Petition Against AFT Raid on Michigan Medicine Nurses

The following statement and petition were approved by GEO’s Stewards Council at a meeting on the evening of December 2nd, 2020.

Sign the petition at bit.ly/NoAFTRaid!

We are members of the American Federation of Teachers. We are disappointed and alarmed to learn that our parent union is attempting to raid the Michigan Nurses Association by urging the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council at Michigan Medicine (UMPNC) to decertify. Instead of putting more resources into organizing the thousands of unorganized workers at the University of Michigan or increasing support for AFT locals on campus, AFT is attempting to steal another union’s members, breaking the bonds of labor solidarity. By encouraging UMPNC members to decertify from Michigan Nurses Association in order to join American Federation of Teachers, AFT is damaging on-campus labor relations, demoralizing Michigan Medicine nurses, and empowering the employer in the midst of a pandemic that has already taken so much from medical workers. It is unconscionable.

Nurses and their unions have borne the brunt of the pandemic. They have faced immense personal risk from the disease, with countless falling ill and far too many perishing alongside the patients they heroically care for. In addition, they have faced attacks from their employer who has used this pandemic to cut labor costs and weaken hard won protections achieved through collective action. UMPNC’s focus should be fighting for safe working conditions and a fair contract for members- not responding to AFT’s raid attempt.

Fundamentally, as members of the labor movement, we believe our foundational mission is to organize the unorganized. That is what Graduate Employees Organization AFT Local 3550 tried to do during our campaign to organize Graduate Student Research Assistants in 2011, and what AFT-Michigan successfully did recently by organizing physician assistants at U-M.[1][2]. The Michigan Nurses Association has done this all across the state, including winning a landmark first contract last year at Munson Medical Center[3]. Expending time, energy and money fighting amongst ourselves over already organized workers only serves to sap our strength, damage our solidarity, and open up divisions that bosses and employers can exploit.

AFT’s move to break UMPNC away from MNA has polarized local labor coalitions and threatens to undermine years of work invested in building cross-campus labor solidarity. This serves to strengthen the hand of our common employer, already operating in shock-doctrine fashion through the pandemic and ensuing financial disruptions. On a statewide level, this raid divides nurses against each other and weakens nurses’ collective power.

Workplace struggles, strikes, and the results of the recent election give the labor movement new opportunities to use our power to meaningfully improve the lives of millions of workers to expand and strengthen worker power across the country. We should not squander this moment by wasting precious resources fighting a self-defeating battle amongst ourselves.

As AFT members, we oppose the use of our union dues and resources to raid another union. We call on leadership in the American Federation of Teachers, including National AFT President Randi Weingarten and Michigan AFT President David Hecker to cease this raid and recommit AFT to principles of labor solidarity.

Winter 2021 FAQ for GSIs

U-M leadership has now released their plan for the Winter 2021 semester. As we get closer to the end of the semester, we wanted to provide a few critical GSI reminders and provide some info about how COVID might impact hiring and your work as GSIs.

Info About COVID
U-M has announced that all classes will be remote, except for those where in-person instruction is required for licensure or the University deems in-person instruction academically relevant. This means that they can require that certain assignments be in-person, but only if those courses are deemed by the University to be academically relevant. If you have been given an in-person assignment and would prefer to be teaching remote (even if you are unsure if a remote version is possible), email Kat and Sara at grievancechair@geo3550.org. If you are aware of a course that requires an in-person GSI but where you believe the work does not require in-person instruction, also email Kat and Sara at grievancechair@geo3550.org.

If you are in a department that will have in-person instruction for Winter 2021, please email Kat and Sara at grievancechair@geo3550.org and let us know how your department is determining preferences and needs around remote versus in-person work. In order to best be able to advocate for our members, we want to have a clear sense of what’s happening in different departments. Given that we are entering a new semester and that the risk levels in Ann Arbor around COVID spread have increased dramatically, your department should not treat your survey preferences that were stated on the form in June as proof of your preference for in-person work.

The college has announced that, instead of spring break, there will be two mid-week breaks from class on Feb. 24 and March 23. GSIs will not be expected to hold classes or office hours during those days. However, it is still possible that you will have grading or course prep on those days. Professors may only require you to attend a meeting on those days with considerable notice.

If you are GSIing from a country outside of the United States, you may be required to fill out a remote work authorization. Contact your instructor of record or department to fill out this form, if you are planning to be located outside of the U.S. at any point during your GSI position. Some FAQs for international GSIs here. There are a number of countries where access to UM resources are limited or where federal sanctions make maintaining a GSI appointment abroad impossible, including Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Crimea, Sudan and Syria. If you are planning on being in one of the above countries, you should contact Kat and Sara at grievancechair@geo3550.org immediately.

General GSI Guidance
Offer letters are important documents because, by signing them, you agree to the terms that are listed in the letter. So, you should always read your letter carefully before signing, even if you have signed an offer letter in the past. For example, they contain information on the reimbursement of SEVIS fees for international students. They also include a notice of the requirement to disclose felony arrest and/or convictions records. You are responsible for the information contained in your offer letter whether you read it or not, so take a close look before signing!  

