GEO Statement of Solidarity with New College of Florida

The Graduate Employees’ Organization of the University of Michigan (AFT Local 3550) stands in solidarity with workers and students of New College of Florida against Governor Ron DeSantis’s brazen war on public higher education.

DeSantis’ anti-Black, anti-queer, and anti-worker agenda seeks to remake New College, a haven for free thinking, into a Christian nationalist institution. Already, DeSantis’s new Board of Trustees has fired New College’s president Patricia Okker without cause, has plans to dismiss faculty and staff, and weaken, if not ban Gender, Race, and Ethnic Studies.

It is no coincidence that New College is DeSantis’s first target. Its legacy as a rigorous and radically free-thinking institution empowers students to challenge injustice. Yet New College is just the beginning: in his hostile take-over, DeSantis is attempting to remake public education in service of white supremacy and his own political agenda. Should DeSantis succeed without challenge, he will move on to even larger targets. It will not be long before other state-level officials follow his model, and #YourCampusIsNext.

We urge all workers and students of New College, as well as students and members of United Faculty of Florida at other universities, to use collective action to resist this hostile takeover. The defense of New College is urgent and just. GEO 3550 stands with you, and urges all educators’ unions to join you in this fight. We encourage all to visit for ways to take action. 

Negotiation Bulletin #13: Grad Workers Back from Break with a Bang

Click here for a printable PDF version of this bulletin.

On March 7, nearly 100 grads and undergrad allies took the streets during President Ono’s inauguration to protest the University’s lack of serious counters. After weeks of having their proposals rejected by HR, grads expressed their anger at the state of negotiations, chanting “3% won’t pay the rent!” as the University marching band played. University big-wigs, including all the Regents, the Provost, and President Ono, walked by in full academic regalia as grads demanded U-M start paying attention to the well-being of his workers.

The action came hot on the heels of grads filing Unfair Labor Practice charges against the University. These charges, filed on Monday, challenge the University’s failure to meet its legal obligations to bargain in good faith. U-M has refused to provide GEO with data needed for negotiations and unilaterally changed workplace safety policies as we bargain over them. Even with the laws in Michigan stacked against workers, U-M is breaking the law to deny grads a fair contract.

Gov. Whitmer expressed her support for a living wage for grads at a small group session with Ford School policy students.

HR Calls Living Wage for Grad Workers ‘Exorbitant’

HR expressed frustration that grads want enough money to live, calling our living wage proposal “exorbitant.” In fact, our salary demand would cost $37M, which is about the same as what lecturers asked for in 2020-21, millions less than the cost of U-M’s new scoreboards ($41M), and a fraction of the $400M profit that U-M makes each year.

“Today, I received an email from my landlord about a rent increase at the same time HR was rejecting our proposal for a living wage. I can’t use the prestige of my PhD to pay my rent. We need a living wage now!”

– Maya, Political Science

HR Defends Ableist Policies

HR continues to defend the University’s right to:

  • Allow departments not to train grad workers on U-M’s disability accommodations processes, inclusive teaching, and Disability Culture
  • Deny accommodations to workers who can’t get or afford appointments to get documentation
  • Not post or centrally track building signage showing accessible entrances

Majority of Member GSIs Pledge to Strike

A majority of GEO members who are GSIs have signed cards pledging to vote yes in a strike authorization vote. This week will be crucial in determining how much leverage grads can bring to bear on the administration – including if we will strike. Sign the pledge:

Press Release: GEO Files Charges Against U-M’s Unlawful Conduct as University Disregards Contractual Deadline

For Immediate Release

Press Contact: Amir Fleischmann (he/him);

Following a Winter recess during which a contractual deadline for a tentative agreement passed, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (AFT-MI Local 3550) has filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against the University of Michigan for failing to bargain in good faith. 

State law requires the University to provide information related to wages, benefits, and other working conditions in order to facilitate contract negotiations, but the University has refused for months to share data on benefits (including healthcare, childcare, and reimbursements for immigration fees) and workplace safety (including COVID testing, prevention and remediation of harassment and discrimination, and campus policing).

The University also disregarded its legal duty to bargain with GEO over working conditions when it unilaterally changed its COVID policies on February 20, 2023. Those changes immediately narrowed U-M’s COVID vaccination policy to apply only to students living in University housing and employees working in clinical settings, and revealed plans to shut down the Community Sampling and Tracking Program at the end of May. The University had not mentioned these issues at the bargaining table despite the fact that GEO and U-M have been discussing COVID policy since negotiations began on November 17, 2022. U-M gave the union only 42 minutes’ advance notice of these policy changes.

“Instead of working collaboratively to solve problems, the University has undermined and stalled negotiations for months, going so far as to break the law,” said Jared Eno, president of GEO. “Meanwhile, grad workers are selling their plasma, skipping meals, waiting inordinate amounts of time for gender-affirming care, and struggling to escape abusive supervisors. Enough is enough. It’s time for the University to take these contract negotiations seriously and provide grad workers with a fair contract.”

The legal charges come on the heels of a contractual March 1, 2023 deadline for a tentative agreement that the University made no serious effort to honor. U-M spent the first two months of bargaining attempting to shut grad workers out of their own contract negotiations, taking the highly unusual step of calling in a state mediator before U-M had passed or responded to a single substantive proposal. Eventually conceding its position on logistics, U-M’s engagement since then has largely been limited to striking out GEO’s proposals. The University also proposed an effective pay cut, despite the fact that U-M already pays grad workers $14,500 less than a living wage. The move provoked outrage across campus, including a rare joint letter in support of GEO from Rackham Student Government (RSG), Students of Color at Rackham (SCOR), and Graduate Rackham International (GRIN). The University eventually admitted that it had not considered how grad workers would live under their wage proposal.

