Statement on the Israeli assault on Palestine

In this moment of crisis, GEO stands in full solidarity with the Palestinian people facing the latest onslaught of Israeli state terror. We are appalled by the images of Israeli war crimes we see coming out of Palestine — from Israel’s planned ethnic cleansing of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem, to the aggression of the Israeli occupiers of East Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan, to the children and other civilians murdered by Israeli bombs in Gaza.

We are also disheartened by the continued equivocations of national leaders — including AFT President Randi Weingarten — on this issue and their refusal to take a stand in defence of Palestinian lives. Those who frame this as a “conflict” between two symmetrical sides, or who condemn Palestinians for resisting their ongoing dispossession, ignore the reality that Israel is the occupying settler-colonial power and that — as human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem are coming to acknowledge — Palestinians are subjected to second-class status under Israel’s apartheid regime. As a labor union committed to the ideals of union solidarity and social justice, we cannot be silent in the face of Israeli atrocities and must speak out in support of the Palestinian struggle. We affirm that Palestinian lives matter and that we need to do more to make that a reality.

This most recent episode of attacks on Palestinian lives and land also leads us to reflect on conditions on our very own campus. We need to better support Palestinian community members and uplift the efforts of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE), the Palestine solidarity organization on campus. All too often, apologists for Israel on campus are emboldened to harass Palestinians and their supporters—as we’ve seen this week in the aftermath of the Central Student Government’s recent press release. Time and again, the University administration has stood idly by in the face of censorship of Palestinian activists on campus. Meanwhile, the University’s own investment profile features numerous companies that profit from the dispossession and displacement of Palestinians and the violation of their human rights. We encourage all GEO members to support and extend their solidarity to organizations on campus like SAFE in their efforts towards a free Palestine.

Statement on the Murder of Daunte Wright, Ongoing Protests, and Ways to Help

04.14.2021

Dear Members and Friends,

We write to you at a moment in which our Black members, friends, students, faculty, and staff are again in mourning, and the pain of the last year has been further compounded. We write to share information about what recently happened near Minneapolis on April 11th, and to share ways in which you can help.

On Sunday, a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, was murdered by a white Brooklyn Center, MN police officer near Minneapolis, after he was pulled over for a minor issue. Daunte was a son, a brother, a father, a partner, and a friend, and his loss is deeply felt by his family and his community, who are now demanding justice.

Daunte’s death occurred mere miles away from where Derek Chauvin has been on trial for the murder of George Floyd not one year ago. It bears chilling and tragic similarities to the murder of Philando Castile by St. Anthony, MN police in 2016, after they pulled him over for a broken tail light. The Black communities of the Minneapolis area have seen their existing pain compounded by yet another senseless loss.

A curfew has been placed on the Minneapolis area in an attempt to prevent the community from expressing their pain, grief, and outrage in the streets, as is their right. Police continue to violently attack protestors who have taken to the streets to demand justice for Daunte, firing flash grenades and deploying tear gas. The National Guard has been activated in the Twin Cities metro area, while the familiar rhetoric about “rioting” and “looting” has been used to vilify mourning demonstrators. It is apparent that, again, police have prioritized the protection of private property over the protection of Black lives and over justice for Daunte Wright’s murder. Folks on the ground need tangible support. We stand in solidarity with all protestors in Minneapolis.

To our Black members and friends: please know you can reach out to the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Caucus at bipocchair@geo3550.org, who connect students of color on campus, conduct outreach to faculty and undergraduates, and amplify the voices of Black and Indigenous folks and other People of Color, both in GEO and in the larger campus community. You can also reach out to our officers at umgeo@geo3550.org at any time.

To our non-Black members: please remember this is a difficult time for many of your friends, colleagues and students, and for many members of staff with whom we share this campus – be empathetic, be flexible, and be ready to be supportive or to give space. Racism and white supremacy are structural in nature; take time to reflect on your own role within these systems and how you can support Black-led initiatives.

As we wrote last May, the very institution of policing, and the institutions of this country, are built on anti-Black racism and white supremacy, including police unions that work to shield police officers from accountability. One result of this institutional racism and white supremacy is racial profiling during traffic stops, leading to a much higher rate of stops by police on Black and Latinx drivers and in many cases, the use of excessive force against Black people with fatal consequences. These are more than statistics – these are people with full lives that are changed, disrupted, or ended prematurely. Daunte Wright should be alive today, and his family and community deserve justice. Until then, they need support and contributions from wherever possible.

Brooklyn Center is home to many Black, Latinx, and Southeast Asian families, has several food deserts, and is now being terrorized by the National Guard in a moment of grief and mourning. Below we have listed ways to support Daunte Wright’s family as well as the community of Brooklyn Center and local protestors. We encourage members and friends to contribute where possible, and to circulate these resources to others in your networks.

How to Help:

GEO Statement on White Supremacist, Anti-Asian Attack in Atlanta

GEO grieves with our Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) members, community allies, students, staff, faculty, friends, and family, and strongly condemns the anti-Asian, white supremacist violence wrought in Atlanta on the 16th of March. We mourn the murders of Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Kim, Sun Cha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng, as well as Delaina Ashley Yaun and Paul Andre Michels, who were also killed in the attacks. Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, the lone survivor, remains in intensive care. Another racist attack by a white man, on a 76-year-old elderly woman named Xiao Zhen Xie, occurred on the following day in San Francisco; she thankfully survived this attack but was forced to fight for her life.

