Newsletter 10/8: Town Halls on Platform Items & Other Announcements

Thanks to everyone who attended and participated in last week’s GMM. We are thrilled with the turnout of 203 members and hope to keep the energy and enthusiasm going all year.

Due to some sensitive information in the newsletter, we are posting an abbreviated version to the website.

Please join us for two town halls to discuss questions that came out of our October GMM. Email BargainingChair@geo3550.org for more details or check the Promotions tab in your email for the full newsletter!

Image

All town halls will meet at the GEO office at 339 E. Liberty St., Suite 340 (above Isalita/Ragstock).

Thanks for your patience and participation as we continue to work through many important decisions together this year!

Emily Gauld
GEO President
Ph.D. Candidate
Germanic Languages and Literature


#DontFineDiversity

The U-M Board of Regents recently approved a $500/term fee for international students starting this semester. This new fee will reduce diversity on campus. International PhD students are now ~$1,500 more expensive to academic departments than their domestic colleagues. Thus, departments may decide to recruit fewer international students in the future.International students represent 14.9% of the total student body at U-M. The new international student fee can reduce that fraction.


Solidarity Action: NLRB rule denying worker-status to graduate students at private universities

The National Labor Relations Board is trying to block teaching and research assistants at private universities from unionizing by claiming they’re not employees. We know better. UM works because we do… and we know that’s just as true of grad students at private universities. Don’t let the NLRB weaken graduate worker power — add your voice to oppose the NLRB’s proposed new regulation and declare #WeAreWorkers.

Read more about the proposed rule.


Contribute Solidarity Dues!


Solidarity Dues are a financial investment in your future as a graduate student as well as in the pay and benefits of all current and future graduate students at UofM. The university has historically matched GSI and GSRA pay, so raises that are achieved for GSIs and GSSAs by GEO are also given to GSRAs. A strong graduate student labor union, therefore, results in greater raises for both GSIs and GSRAs.

Pay raises are not the only way in which GEO achievements impact GSRAs; major advancements in benefits secured in GEO contracts are also passed along to GSRAs. This is why GSRAs are today able to enjoy zero-premium healthcare as well as free and low-cost dental insurance options. GEO has also won the ability for international GSRAs to get their SEVIS fee reimbursed, provided that they have worked as a GSI for at least one semester.

It is important to understand that UofM has never voluntarily provided graduate students with pay raises, healthcare, or any other benefit. If the graduate student body chooses not to support their labor union financially, these benefits will never improve and may ultimately disappear. We hope that you will strongly consider both your own future and that of your fellow graduate students and choose to contribute to your labor union.

Sign up to contribute Solidarity Dues!
(And stop by the GEO Office to pick up a Solidarity Dues sticker after you sign up)

Newsletter 9/5: Congrats on the Raise, GEO Welcome Back Party, and More

Congratulations on your raise!

Starting on September 1st, GSIs and GSSAs will all receive a 3.3% increase in their pay. This means that those working at a 0.5 fraction (20-hours per week) now take home $10,889.52 per term, up from $9,867.88 last year. Enjoy the extra cash this semester, and remember, hard work (in bargaining) pays off! Read about the rest of your rights and benefits in our GEO Contract Digest.

A few important start-of-term reminders:

  • Track your hours! Make sure your work expectations remain within your appointment fraction. Your department is required to send out a fraction calculation within 14 days of your start date; if you have not yet received yours please reach out to the Grievance Co-Chairs. Keep track of your hours now. Get in touch with GEO if you end up going above your hours during the term. Check out resources for tracking hours on our website.

  • 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.

  • If you are a parent who receives the childcare subsidy and are at any time in the year expecting to receive additional grants or other financial support, make sure to update the Office of Financial Aid using this form, if at all possible prior to the receipt of the additional money. This will mitigate a retroactive reduction in the childcare subsidy amount. If you need information on the childcare subsidy or on how or when to fill it out the Budget Re-evaluation form, please email denise@geo3550.org.


Keep your union strong in a bargaining year

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!


Joining the Bargaining Committee!

Welcome back, everyone! We’ve spent the summer drafting language for a better contract; now we’re going to spend the fall educating members and organizing them to win that contract. Email bargainingchair@geo3550.org if you’re interested in helping this effort.

  • Look out for the latest round of our Platform Development Survey, launching September 16.


Affected by U-M’s criminal justice related policies?

Umich Behind Bars is organizing a forum to explore how the recently released policy, SPG 601.38, requiring self-disclosure of felony charges and convictions has impacted students, staff, and community members. The forum will also cover the impact of other related UM policies (i.e. criminal history boxes on job and student applications). Relevant UM administrators as well as the general public will be invited to attend.

If you might be interested in sharing your story, fill out this google doc.


Information sessions on new International Student Fee

The University of Michigan recently approved a new $500 per term fee for international students studying on an F or J visa in Ann Arbor. In response to the considerable amount of confusion and concern regarding this new fee, GEO is hosting two informational sessions.