The RSG/SCOR/GRIN joint letter reads in part, “As passionate contributors to the excellence of this institution, we are incredibly disappointed by this disrespectful and inhumane [salary] proposal and its implication on our perceived worth by AHR. We cannot be silent while the administration enjoys raises that reflect economic conditions, while our salary falls behind a living wage and fails to meet the baseline rate of inflation, in the name of history rather than data. Plain and simple, this is an embarrassment.”

To support grad workers’ in their negotiations for affordability and dignity, sign GEO’s open letter at


Negotiation Bulletin #12: Over 1,000 Pledge YES on Strike as 3/1 TA Deadline Passes

Click here for a printable PDF version of this bulletin.

GEO Members Talk “Strike” at Mass Meeting

On Feb 21, over 600 grads discussed the lack of progress at the table. Members heard from colleagues struggling to get by. Nico in Anthro spoke of working 12-hour days and multiple jobs just to afford basic necessities. Abigail in Math spoke about the mental health strain caused by hostility she and her friends experienced at U-M. Alice in American Culture spoke about difficulties finding & affording childcare. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The deadline for a tentative agreement is March 1. We should be wrapping up our contract! For more than three months we’ve shown up to open bargaining in large numbers, spoken to individual Regents, raised awareness by info-picketing University events, and attended Regents’ Meetings en masse. The discussion of what to do next quickly converged on preparing for a strike. Members decided to collect strike pledges, the first step toward strike authorization.

North Campus Bargaining: Last Session Before TA Deadline

Even though the March 1 Tentative Agreement deadline is less than a week away, it is clear management has no intention of honoring it. With the majority of proposals in their court, they only came with counters in a few areas. They hadn’t done their homework, either: HR failed to produce the list of peer institutions that pay their grads as little as us. Grads’ research shows U-M is in the bottom fifth of its official peer list. HR also failed to produce a cost estimate for our universal tuition waiver proposal, despite claiming it was too expensive.

“I am deeply frustrated that we’re one week away from the deadline and they still haven’t been able to provide us with the list of peer institutions that they’re using to justify their insultingly low salary offer.”

– Jeff, Electrical Engineering

GEO prez Jared Eno questioned HR on U-M’s unilateral decision to narrow its vaccine mandate and shut down testing sites. HR gave GEO 41 minutes’ notice of these changes. It’s hard to bargain in good faith while the boss makes unilateral changes to our working conditions.

“I was pretty furious hearing HR talk about the new vaccination policy. There’s no rationale behind their decision – they’re clearly not working in the best interest of workers.”

– Hardik, Robotics

Over 1,000 GEO Members Pledge YES on Strike

From the nurses to the lecturers, HR only gave serious offers after union members voted to authorize a strike. We need a similar level of commitment if we’re going to win affordability and dignity at the table. To date, over 1,000 GEO members have pledged to vote yes on strike authorization. Sign the pledge and get your colleagues to do the same!

Negotiation Bulletin #11: Grads Speak at Regents Meeting, HR Stalls at the Table

Click here for a printable PDF version of this bulletin.

Grads and Allies Confront Regents on Affordability

On Feb 16th, grad workers in GEO and P4P rallied outside the School of Social Work before packing the room at the Regents Meeting. MSW grad Justice Cook explained that many MSWs are forced to take second jobs, making degree requirements–including 900 unpaid internship hours–nearly impossible to fulfill. MSW Larisa Mednis urged the Regents to bargain with grads over MSW compensation. 70 MSWs do their field placements at U-M, providing the University with nearly $1.3 million in unpaid labour.

Grads march to the Regents’ Meeting

At the Regents’ Meeting, management congratulated Regent Weiser (a billionaire local landlord) for buying up a city block for future dorms. Weiser’s ability to easily purchase numerous houses contrasted with grads who struggle to afford rent. Undergrad allies and Ypsi city councillor Dez Simmons spoke in support of GEO, citing smaller class sizes, the need for well-paid instructors, and funding a non-violent police alternative.

“The situation of international students with family here is structurally critical: we can only work 20 hours, our spouses are not able to work, and because of that, we are not eligible for a number of benefits—for example: we cannot apply for the childcare subsidy.”

– Claudio, Romance Languages & Lit

Frustration Grows as HR Stalls at the Table

Grads passed back proposals on disability, workload & workplace, healthcare, and public safety. Once again, HR struck all of our proposed contract language. When GEO Lead Negotiator Evelyn Smith expressed disappointment with HR’s lack of engagement with our proposals, UM’s negotiator Katie DeLong tried to dodge accountability, saying that grads being in the room made it difficult for her to make real proposals. Why can’t we know what she wants to put in our contract?

“How dare [HR] propose such ridiculous proposals on compensation without even having done the math of how a grad student would survive on those amounts, especially for those of us with additional costs? How dare the university claim that the current disability accommodations system works when barely any grad workers use it each year?”

– Anonymous grad worker, LSA

HR again dismissed our proposal to codify U-M’s sanctuary school policy, arguing that it’s unrelated to our working conditions. Over a dozen public universities have recognized that immigration status and employment are linked by having formalized sanctuary school policies. HR claimed they had a legal analysis to support their position, but said that they had not brought it with them, even though they knew the proposal was on the agenda.