Bargaining Update 2/26/20

U-M negotiators presented the University’s counteroffer to our salary proposals today. Their offer for a 3 percent annual increase in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint, for three years, would place us far below a salary that would address the rising affordability crisis graduate students face–and is below half of what we asked for. Their proposal also fails to deliver pay parity for graduate workers at U-M Flint.

U-M’s HR team also rejected our proposal for expanding the number of GSSAs (graduate student staff assistants) implementing U-M’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives (DEI) and creating GSSA positions to help implement U-M’s climate and sustainability goals.

GEO also received responses to our paid leave proposals. U-M HR rejected our proposal to expand bereavement leave and rejected our proposals for professional development leave and leave for graduate workers undergoing criminal proceedings. While U-M HR also rejected our proposal for extended surgical leave, they offered the possibility of expanding medical leave for graduate workers, which could address the needs of our surgical leave proposal.

While the proposal for expanded medical leave is encouraging, the flat-out rejection of important proposals and far from sufficient salary increase numbers mean bargaining will continue into March.  #ContractThatWorks #GEO3550

Bargaining Update 2/24/20

GEO members lined halls of Palmer Commons on Monday, February 24! HR had to pass through a sea of signs to enter the bargaining session. We had record-breaking observer attendance in the session itself, showing our members’ strong support for the bargaining team.

In response to past rejections, our bargaining team passed back counter offers on employee training and protections against sexual harassment. For the latter, we are proposing streamlined Office for Institutional Equity reporting procedures, protections for graduate workers who go on extended field visits in isolated locations, and updated definitions of discrimination and harassment (to bring them more in line with current best practice and with the University’s own new Umbrella policy).

Our bargaining team also rejected HR’s proposal to require graduate employees to disclose felony history, which will lead to discrimination. Across the table, HR didn’t ask any questions and was less responsive than they have been in the past. But we are hoping to get their response soon! The session concluded with a caucus discussion among our team about how to move forward.

We hope to see many of you again at Wednesday’s session on February 26! #ContractThatWorks #GEO3550

Bargaining Update 2/7/2020

Negotiations continue apace and the GEO Bargaining Team can report that they are close to reaching a tentative agreement (a preliminary agreement on contract language that will later be ratified by the membership) on Article VI: Union Rights. This article, which gives GEO access to orientations for new GSIs, now has stronger protections to ensure that GSIs and GSSAs get the information they need about their rights and benefits.

The University HR team has responded to GEO’s proposals addressing climate/housing justice and the right to a demilitarized workplace. While the HR team admitted they found these concerns “noble,” they have argued our proposals are not labor issues that can or should be addressed in the GEO contract and have rejected them. The GEO Team disagrees with this characterization of our important proposals, and they will be collaborating with the relevant working groups over the next few days to decide on next steps. The GEO Team is committed to realizing the goals set by our membership and will continue to fight for them.

The GEO Team has also received language from HR that would forbid the use of University listservs for any non-University business. This would mean GEO stewards could not communicate with our members using department listservs, but it is also supposed to prohibit anyone from using U-M listservs to look for roommates, invite classmates to parties, or really discuss anything not related to official University business. Members made it clear at our January GMM that this was a laughable proposal, and the GEO Team has said as much to University HR.

The GEO Team has also had substantive conversations with the HR team around salary increases, hours fractions, protections against sexual misconduct, and protections and accommodations for graduate workers with disabilities. We are still waiting for concrete responses from the University on these issues, and will update the membership as soon as we hear anything new. The HR team has committed to reaching an agreement with the GEO Bargaining Team by March 1, so we anticipate those counterproposals are coming soon.

To get involved with any of the issues that come up at the bargaining table, email the Bargaining Committee Co-Chairs at bargainingchair@geo3550.org.

To learn more about the bargaining process, including a summary of GEO’s planks, see this slideshow.

Newsletter 1/17/20: GMM, Bargaining Update, and More

New Year’s Resolutions  

  • Track your hours! Make sure your work remains within your appointment fraction. Your department is required to send out a fraction calculation within 14 days of your start date. 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.
  • Know your rights and benefits as a GSI or GSSA by skimming our readable Contract Digest!
  • Get involved with the IGSI (International GSI) Caucus! GEO’s caucus for IGSIs is looking for new members. This is a working group open to anyone interested in maintaining and improving the conditions for international graduate students on campus. This is a voluntary position and co-chairs are free to choose how much time they can devote to the caucus. Interested? Email: internationalchair@geo3550.org
  • Don’t overpay for mental health services! Find a step-by-step explanation of how to determine the amount you’ve paid in mental health copays and how to enforce our annual cap of $700 per individual and $1400 per family on our website’s newest FAQ page.

Thurs. January 23, 2020

6pm – Rackham Amphitheatre (4th Floor)

Come learn the latest from the bargaining table and weigh in on what we’re hearing from University HR!


Informed Consent Hormone Therapy

For employees on a U-M health plan (such as GradCare), cross-sex Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can now be initiated on the basis of informed consent! This means that employees do not need to submit a psychological letter of support to be eligible for an HRT prescription. The U-M prescription drug plan does not require a letter to receive coverage for an HRT prescription, and information about how to set up an appointment with providers who will see patients without a letter can be found on the Michigan Medicine transgender services webpage.

It’s your body, and gender transition should fundamentally be your choice. We are therefore very excited to hear that U-M will affirm your right to make an informed choice, in consultation with relevant medical professionals.

Get more information on obtaining HRT prescriptions.


Bargaining is in full swing and the GEO Bargaining Team is wrapping up the process of introducing all our proposed contract changes. Once all proposed language is introduced, we can start to expect counter-proposals from the University.

So far, the GEO Bargaining Team has had especially engaged conversations with the University around hours tracking and hours caps, trans health provisions, protections against sexual harassment and misconduct, and how we define a GSSA position. The University has also proposed contract language that would require GSIs and GSSAs to disclose felony charges and convictions, per the Standard Practice Guide (SPG 601.38) released last year. The Bargaining Team has introduced language, approved at our last GMM, prohibiting discrimination based on legal history, and is communicating to HR our members’ concerns around the potentially discriminatory effect of the SPG.

In general, it is hard to say how far apart we are on most issues, but the Team remains optimistic and is looking forward to receiving further counter-proposals from the University soon.

The Team also invites our members to observe bargaining sessions and participate in caucuses (breaks from bargaining when the Team discusses and makes decisions about proposed contract language). Your presence in the room contributes to our power at the table and attending bargaining sessions and caucuses is a great way to make your voice heard. Sign up to attend a bargaining session as an observer.To learn more about a specific issue and to get more involved, contact the Bargaining Committee Co-Chairs atbargainingchair@geo3550.org.


Strengthen our bargaining position by paying solidarity dues!

Not teaching this term? Graduate students benefit from GEO even when we aren’t teaching — including through GradCare, tuition waivers, and annual raises — and we all have a vested interest in keeping our union strong. What’s more, this is the first year GEO is bargaining under Michigan’s new anti-union right-to-work laws. Paying solidarity dues is an important way to show the administration how strong our union remains and help win the protections we deserve.

See your options for contributing solidarity dues in terms you do not teach. Don’t forget to renew your solidarity dues if you set them up last semester.


Community Cooking: Dumplings!

Come be in community, learn how to make delicious dumplings, help feed your fellow students, and learn about food justice initiatives going on at U-M. Look out for future Community Cooking Events!

January 19, 2020 @ 12:00pm-6:00pm

Munger Residence Hall, 540 Thompson St.

RSVP Here

(Sponsored by: GEO, GRIN, and UAAO)