Thursday Sept. 12, 7-9PM
and
Thursday Sept 19, 1-3PM

Rackham Amphitheater
(4th Floor of Rackham Building)


Say Yes! to Labor


Report Back from Coalition for Graduate Employees Unions (CGEU)

Two GEO delegates joined MSU and Wayne State graduate students for the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions‘ 2019 annual conference in Toronto. This year’s conference, “Building Solidarity Across Movements”, included members of graduate unions from the United States and Canada, as well as members of lecturers’ and postdoctoral workers’ unions and members of undergraduate student unions.

We particularly enjoyed opportunities to learn about organizing efforts at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where the Teaching Assistants’ Association has been fighting as a minority union to protect graduate workers’ rights, GEU at Michigan State University’s recent contract wins in fighting relationship violence and sexual misconduct on the MSU campus, engagement with electoral politics at Wayne State and in New York and Ontario, and STEM organizing efforts throughout the CGEU.

Finally, members of the Korean Graduate Employees Union (KGEU) shared their experiences organizing Korean graduate workers, and many delegates were able to give interviews and solidarity statements for them to take home as they continue their organizing efforts. We are not alone in any of our struggles at UM, and our past and future successes as a union are exciting for our allies in other graduate unions.

Newsletter 5/6: Summer Gradcare, GSI Offer Letters, Announcements

Summer GradCare Coverage

If you were a GSI or GSSA during the Fall 2018 and Winter 2019 semesters (even if you’re graduating) or if you were a GSI or GSSA in Winter 2019 and you will be a GSI or GSSA in Fall 2019, you are guaranteed our zero premium GradCare coverage during the spring and summer months.

This should be automatic and is handled by department administration. However, if you filled these teaching requirements and believe you are not receiving spring/summer coverage, please contact your department administration and umgeo@geo3550.org

as soon as possible to have any errors corrected.

* If you teach either spring or summer term, GradCare works the same way. You need to teach two contiguous terms prior to a covered non-teaching term (ex: Winter 2019 and Spring 2019 gets you covered for Summer 2019), or teach in the term before and after your non-teaching term (ex: Spring 2019 and Fall 2019 gets you covered Summer 2019).


Rights and Benefits as Spring-Summer GSI

If you are working this spring or summer as a GSI or GSSA, remember to take a look at the rights and benefits contained in your contract. You can find them in our handy contract digest!

Be sure to track your hours and ask about compensation if your summer job required course prep before the start of your appointment.


Concerns about how your department handles job offers? We want to know!

Recently members have reached out to GEO with concerns over how departments have made spring/summer offers, including:

  • Requiring work before the start of the appointment

  • Making “pre offers” that seem to go around our contractual guarantees

  • Making offers late in the Winter term, leaving little time for preparation

If you have stories or concerns about how your department handles the hiring process, we want to know! Contact the Grievance Committee at grrrchair@geo3550.org.


U-M Expands Trans Health Coverage after GEO Campaign

After a long year of organizing and advocacy efforts from GEO members, the University has agreed to extend all UM coverage plans to include Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS), permanent hair removal, and Adam’s apple reduction as fully covered benefits! These changes will go into effect on July 1st of this year.

We cannot express enough gratitude to our allies for their help in this fight. Find more details about the coverage for gender-affirming care under UM health plans in their info sheet.

You can read news stories on this victory from the Michigan Daily, U-M Record, and MLive.

The GEO Trans Health committee will continue to advocate for trans health equity. To get involved in future efforts, email transhealthchair@geo3550.org.

Consider Contributing Spring-Summer Solidarity Dues

Our recent victory expanding trans health coverage for all U-M health plans is an example of how GEO’s work benefits a broader community of graduate students who may not be GSIs or GSSAs.

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 Movie Nights – Hosted by Solidarity and Political Action Committee (SPAC)

Join us for our Movie Nights this spring and summer. Snacks will be provided and there is free parking on Sundays at the Liberty Lane Parking Structure! All Movie Nights start at 5pm, at 339 E Liberty St. #340 (3rd floor, above Isalita/Mani).

Family Nights are particularly kid-friendly, but anyone is welcome to attend. Feel free to bring friends and family to any GEO movie nights, but be aware that some movies may be unsuitable for kids.


Get Involved this Summer in GEO

The summer is a great time to get involved with committee work at GEO. Committees meet  to work on summer projects, working flexibly with committee members’ summer schedules. Regardless of your summer travels, get in touch with committees you may be interested to get involved.

  • Bargaining Committee Now that we have voted on a preliminary bargaining platform, help conduct research and write draft proposals! This is exciting behind-the-scenes work that is essential to having a strong bargaining year. To get involved, email: bargainingcommitteechair@geo3550.org

  • Solidarity and Political Action Committee (SPAC) – Get involved with GEO’s committee engaged in solidarity work with local organizations and keeping members informed and engaged in local politics: solidarity@geo3550.org

  • Grievance Committee – Winning a strong contract is only a part of what GEO does, we also enforce the contract by representing members who experience workplace problems and contract violations: grrrchair@geo3550.org

  • Feminist Caucus – Join efforts to address sexual harassment and misconduct through the contract and within the university: feministchair@geo3550.org

Newsletter 3/12: Run for GEO Office, Climate Action, and GMM

Consider Joining GEO Leadership

In April, GEO members and stewards will be electing new officers of the union, according to the provisions in our Constitution. In addition to the usual officer positions, we will also be electing the members of the Bargaining Team who sit across the table from the University during negotiations. These positions will be especially important as we enter contract negotiations with the University in the upcoming academic year.

