GEO takes the COVID-19 outbreak very seriously, and is innovating ways to continue to organize while social distancing. Starting today, we are conducting a Virtual Sit-In as one of several online actions that will take place over the course of this week to further GEO’s bargaining campaign. This time of crisis highlights the need for strong worker protections including medical leave, family leave, job security, health care coverage, GSI training, and more. As graduate students across U-M work hard to transform their courses for online learning and to conduct their research from home, we all remain energized to protect our benefits as workers and enhance the contract going forward. Below are images of our virtual sit-in, and you can see more on our Facebook page and head to our Twitter account to see what our members have to say. [email firstname.lastname@example.org with a photo you’d like added to this album]
Bargaining was eventful today, though interrupted by COVID-19 news. Despite that, the GEO Bargaining Team had many productive conversations and will continue to negotiate with the HR Team through the University closure.
We received some very good news regarding the timeline for grievances related to sexual harassment and misconduct. The University gave us significant movement on this issue, allowing GSIs and GSSAs to file grievances related to sexual harassment and misconduct after the 40-day timeline that limits other grievances. This was due in no small part to difficult but thoughtful conversations with the University about our members’ distrust in current reporting procedures and the particular anxieties and challenges that face survivors of sexual harassment and misconduct.
The GEO Team has also had very productive conversations around our Trans Health proposals and we anticipate announcing some good news soon. We have valued the collaborative relationship we’ve established with HR as we have worked through these complex and important issues.
The GEO Team also presented counters on proposals related to clean and potable water, gender-inclusive restroom access, letters of recommendation, office space, and mental health co-pays. Our Team felt that we made significant headway in getting the University to understand the unique and complicated role we play as both students and employees, and how that complexity affects our contract.
Despite the postponed GMM, the Bargaining Team is excited to present more details on the substance of these conversations soon!
Today was GEO’s first bargaining session after the March 1st contract deadline, and it is clear that GEO member organizing is working. The bargaining team had productive conversations with university administration about trans health resulting in some potentially encouraging directions, as well as some additional productive conversations about childcare proposals.
The bargaining team also received some important gains from U-M to improve clarification on grievance procedures, including those for sexual misconduct. However, U-M offered disappointing responses on some aspects of these proposals, including on the timeline for filing grievances related to sexual harassment and misconduct. The team made extremely clear at the bargaining table graduate workers’ lack of trust in the university in light of recent headlines about U-M’s appalling cover-ups of longstanding sexual misconduct. GEO is fighting for significant and immediate changes to U-M’s unacceptable sexual misconduct protection procedures, and there is still a long way to go before we reach the substantive changes that graduate workers deserve.
U-M also rejected GEO’s proposal for increased training around important issues that affect the employment conditions of graduate workers, part of a pattern of consistently ignoring these proposals.
Today’s gains make it clear that U-M is feeling the pressure from GEO members after we lined the halls at bargaining and made our power clear at the grade-in. However, it’s equally clear that we have a long way to go, and now that we are past the March 1st deadline, it’s time to double down on our pressure for the contract we deserve.
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
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.