Newsletter 9/27: General Membership Meeting on Wednesday…and other updates!

First Membership Meeting of the Term!

  • Come kick off Platform Development as we gear up to bargain next Fall
  • Get informed about how Right to Work has affected GEO
  • Update from UM Nurses on recent strike approval
  • Find out the different ways you can get involved and meet other GEO members
  • …and more!

Check out the the GMM Event page here.


GEO Stands with UM Nurses

University of Michigan nurses have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a work stoppage and GEO stands with them in solidarity.

“Our goal is a fair agreement which respects nurses and guarantees safe staffing,” said Katie Oppenheim, RN, chair of University of Michigan Professional Nurses Council. “The University can remedy this situation immediately, by stopping their unfair labor practices and bargaining in good faith.”

How can you get involved and stay informed?


Not Teaching This Term?

 

GEO is a labor union representing graduate student employees, yet many of the benefits we negotiate in our contract become the baseline for graduate student packages and are extended to graduate students even when they don’t teach. These include GradCare, tuition waivers, and annual raises. All graduate students benefit from GEO and have a vested interest in keeping our union strong. See your options for contributing solidarity dues in terms you do not teach!


Benefit Spotlight: GSI Substitution Policy

Replacement coverage: When a GSI needs replacement GSI coverage due to taking approved leave, including extra-contractual leave that is approved by the department, it is the ultimate responsibility of the department to either find and pay the replacement GSI, or pay the replacement GSI that has been identified by the GSI requiring a replacement. Which is to say, in practice, it’s ideal if possible for the GSI requiring a replacement to, at minimum, let the Lead Instructor and the Department know, and if possible, help them identify a replacement. Ultimately, though, so long as you notify the department of your absence, it is the department’s responsibility to find someone and to pay them for the replacement coverage. Many departments encourage an informal “trading” system of replacement coverage. You may engage in this if you wish, but ideally the department should be following the procedure outlined above.

Read about this and other benefits contained in your GEO contract here.


Text Alerts from Political Action Team

Soon GEO will begin utilizing text messaging technology called Hustle for some of our future organizing efforts, including providing electoral action information. This technology enables individual activists to have multiple, yet personalized conversations and to provide members updates and reminders in a format that many have identified as their preferred way to receive communications. We hope that you will find these text messages helpful. However if you receive a text from us and do not wish to receive more, you can opt out on the spot by simply texting back and stating that preference.


Many Ways to Get Involved

GEO is a member-run union powered by the volunteer efforts of its members. There are opportunities for members with all skills and availability to get involved. If you’re interested in any of the volunteer-run committees below, email the committee chair or check out the GEO calendar on our website or subscribe to the GEO events calendar to see when the committee is meeting next in our Liberty St. offices.

  • Organizing Committee (OC) – every other Wed at 10am, next meeting on Oct 3
  • Solidarity and Political Action Committee (SPAC) –  Wed at 12pm
  • Electoral Action Subcommittee (EAS) –  Wed at 1:30pm
  • Grievance – every other Fri at 1:45, next meeting on Oct 5
  • Platform Development –  Fri at 1pm
  • North Campus Task Force (NCTF) – every other Fri at 4pm, next meeting on Oct 5
  • Stewards Council (Stews) – every other Wed at 6pm, next meeting on Oct 10
  • Communications (Comms) – every other Mon at 3pm, next meeting on Oct 1
  • Trans Health –  Mon at 4pm
  • Disability – stay tuned!
  • Feminist Caucus – stay tuned!
  • Finance – ad hoc, email the Treasurer to get involved

Newsletter 9/5: Welcome Back from GEO!

Good luck to all GSIs and GSSAs on the new semester!

If you are teaching as a GSI or working as a GSSA, make sure to get informed of your rights and benefits in our GEO contract digest, or the full contract.

A few important start-of-term reminders:

  • Track your hours! Make sure your work expectations remain within your appointment fraction and that youhave documentation to show if you are consistently going above your hours during the term. Check out our resources for tracking hours here.
  • If you are an international GSI or GSSA, fill out your SEVIS FEE reimbursement form
  • Our newly won $700 annual cap on mental health copays in now in effect! You can track your spending by logging into you healthcare benefits account.
  • Alert Rackham at the start of the term if you plan to use your Childcare Subsidy by filling out this form. Doing so will avoid retroactive reductions of the subsidy from need-based grants you receive. Contact denise@geo3550.org with questions.

