Mission Statement: Our mission is to represent, advocate for, and organize graduate student workers and to build collective power in the pursuit of social & economic justice. 

This document clarifies core functions, goals, and rationales, which guide and animate the operations of the Graduate Employees’ Organization. Each of these categories represents central components of our mission as an organization, outlining what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. This document was created by a working group and approved by the Stewards’ Council on April 17, 2019. 

(1) Represent

In legal accordance with GEO’s recognition by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, GEO represents Graduate Student Instructors and Graduate Student Staff Assistants to ensure the just negotiation, enforcement, and development of our contract. We are committed to continued efforts to expand the scope of our representation in order to foster a truly collective voice and improve working conditions for all graduate student workers. 

(2) Advocate For

As a union, it is our duty to advocate for all graduate students and push for positive, meaningful change for our membership and our community. This means fighting for better working conditions for our members, better learning conditions for our students, and a more just world for us all. In particular, we stand up for underrepresented groups within our membership and across the university. 

(3) Organize 

GEO organizes its members to build the collective power necessary to protect and expand workers’ rights. Organizing involves continuously engaging members and strengthening both their relationship to the GEO contract and solidarity with the body of graduate students it covers. By fostering a collective identity, organizing empowers members and expands representation and union power. We are committed to this work, precisely because it is never done.

(4) Collective Bargaining

GEO recognizes workers’ right to have a voice in determining their working conditions. Our bargaining power comes from our membership and the ability to stand together and make our voices heard. We are dedicated to developing and bargaining for inclusive and just platforms through membership input. We use both the contract and our strength in numbers to improve graduate working conditions and protect our rights as workers. Through this work, we counterbalance the institutional power of the university.

(5) Democracy

GEO believes in organizing democratically in order to continue sustaining and building power. The strength of our union depends on the active participation of our entire membership. We strive to be a fundamentally member-driven organization in our decision-making processes, our fight for democracy in the workplace and through electoral participation, and our continual development of new leaders.

(6) Social Justice

GEO recognizes the variety of life experiences and identities across our membership and strives to create a more socially just environment for its workers within and beyond the university. The intersections of different forms of oppression informs our political action. 

(7) Solidarity

Our fates as graduate workers are bound with one another. Therefore, GEO strives to cultivate a shared understanding and practice of solidarity among our members. We believe that unions can present a bold vision for social change, and that union renewal can unite marginalized communities. To that end, we work to build solidarity with labor unions and the wider progressive movement. 

(8) Community

We are proud to be unionized workers within a movement that transcends constructed divisions. GEO aims to cultivate a community with a sense of belonging among graduate students. We are united as workers across departments, disciplines, and university affiliations, and to that end we support cross-departmental exchange. Our work as a union is rooted in the communities of Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Flint, and the state of Michigan. 

(9) Education & Research 

GEO recognizes the unique position of graduate students as both workers and learners at the University of Michigan. We believe that all work Graduate students do is labor and therefore strive to ensure the best possible compensation and working conditions for both education and research. As a teachers’ union working at a public university, we believe that all education should increase equity in society. Such a process is only possible through accessible education, which we fight for in our contract.