On Wednesday December 7th, the GEO Bargaining Team met with Academic HR’s Team for the fourth and final time this term. Sessions resume on January 9th, 2017 and will occur at a greater frequency thereafter. The full schedule is provided below.
At the first session the teams mutually discussed and set groundrules for all subsequent sessions. The most important of the groundrules for GEO was one that allows for “Members, Associate Members, and any others materially affected by negotiations” to attend bargaining sessions as observers. GEO has historically sought open bargaining sessions in order to allow for its members to participate in the process, support the team, and contribute to caucus discussions (which happen during breaks in negotiations.) We were pleased that the University agreed to support our democratic process by allowing open sessions, in spite of some reservations that such a practice is unfamiliar or unorthodox.
At the subsequent three sessions respectively, the team introduced our Union Security, Diversity Labor Compensation, and Health Care Proposals.
Our Union Security proposals aim to formalize opportunities for GEO to provide information to all potential new members at orientations, and outline the dues collection process we would like to have in the upcoming contract, in particular specifying that the University will continue deducting member dues through their payroll system.
Our Diversity Labor Compensation proposal — also known as the DEI GSSA proposal — aims to create a sustainable system for formally valuing (and adequately compensating) graduate students’ labor in service of Schools and Colleges’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plans. Member Jamie Tam, who joined the team as a consultant that day, gave a presentation outlining the issues. In it she emphasized that compensating diversity labor would help build the university’s capacity to meet it’s DEI goals by not only removing the burden of extra work on staff, but placing that work in the hands of qualified applicants. Ultimately, she concluded, supporting diversity work in a sustainable way reduces the chance that inequity is actually reproduced — which is what typically happens when unpaid diversity work falls disproportionately on students of color. Overburdening and undervaluing these students’ volunteer efforts disproportionately creates strains on their mental health and constrains their professional development. The University’s HR Team’s initial responses were open; they expressed agreement that DEI was a shared concern. The teams spent a good amount of time discussing details of potential implementation.
Finally, on Wednesday December 7th, GEO’s Bargaining Team began discussing various Health Care proposals. They introduced the Copay Cap proposal, the proposal to make Dental II the default, and removed language that barred Flint GSIs/GSSAs from accessing GradCare when employed. In addition to these asks, the team emphasized their intent to protect current benefits, even in the case that the ACA is modified or repealed.
GEO will present the remainder of its proposals over the course of the first three sessions of the Winter term, and also expects to begin seeing Academic HR’s proposals, and possibly some counter-proposals during those sessions. Again, the full bargaining schedule is below. Observers are welcome to attend sessions for any length of time; we just ask that attendees minimize distractions by entering and leaving quietly, by silencing cell phones, and by refraining from eating or talking until caucuses, after HR has exited the room. GEO will be also including regular bargaining updates in the newsletter throughout negotiations.