Little Movement from the University since the GMM
At the last GEO General Membership Meeting over 230 members gathered to set collective bottom lines on nearly all of our member-generated platform issues. These provided the Bargaining Team with a starting place from which to strategize at the table. The GEO Bargaining Team wasted no time making a plan for progress. In fact they convened immediately following the GMM and decided over some well-deserved pizza to present a package that upcoming Wednesday (2.22) consistent with members’ bottom lines.
Between that Wednesday (2.22) and the Rally this Monday (3.13) three bargaining sessions will have elapsed. The general picture of these sessions is that there has been some minor movement on a few things, but we still have a way to go on key elements of our platform, including raises, copays, hours caps and the DEI GSSAs.
Trade offs between technical contract issues have created some movement. There are two small bright spots here — the teams signed their first two Tentative Agreements on faster resolution of grievances and an increase in information the university reports to the union.
We have also seen minor movement on bereavement and parental leave as reported at the last GMM, with the university offering small extensions. At this point HR’s team seems willing to keep healthcare premiums at zero as well. However, HR’s team rejected the professional leave proposal entirely, and remains firmly against copay caps. We also remain far apart on raises and the childcare subsidy.
Regarding work hours caps, the teams have been embroiled in some very passionate discussions at the table. HR’s team attempted to address international GSIs’ visa restriction issue by proposing language that would limit work hours on a weekly basis only for visa holders.The International GSI Caucus remains concerned that this proposal would create two classes of workers, encouraging resentment, division, and a discriminatory work environment.
Collective Action and Media Coverage Highlight DEI GSSA Proposal
In addition to the usual give and take at the table, collective action and pressure from the media have also seemed to influence progress.
A clear example of how media pressure, amplified by collective pressure from members and supporters, creates movement around a platform issue is regarding our DEI GSSA proposal. GEO aims to create 23 fully compensated and union-represented GSSA positions the sole purpose of which would be implementation of the university’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic plans. In response to the University’s refusal to bargain with us over this proposal, GEO’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee began circulating an online petition in mid-February asking individuals and organizations to show their support of the proposal. By March 6th, over 1000 campus-affiliated individuals had signed in support, and more than 35 campus organizations have now co-signed a joint statement. (A full, regularly updated list of the latter can be found on the DEI GSSA facebook page.)
A day after GEO released the petition, the Michigan Daily also published an article about the proposal. At the end of the article, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald was quoted saying that a meeting was to be scheduled the week after spring break to address the issue of compensation of DEI labor. Members of the University’s DEI Grad Student advisory board and GEO’s DEI GSSA committee attended this meeting on Wednesday the 8th.
Although (as of this report) the University has continued to refuse to address the proposal at the bargaining table, the more powerful players we’re able to engage, and the more we show we’re still paying attention, the harder it will be for them to continue ignoring the widespread demand.
What You Can Do: Come to the Rally and GMM Next Week
That is why it is crucial for us to show up in high numbers to the Rally on Monday, 1:30pm in the Diag. With only 6 weeks until the end of the term, it’s time for members and supporters to demonstrate, en masse, that we are paying attention and that our issues matter to the lives of real, human members of the UM community.
Then on Wednesday the 15th, 6-7:30pm at Rackham Amphitheater, it’s equally important to show up to the General Membership Meeting. This will provide us a space to hear an assessment from the Bargaining Team about the influence and effectiveness of our Rally on negotiations. We will also revisit our bottom lines in light of the team’s progress update. This is the iterative democratic process in action, and now is the time to show up and be a part of it. We ask you to prioritize the union in your everyday routines. Talk about what’s going on, vote with your feet, and add your weight to our collective strength!