Anti-Asian racism, hate crimes, and harassment are not new, and indeed the exclusion and dehumanization of Asian people, and the fetishization of Asian/ AAPI women, are systemic crises that arise repeatedly in the history, legislation, imperialist foreign policy, public rhetoric, military interventions/ war crimes, policing (including ICE’s deportation of 33 Vietnamese refugees this week), and media of this country. Harmful, racist, white supremacist narratives peddled and promoted by public officials and politicians (across the political spectrum) and nationalist groups during the COVID-19 pandemic have only increased the severity of these phenomena – Stop AAPI Hate reported that nearly 4,000 hate crimes against Asian folks were reported to them between March 2020 and February 2021. 

These targeted murders by a white nationalist man and the shameful excuses and apologia offered by some media outlets and by the Georgia sheriff’s spokesman further highlight the impunity with which violent white supremacy can operate while communities of color are over-policed and are criminalized. 

This attack must be understood as the intersection of anti-Asian racism and misogynistic gender-based violence, and as part of a broad phenomenon of racist violence targeting immigrant and undocumented workers, including sex workers. It is incumbent upon all of us to speak out against these despicable forms of hate and to stand in solidarity with our Asian siblings.

We have provided an initial list of organizations and funds accepting donations, resources, and events below. We will continue to update as we become aware of others to add. 

We also want to offer GEO’s BIPOC Caucus as a resource for amplifying the voices of people of color, including AAPI folks, within this union and in the larger University of Michigan community, including but not limited to the voices of undergraduates and staff. Any members of our community who identify as BIPOC are welcome to bring concerns to the caucus. To get involved, email BIPOCchair@geo3550.org

Resources

Campus Events

Statements & Resources from Campus Units & Individuals

GEO 3550 Stands in Solidarity with Graduate Workers of Columbia

The graduate student workers of Graduate Employees’ Organization 3550 (University of Michigan) stand in full and firm solidarity with the Graduate Workers of Columbia (UAW Local 2110), who are and have been engaged in a two-year long struggle for a fair contract. Last spring, GWC members voted 96% in favor to authorize the bargaining committee to call a strike; GWC is ready to fulfill this mandate and strike if they do not receive a fair contract by Monday, March 15th, 2021.

GWC is demanding a contract that guarantees improvements to health care, better childcare support, fair wages and compensation, real recourse for harassment and discrimination, protection for international workers the creation of union shops, and recognition of the NLRB-certified bargaining unit.

Columbia University HR has engaged in intimidation tactics, proposing methods of surveillance and threatening withholding of pay and demanding student workers sign into a website to confirm that they are working, otherwise forfeiting payment, stipends, and financial aid. Their intention is to bust organizing efforts and break GWC’s resolve and mandate to strike. We recognize and condemn these shameful and retaliatory attacks on workers and their intentions to harm the union. The University of Michigan engaged in similarly despicable behavior when they filed an injunction against GEO 3550 last September. Do not give in – do not let them intimidate you!

We are encouraging CGW not to back down or give into these slimy tactics, and encourage all of our members and allies to offer full support to GWC through their hardship fund and by signing up for virtual picket shifts next week.

Read more: 

https://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2021/03/11/strike-deadline-looms-over-bargaining-discussions-days-before-gwc-student-workers-walk-out/

https://www.columbiaspectator.com/eye-lead/2018/09/26/looking-back-18-years-into-the-fight-for-a-union/

Follow on social media:

http://www.twitter.com/GWCUAW

https://www.facebook.com/gwcuaw/

https://www.instagram.com/gwc_uaw/

Donate to the hardship fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/solidarity-with-columbia-academic-student-workers 

Sign up to join the GWC virtual picket line: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfZyXQ9-8cAnKl0JMHiEOJ9NbMgOGJsmRRwYmwx21KekpjNIA/viewform 

Sign up for in-person picketing with GWC if you are in New York! https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScrQ8EICwDnxTvy9nMzYtK0Jfp-Q1rvQMgF6U1fZWC0IaHNnw/viewform 

See picket line policies here:https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vSF3x1EYJMhep9wxgwgOCeBfnN42j7Vki7_zSOxMGvyMVyEJSM0rImkL68WbiP-tL4ZI8791PZhvz0u/pub  

GEO Grievance Committee Wins Settlement for International Graduate Students

Each summer, a couple dozen international grad students participate in a course called ELI 994. The GEO contract guarantees that participants in this program get a $45 a day stipend, but this past summer, U-M argued that they did not need to provide the stipend because the program was online and participants were not in Ann Arbor.

We grieved the issue back in September and U-M continuously refused to settle. We announced plans to take the case to arbitration and it took until one week before the arbitration hearing for U-M to give us a settlement offer.

After many intense rounds of negotiations, GEO has won a deal that guarantees 75% of the stipend to all ELI 994 participants from this past year and 50% of the stipend if the program is online next year.

Given that arbitration is a crap shoot and U-M’s first two settlement offers were considerably smaller (U-M even tried to push for 0% of the stipend for next year’s participants if it’s online), this is a huge win for the ELI 994 participants, guaranteeing them each over $700!

Congratulations to all grievants and to the very persistent Grievance Committee! This victory demonstrates the real importance of union power!