You are receiving this Newsletter because there is a lot of important information we want to share with you regarding local electoral politics. In addition to background information about our new electoral procedures, you’ll find our first two local endorsements and two very important asks. Please read the entire email if you can!
GEO’s involvement in electoral politics has varied throughout our forty-five-year history. For the most part the last decade there has been little to no involvement, beyond occasional voluntary canvassing efforts, and a brief uptick immediately prior to the passage of Right to Work legislation in Michigan in 2012. However, following increasing calls from the membership, this past year GEO distributed an online survey to gauge members’ current preferences for electoral involvement. Respondents (n=214 as of 7/17/18) overwhelmingly agreed that they would like to see GEO provide information on, and where relevant, endorsements for local races, especially those that would directly impact our members.
In response to this feedback, GEO formed the Electoral Action Subcommittee, which then drafted an Electoral Involvement Procedure. The document was ratified by the Stewards’ Council and quickly put into practice in preparation for important upcoming local races, including the UM Board of Regents election. The Electoral Involvement Procedure outlines three options for how GEO can engage with local electoral races: endorsement, cooperation, and education.
We strongly encourage high member participation in this new process of electoral involvement. Relevant procedures, practices, messaging and framing will all require regular, ongoing input from members in order to best reflect what we want out of our involvement in electoral politics. We welcome all members to join the Electoral Action Subcommittee, which meets Wednesdays from 1:30-2:30 in the GEO Offices, 339 E. Liberty St, Ste. 340. Members can also participate in this important work by talking to their stewards and attending GEO General Membership Meetings. We also strongly encourage members to become and remain engaged in local politics not only during but also after elections! Endorsements (like the ones below) require public accountability in order to produce the best outcomes for our members and the broader community.
The Graduate Employees’ Organization, American Federation of Teachers Local 3550, endorses Paul Brown as a Democratic candidate for the University of Michigan Board of Regents. We urge members of our local, of other unions, and of our community to join us at the Democratic Nominating Convention on August 25, 2018, and to vote for him in the general election in November.
We are particularly excited to have the opportunity to endorse Mr. Brown because he is a current member of our sister union, LEO. He has shown tremendous and consistent support for lecturers and graduate student instructors during our past two years of bargaining. He is also a board member of the Huron Valley Area Labor Federation, of which GEO is a part, where he has done important work supporting local labor efforts.
Mr. Brown has taken a clear stance in favor of academic freedom and has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that the University of Michigan is a safe and welcoming environment for all workers and students. In our conversations with Mr. Brown, he indicated a willingness to learn and to listen to the needs of students and University workers.
We believe Mr. Brown’s background as an educator and higher education union member, along with his board experience, make him uniquely qualified to serve as Regent at the University of Michigan
The Graduate Employees Organization, American Federation of Teachers Local 3550, endorses Jack Eaton in the 2018 Democratic primary for Ann Arbor mayor. We urge members of our local, of other unions, and of our community to vote for Mr. Eaton in the primary election on August 7, 2018. There are several reasons to be excited about Mr. Eaton’s support for public unions. Our endorsement of Mr. Eaton, however, is qualified by our serious concerns with other elements of his platform.
Despite their differing positions, neither Mr. Eaton nor his opponent have acceptable perspectives on police. In particular, Mr. Eaton’s position of wanting to expand the police force will make our community more dangerous. Ann Arbor is riddled with white supremacy. Some residents regularly wield the police as a weapon of terror against Black, Latinx, and other marginalized people in our community, as we’ve seen most recently outside The Blind Pig. Efforts to increase traffic enforcement, particularly around brake lights and pedestrian safety, disproportionately target and harm those of us with the least resources. GEO members, specifically, should recall the harassment and mass arrests that Ann Arbor police used against members in our union’s early days. While Mr. Eaton has spoken with community organizations seeking genuine oversight of the police force, his platform does not demonstrate sufficient support for these organizations’ – and our – concerns.
Police violence cannot be disentangled from labor issues. Police weaponize the language and practices of labor, using their unions to protect officers who commit assault or murder. Additionally, we recognize that police violence plays out along racial and class lines, disproportionately targeting communities of color and people experiencing poverty. GEO advocates for the material needs of all; we support robust civilian oversight of police in order to empower marginalized communities as a tool for our collective liberation.
Despite this, Mr. Eaton has a long history of work we support within and for the labor movement, including recent fights to protect unionized city positions from attrition and likely privatization under the incumbent’s administration. This consideration means a great deal to us, to the Huron Valley Area Labor Federation, and to many working people in Ann Arbor. We look forward to working with Mr. Eaton as mayor to secure expanded rights and adequate material support for everyone in this community. We endorse Mr. Eaton because we believe that Mr. Eaton’s strong positions in support of working people, however inconsistent with his stance on police, make him a less harmful candidate overall than his rival.
We look forward to opportunities to persuade Mr. Eaton to fully support Transforming Justice Washtenaw’s recommendations for civilian oversight of the police force. We call on Mr. Eaton to recognize that police officers are not adequate or acceptable providers of material support for individuals in need or crisis, and to advocate for allocating Ann Arbor’s entire share of the mental health and safety millage toward non-coercive social services. Finally, we look forward to replacing an incumbent whose insistence on police control of any oversight board, contempt for racial justice organizers, and openness to harmful privatization projects make him unfit to serve Ann Arbor in his current position.
If we want Paul Brown to be on the November ballot for the Board of Regents, we need to show up with LEO at the Democratic Nominating Convention on August 25th to help vote him in. If you’re a registered Democrat and you’re willing to join us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP so he can save you a seat on our bus to Lansing.
Read more about primaries here.
Showing Up for Organizing Against Policing in Ann Arbor
As stated, we have major concerns with Eaton’s record on policing, qualifying our endorsement. If we are willing to do the work of publicly endorsing him and helping his campaign, we should also be willing to do the work of showing up to move the needle on his disappointing stances. The major opportunity to do that this summer is through showing up for the activists participating in the Ann Arbor Police Task Force process. This Task Force is seeking to charter a city commission that will provide oversight of the police, and activists are trying to ensure that the Task Force empowers the commission to provide the strongest police accountability possible.
This Wednesday, August 1st, from 7-8 pm, we will be hosting an informal session with Task Force activists in the GEO Office, 339 E. Liberty St, Ste 340. We will be learning about the history of this organizing, both old and recent, the current status of the Police Oversight project, the current Task Force and their positions, and ways activists have been shifting the Task Force to create a better future Commission.
This Thursday, August 2nd, at 7 pm, at CTN, 2805 S. Industrial Hwy #200, Ann Arbor, there will be another public Task Force meeting. Including this one, there are only two working meetings left to get the kind of oversight we want, so we need as many supporters to show up as possible! Even if you can’t make Wednesday’s session and are unclear on how to participate, local activists will be extremely grateful for your presence.
The next working Task Force meeting after this will be Thursday, August 16th, at 7 pm, at CTN. The final Task Force meeting to present their final charter creating the Police Oversight Commission is Wednesday, August 22nd, at 7 pm, at CTN.