Recruiting for GEO Sexual Harassment Committee

We need your help! GEO members are beginning to meet in order to address harassment and sexual misconduct at UM. This issue is widespread among college campuses and there is significant interest in researching how graduate students can help change the culture and policies of the university and beyond. If you’re interested in getting involved, please email liz@geo3550.org. Our next meeting will be Wed, Sep 19, 2018 at 11am

in the GEO office (339 E. Liberty Street Suite 340).


Not Teaching this Term?

GEO is a labor union representing graduate student employees, yet many of the benefits we negotiate in our contract become the baseline for graduate student packages and are extended to graduate students even when they don’t teach. These include GradCare, tuition waivers, and annual raises. All graduate students benefit from GEO and have a vested interest in keeping our union strong. See your options for contributing solidarity dues in terms you do not teach!


 

GEO Supports the Ongoing Prisoners’ Strike!

GEO (AFT-MI Local 3550, AFL-CIO) supports the National Prisoners Strike, August 21st to September 9th, 2018. The nationwide strike is being called in response to the incident of violence at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina, April 2018, in which dozens of workers were injured and seven were killed. These deaths could have easily been avoided had the facility not been overcrowded; had the inmates not been subjected to hopeless and violent conditions; and had prison guards and EMTs not waited hours before intervening. In the aftermath, all Level 2 and 3 facilities in South Carolina were put on statewide lockdown, denying prisoners any freedom of movement, regular access to showers, recreation, or meals outside their cells.

Organizers of the strike are thus fighting for humane living and working conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform, and an end to mass incarceration. (The full list of demands can be found here).

The strike call has also been endorsed by, amongst others, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (IFT/AFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO) of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW); Jailhouse Lawyers Speak; Millions for Prisoners; The People’s Consortium.

Further information:


Upcoming Events


Join GEO in Lansing for National Prison Strike Rally!

GEO (AFT-MI Local 3550, AFL-CIO) supports the National Prisoners Strike, August 21st to September 9th, 2018. In order to draw attention to incarcerated workers’ demands, and to deter retaliation against participating prisoners, we call upon workers to join the solidarity march and rally in Lansing on Thursday, August 23rd.

The nationwide strike is being called in response to the incident of violence at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina, April 2018, in which dozens of workers were injured and seven were killed. These deaths could have easily been avoided had the facility not been overcrowded; had the inmates not been subjected to hopeless and violent conditions; and had prison guards and EMTs not waited hours before intervening. In the aftermath, all Level 2 and 3 facilities in South Carolina were put on statewide lockdown, denying prisoners any freedom of movement, regular access to showers, recreation, or meals outside their cells.

Organizers of the strike are thus fighting for humane living and working conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform, and an end to mass incarceration. (The full list of demands can be found here.)

The strike call has also been endorsed by, amongst others, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (IFT/AFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO) of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW); Jailhouse Lawyers Speak; Millions for Prisoners; The People’s Consortium.

Further information:

GEO Endorses Katie Scott for Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, District 9

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, American Federation of Teachers Local 3550, endorses Katie Scott in the Democratic primary for District 9 of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. We urge members of our local, of other unions, and of our community to vote for Ms. Scott in the primary election on August 7, 2018.

We are happy to recognize Ms. Scott’s long service in the Michigan Nurses Association, one of the most progressive unions in the state, as well as her work as a delegate to the Huron Valley Area Labor Federation. She has worked hard to represent her union in the nurses’ ongoing contract campaign at the University of Michigan hospitals, shown up consistently to GEO and LEO actions, and is fighting hard for working people in Washtenaw County during this campaign.

Ms. Scott’s commitment to excellent health care for all of us is particularly important because the Washtenaw County commissioners have substantial influence over the county mental health system, which has long been underfunded. It is crucial that new funds raised from last year’s mental health and public safety millage be used to improve the county mental health system, and particularly to compensate the badly underpaid workers in that system. We believe that Ms. Scott will continue to be a powerful voice for all working people as a county commissioner.


How GEO Makes Endorsements

GEO’s involvement in electoral politics has varied throughout our 45 year history. For the most part the last decade has seen 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 2013. 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, which 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 office, 339 E. Liberty St, Ste. 340. Members can also participate in this important work by talking to their stewards and attending GMMs. We also strongly encourage members to become and remain engaged in local politics not only during but after elections! Endorsements require citizen accountability in order to produce the best effects for our members and the broader community.

GEO Local Election Endorsements and Upcoming Actions

Dear Member:

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!

Background Info

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.

Paul Brown Endorsement

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

Jack Eaton Qualified Endorsement

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.

Events

Democratic State Nominating Convention on August 25

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 cacmpbl@gmail.com 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.