August 12, 2020 —Graduate Employees’ Organization 3550 (GEO) has entered into impact bargaining negotiations with the University of Michigan over demands ensuring a safe and just pandemic response for all.

So far, GEO has made proposals for:

  • The unconditional right to work remotely, for all graduate students and until a vaccine is available
  • Protections from hiring discrimination for graduate students who request to work remotely
  • In the case of a student’s not abiding by health and safety guidelines, the right to require that student to leave, to refrain from entering the classroom, or to transition to remote work
  • In the case of any individual’s not abiding by health and safety guidelines, the right of graduate employees to transition to remote instruction 

GEO plans to bring more proposals in the weeks before the Fall term, on topics including but not limited to testing and the use of the child care subsidy for non-licensed child care. 

GEO members have the right to a safe workplace, and we believe that these demands are necessary for the University of Michigan to fulfill that obligation to their workers. GEO’s concerns align with U-M’s own Environment, Health, and Safety office’s guidance, which recommends teaching and working remotely, and with U-M’s own Ethics Committee’s report, which calls for “frankness about the possibilities of disability or death from COVID-19 upon opening the university.” 

Formal negotiations began on July 30th after other routes were unsuccessful. In May, GEO issued an open letter to the university administration. Since then, GEO has met weekly with representatives of HR to discuss non-bargaining routes to achieve these demands. In this process, GEO received little information or concrete commitments from the university and given the extremely time-sensitive nature of Fall 2020 reopening, subsequently decided to pursue impact bargaining.

Ongoing organizing outside impact bargaining has resulted in a recent victory for GEO members: Parents are now allowed to use university-issued childcare funds out of state. However, U-M still does not permit these funds to be applied to non-licensed childcare, which severely inhibits graduate student parents seeking safe and affordable options to care for their children in a pandemic.

GEO members held a socially distanced Occupy the Diag event on Friday, August 7 to demonstrate their support for the demands and continue to organize to support the impact bargaining process.

GEO joins sibling unions — including the Lecturers’ Employee Organization at U-M (LEO), other educators under our parent union the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and other graduate worker unions across the country — in organizing to protect our members and all workers from unsafe and irresponsible institutional responses to the pandemic.

Statement: GEO Enters Impact Bargaining for a Safe and Just Pandemic Response for All