers, and annual raises. All graduate students benefit from GEO and have a vested interest in keeping our union strong. See your options for contributing solidarity dues in terms you do not teach!

GEO Statement on Lucy Peterson and Letters of Recommendation

The Graduate Employees’ Organization stands in solidarity with Graduate Student Instructor and GEO member Lucy Peterson. After rescinding an offer made to a student to write a reference letter in support of their application to study abroad at Tel-Aviv University, Lucy has faced harassment, received hate mail, and has been forced into the global spotlight. The University violated its obligation to treat Lucy with dignity and respect, in its handling of this situation and in its communication. While publicly threatening sanctions against Lucy, the University failed to communicate about disciplinary proceedings for weeks. Additionally, the University’s lack of clarity on whether she would be disciplined as a student or as an employee limited her ability to make informed decisions based on her rights. GEO stands firm in its expectation that the University abide by its contract and provide a safe work environment for its graduate employees.

Writing letters of recommendation is not covered by the current GEO contract. GSIs opt to write letters of recommendation in their free time and are not paid to do so. The University has appealed to a previously unwritten and unstated expectation that instructors write letters of recommendation solely as agents of the university. GEO disagrees. Letters of recommendation are personal endorsements from the letter writer to their colleagues and reflect on the reputation of the writer. Similar to the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs and the American Association of University Professors, we assert that instructors should have the discretion to issue their own letters of recommendation according to their judgement and without fear of reprisal or censorship from the University. While we acknowledge that there are illegitimate reasons to deny a student a letter of recommendation—including, but not limited to, those covered by the anti-discriminatory provisions in GEO’s contract—we believe that Lucy’s actions do not fall into that category.

We condemn the University’s careless response to this matter and in the similar matter of Professor Cheney-Lippold. The administration is now developing new policies on letters of recommendation through a committee without any GSI representation. Any stance on the issue of letters of recommendation will impact GSIs. We therefore demand to be on this committee and for our voices to be heard.

Relevant Links:

GEO Information Statement

President Schlissel’s Statement

Lucy Peterson’s Statement

SACUA Statement

AAUP Statement

University Record Communication and Announcement of Panel