On Sunday night, members of Graduate Employees’ Organization 3550 (GEO) at the University of Michigan voted to extend their historic, abolitionist strike for a safe and just campus for an additional five days, starting at 12:00 AM on Monday, September 14. 80% of those who voted, and 66% of all GEO members in the bargaining unit, voted to extend the strike.
Membership overwhelmingly rejected the university’s initial offer last week that did not constitute continued progress on our demands. In particular, the university’s offer constituted zero progress on our policing demands. These are not optional; they are integral to our vision of a safe and just campus for our Black and brown members, colleagues, students, and community members, in solidarity with and indebted to this summer’s national uprisings for racial justice and the long history of struggles against white supremacy in Washtenaw County, Detroit, and Southeast Michigan.
Membership initially authorized a four-day work stoppage from September 8 through September 11, with potential for reauthorization, until the university issued an offer that adequately addresses our concerns about:
- transparent and robust testing, contact tracing, and safety plans for campus;
- support for GSIs working remotely and an option to switch to remote from hybrid/ in-person;
- flexible subsidies for parents and caregivers including those with school-aged children or care obligations for adults;
- better International Center support for international students and the repealing of the discriminatory, termly international student fee;
- unconditional support for all graduate students in the form of timeline and funding extensions, an emergency grant, and flexible leases and rent freezes at U-M housing.
- a demilitarized workplace
- diversion of funds from campus police (involving a cut of 50% to DPSS’ annual budget)
- and ending any and all ties to local law enforcement (AAPD) and other agencies (ICE).
GEO’s strike is shutting down the University’s unsafe and unjust operations in the collective emergency of the global pandemic. Last week, Residential Staff joined GEO on strike and MDining workers held a slow-down and continued planning a walkout. Undergraduates, faculty, alumni, staff, parents, community members, and have joined our picket lines and issued their own demands for a safe and just campus. GEO leadership is in continued talks with University administration to address our demands. Until then, GEO members will continue to withhold our labor to insist that the University create safe and just working and learning conditions for all.
The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) is a labor union that represents over 2,000 Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) and Graduate Student Staff Assistants (GSSAs) at the University of Michigan. Founded in 1974, it is one of the oldest and longest-running graduate student unions in the United States.
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Leah Bernardo-Ciddio and Cassandra Euphrat Weston
Co-Chairs, Communications Committee
Graduate Employees’ Organization