What is “impact bargaining”? Why is GEO doing it? Learn more here.
On August 6, 2020, following an initial session on parameter-setting, GEO’s bargaining team met with HR to discuss a number of proposals centered on mandatory subjects of bargaining, i.e. the health and safety of our workers.
In response to our proposal that no graduate employees should be required by the administration to report to campus as part of their job duties, as COVID-exposure poses a significant threat to the health and safety in the workplace (a mandatory subject of bargaining), HR expressed some of the University’s current thinking about in-person work. They communicated three reasons why the University does not guarantee remote work for all graduate employees. These reasons include (i) their goal to deliver an in-residence semester, (ii) their management rights, and (iii) pedagogical necessity. Yet given the risk environment at this time, and in the event of a campus outbreak, this poses an unacceptable danger of severe workplace injuries (such as hospitalization due to infection) to graduate employees. Governor Whitmer’s executive order 2020-160, Section 1, “Remote work. Any work that is capable of being performed remotely (i.e., without the worker leaving his or her home or place of residence) must be performed remotely” still applies to Ann Arbor (located in MDHHS Region 2S). Requiring GSIs to conduct a course in-person for extraneous reasons (such as “providing an in-residence experience”) when that course can be done remotely would directly contradict this directive. We will be seeking further clarification from the University on this matter. Additionally, and in general, the University’s management rights do not supersede our right to a safe workplace.
We are also proposing that the ability to conduct in-person should work not be used as a factor in current and future hiring decisions, as this type of discrimination would implicates a number of impermissible factors (the protection of which in hiring is a mandatory subject of bargaining), including but not limited to medical conditions, age, weight, HIV antibody status, and genetic information. Further, we propose increasing protections related to face-covering policies. For example, if an employee does elect to work in-person, we want extra masks to be readily available in case individuals in the classroom forget to wear one coming in. We propose an employee has the right to require that any individual who refuses to wear a mask must leave the physical classroom. If they do not want to wear a mask in the classroom, we propose that an employee should be allowed to tell a student they have to take the course online. Moreover, if an individual in the classroom fails to wear a mask and refuses to leave the classroom, we propose that the employee be permitted to leave without retaliation, and to transition the class to a remote format to be able to conduct their work safely.
Through the course of the session, we were able to discuss in good faith, and are fully confident that we will continue to make good progress. GEO values the collaborative approach to problem-solving we’ve developed with HR. We have achieved productive ends in the past, and look forward to achieving measures that will safeguard our member’s health going forward into the Fall.