What is bargaining?

Every three years, UM graduate workers negotiate with the University over our employment contract. Through contract negotiations, representatives from GEO and from Academic Human Resources sit in a room and pass language back and forth, attempting to get the other side to make concessions and reach an agreement on a contract. This contract determines our working and living conditions, pay, benefits, protections, and more – and winning a fair contract is essential for our ability to earn a living wage and achieve affordability and dignity for grad workers.

We have been bargaining over our current contract since November 2022. As of August, 2023, we have held more than 40 bargaining sessions. 

What are our demands?

We are fighting for affordability and dignity for all graduate workers. We are showing up for a living wage – a 60% increase to meet local living wage standards. We are showing up for emergency funds for international student expenses. We are showing up for subsidized child care and 12 weeks of paid parental leave. We are showing up for transitional funding for grads in abusive advising situations. We are showing up for each other and our community to create a university where all graduate students can thrive.

Our bargaining platform was democratically generated with input and involvement from over 1,200 graduate students beginning in Fall 2021. This platform was overwhelmingly approved by 99% of GEO members at a November General Membership Meeting. For a detailed overview of our demands as they stood when we began bargaining, check out our Bargaining Platform Guide: bit.ly/GEO-Platform

For an overview of where these proposals stand today, check out these negotiation toplines: bit.ly/GEOTableUpdates.

What is open bargaining?

Our power at the bargaining table stems directly from our numbers and ability to take collective action. A handful of grad workers at a table asking for a living wage is unlikely to succeed. All of us demanding one together are unstoppable. Throughout this campaign, we have brought our collective strength in numbers to the bargaining table and shown AHR that we are united and serious about these demands. 

When we began bargaining in November, the University refused to allow members into the room during sessions. We pushed back, and after two months won open bargaining sessions where every member of our union could show up for themselves and for each other. To date, more than 1000 graduate students have attended at least one bargaining session. 

Sign up for a bargaining shift yourself:  bit.ly/bargsesh.

What role do community allies play?

When we won open bargaining, we stipulated that several sessions should be open to the general public. Community allies, labor siblings, and other members of the university community attended these bargaining sessions, and were able to see for themselves the conversations that take place at the bargaining table.

Throughout this campaign, our community allies have shown up to bargaining and joined us on the picket lines, making it clear that our issues are interconnected, and that we are in this struggle together. The support of these allies has been and continues to be invaluable.

Rules for the bargaining room:

  1. POKER FACE AT ALL TIMES (this includes no applause or booing); take notes about reactive moments to share later
  2. No one speaks except the lead negotiator unless planned
  3. No recording of any kind

Use the Google Form  bit.ly/BTNote to send notes to the bargaining team at any time if you want to talk, let them know something, or request that we call a caucus (a break where we can ask management to leave the room for private conversation time).