At bargaining on June 23rd, GEO members voted to end the session early and walk out after a frustrating conversation about the latest sexual harassment scandal at the University. At the session, grads relayed the harrowing details of Professor Stephenson’s abuse of his grad workers to HR, in hopes of reassessing our proposed Transitional Funding Program (TFP) further at the table. This program would offer at least a semester of funding for grads who need to escape an abusive work environment.
After hearing the story, the University’s lead negotiator Katie DeLong refused to discuss our proposal for the TFP to cover all grad workers. Under HR’s current proposal, Stephenson’s survivors would not have been covered. DeLong hid behind technicalities, claiming that the contract can only cover grads who are currently GSIs. Of course, nothing in Michigan labour law prevents the University from extending the protection to all workers on campus, and we currently have provisions in the contract—such as GradCare and the childcare subsidy—which apply to all of us, irrespective of funding source. DeLong also insisted the access to the TFP be conditioned on filing a report to the ECRT, even after hearing about how that very office failed Stephenson’s survivors and retraumatized them.
During the session, HR also refused to sign formal Tentative Agreements (TAs) on issues where they admitted both sides were in consensus. Despite reaching well over a dozen TAs in summer bargaining sessions, HR refused to sign anymore this week. Given that both sides are in agreement on the content of these articles (e.g. the long-settled issue of a remote work option for parents when their kids’ schools are closed), their refusal to sign TAs is likely an attempt to give fact-finders the (false) impression that negotiations are at a stand still.
Grads Demand Change Outside of ECRT Office
On June 27th, grad workers held a protest in front of the ECRT office, drawing attention to their severe mishandling of the Stephenson abuse scandal & their failure to change after literal decades of harassment cover-ups.
In a statement, one of Stephenson’s survivors noted that “the mandatory reporting guidelines at ECRT trapped me in a toxic environment that could have been stopped prior to my assault if I was allowed to report what was happening without fear of reprisal or public humiliation.”
Evelyn Smith, Ross PhD, GEO Lead Negotiator
“Grads are fed up. We’re done pretending that HR is engaging in these negotiations in good faith, and we’re ready to do what it takes to protect each other and hold this institution to account.”
Garima Singh, RLL PhD, Feminist Caucus Chair
“In the last Bargaining session, HR said this requires a larger conversation. If this is not that time, when will the time come? We refuse to be harassed and abused any longer.”