We encourage you all to participate in the election process.

1. Attend the Informational Meeting

Wednesday, March 20, 6pm in the GEO Office, 399 E Liberty St, Suite 340

If you are interested in running for any GEO leadership positions, please join us! Interested members can discuss various roles with current officers, staff, and other leadership. This meeting is a requirement for anyone who plans to run as a candidate. If you are unable to attend, you can instead schedule a meeting with a current officer or staff organizer. See our contact page here.

Candidacy statements are subsequently released in the announcement of the April 5th GMM.

2. Attend the General Membership Meeting + Year-End Party!

Friday, April 5, 6pm at Neutral Zone

At this GMM, we will be electing the Bargaining Team, comprised of six members who will represent GEO to Human Resources during contract negotiations next year.

We will also elect the four constitutional officers:

  • President
  • Vice President
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary

3. Final Stewards’ Council

Wednesday, April 17, 6pm in the GEO Office, 399 E Liberty St, Suite 340

At this meeting, Stewards will elect:

  • Bargaining Committee Chairs (researches and drafts contract language to bring to the bargaining table)
  • Communications Chairs
  • Grievance Chairs
  • Organizing Chairs
  • Solidarity and Political Action Chairs
  • Head Steward
  • Web Administrator

Additionally, the chairs of caucuses or ad hoc committees are non-elected officer positions. They include, Disability Caucus Chair, Electoral Action Subcommittee Chair, International GSI Caucus Chair, North Campus Organizing Committee Chairs, Parents Caucus Chair, and Trans Health Caucus Chair.

If you have any questions about this process or wish to learn more about the positions to be elected, please write to secretary@geo3550.org. You can also get in touch with other officers by emailing the addresses on our contact page.

For more details about the various leadership positions, please see:


Nationwide Climate Strike on March 15

Some of your students might be involved in the Washtenaw Country Student Climate Strike, part of global efforts to call for action on climate change. The activists involved in the Climate Action Movement have created teaching resources on on Friday’s action.


Students of Color Town Hall

It’s clear from platform development results that racial justice is a key priority for GEO members. We want to make more space to hear from members of color directly on racial justice issues. Please join us at our Students of Color Town Hall on Wednesday, March 27 at 7pm in the GEO Office, 399 E Liberty St, Suite 340. We hope you’ll join us for food, solidarity, and to make your voice heard! RSVP on Facebook.


Take 5 Minutes to Rank Your Priorities!

Next year, the contract governing GSI/GSSA pay, benefits, and workplace protections expires and GEO will negotiate a new contract. We need to know what graduate students at UM need from our next contract.

To assess what issues are most crucial to graduate students, we’re asking you to take our Platform Priorities Survey. It only takes 5 minutes!

Any graduate student at UM can take the survey and responses are anonymous. After completing this survey, our members will vote on a bargaining platform (the things we try to add to our new contract), and member energy and involvement is how we win them. To become a member, visit geo3550.org/member

If you want more background information about the issues on the survey, check out our Planks Explainer. Email platformcommittee@geo3550.org with any questions or comments!


General Membership Meeting & End-of-Year Party

At this GMM we will:

  • Elect members of the Bargaining Team that will be negotiating our new contract next term
  • Hold elections for GEOs constitutional officers for the upcoming academic year
  • Listen to updates form the platform development committee, reporting on the results of last GMM and of the Rankings Survey

RSVP on Facebook.


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!

Newsletter 1/22: Solidarity Dues, the Value of your Benefits, and GMM on 2/13

All Graduate Students Benefit From a Strong Contract

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!

Know your Rights and Benefits

If you a GSI or GSSA this term, 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. Keep track of your hours now get in touch with GEO if you end up going above your hours during the term. Check out resources for tracking hours on our website.
  • 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.

Encourage Your Friends to Become Dues-Paying Members

Dues for a .5 FTE GSI appointment average to about $44 per month (deducted from paychecks in three installments of about $60). The benefits GEO has won in our contract more than make up for this contribution! When you become a dues-paying member of GEO, you help your union stay strong and ensure we can continue to win crucial benefits and raises in future contract negotiations. Encourage your friends to sign up!

Learn how to become a dues-paying GEO member, and for other ways to get involved.

Save the Date!

General Membership Meeting

Wednesday, February 13, 6:30pm

Rackham Amphitheater (4th floor)

This semester, GEO members are developing a bargaining platform as we prepare to negotiate our new contract in the Fall. Be a part of this process and GEO’s many ongoing campaigns by attending the first General Membership Meeting of the winter term. RSVP on Facebook.