Per the GEO contract, all GSIs and GSSAs are guaranteed six weeks of paid medical leave each year for illnesses, injuries, medical conditions, medical appointments or procedures OR if a family member experiences any of the above.

Per the GEO contract, your department must provide you with any and all materials required for teaching. You should not purchase any required textbooks, equipment or technologies specifically for a course where you are a GSI. Instead, you should request these items directly from your instructor of record or department.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employees with disabilities are entitled to “reasonable accommodations” in their workplace. Such accommodations might include assistive technology, ergonomic equipment, or an accessible work environment. For information and resources on how to start the accommodations process, see here. If you have any questions or issues with the process, please email contractchair@geo3550.org

There were multiple, deeply concerning issues last semester around GSIs not being hired correctly or not receiving health insurance in a timely manner. Confirm on Wolverine Access that you have health insurance for Winter 2021 and that your tuition waiver has been processed. Contact Kat and Sara at grievancechair@geo3550.org if you have reason to believe your health insurance has lapsed incorrectly. 

International student GSIs cannot work more than 20 hours in a single week and domestic student GSIs cannot be expected to work more, on average, than their fraction (e.g. no more than an average of 20 hours per week on a .5 fraction). Any and all work related to your GSI appointment counts towards your hours, including course prep, emails with students, learning new technologies and materials related to the job, orientation and training, and coordination with the instructor of record. COVID has only increased the amount of labor expected of GSIs, as our students are struggling enormously and many courses have been adapted to entirely new formats. All of the work to adjust, because of pandemic, should be tracked as part of your hours (view hours tracking resources here). If you are consistently (i.e. for 2+ weeks) going over your hours by ~2+ hours each week, you should email Sheira and Gillian from the Hours Working Group at sheiracohen@gmail.com ASAP to talk about your options. If you look at the syllabus or other communication from your instructor and think “this is crazy, there is too much work”, we can help you strategize a low-stakes conversation or other interventions. These have been successful so far, so please get in touch!

The International GSI Caucus previously put together a FAQ for internationals students regarding potential visa issues for international students if classes move fully online: https://www.geo3550.org/covid-19-and-igsis-faqs/
The International Center continues to offer comprehensive information at https://www.internationalcenter.umich.edu/travel-guidance-international-students

Statement of Solidarity with NU Community Not Cops & Northwestern Graduate Workers

The Solidarity and Political Action Committee and BIPOC Caucus of Graduate Employees’ Organization 3550 stand in complete solidarity with NU Community Not Cops and Northwestern Graduate Workers, who have been fighting for abolition in Evanston for over a month.

While NUCNC and Northwestern GW have been marching for abolition and racial justice, Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro and Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty have threatened and directed violence against protestors, instead of making the choice to protect Black and Brown lives and invest in communities. On Halloween, Evanston Police Department, assisted by various police forces brought in from other suburbs of Chicago (through the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System), pepper-sprayed, beat, and arrested abolitionist protestors in the streets of Evanston. Such actions by the university administration and the police departments speak to their repressive, disciplinarian, anti-student, and anti-democratic character. 

Since June of this year, NU Community Not Cops has pushed for the abolition of police on the Northwestern campus. On June 3rd, Black members of the Northwestern community, in coalition with campus allies, issued an open letter to university administration to invest in the health and wellbeing of Black student and non-student communities, commit to life-giving institutions, and divest from law enforcement (specifically Evanston and Chicago PDs and the campus police, Northwestern University PD).

Evanston and Northwestern University have responded to these demands by directing violence towards Black organizers and other organizers of colour.

GEO organizers and members stand with NUCNC and Northwestern Graduate Workers in their struggle for abolition. Our own Strike For Safe Campus brought to the bargaining table demands related to policing, so many of us here in Ann Arbor understand just how critical NUCNC’s work is for ensuring campus safety. 

We are moved by these efforts and encourage all of our members and allies to support NU Community Not Cops activists and all allied Northwestern Graduate Workers and community members by donating to support funds and spreading awareness. 

You can contribute to organizer support funds:

  • Venmo @NUCNC with comment NUCNC
  • Cashapp $nucnc with comment NUCNC
  • Venmo @NorthwesternGW with comment NUCNC Organizer Support Fund

In solidarity,

Solidarity and Political Action Committee & BIPOC Caucus
Graduate Employees’ Organization 3550

Statement on City Council Resolution DC-4 (20-1417)

On Tuesday, November 10th, 2020, GEO’s Solidarity and Political Action Committee (SPAC) voted to express support for City Council Resolution DC-4 (20-1417). This resolution, put forward by Ward 4 councillor Elizabeth Nelson, calls on the City of Ann Arbor to work with the University of Michigan to use “available housing units at their Ann Arbor campus … to meet the increased need for safe, emergency housing in our local community”.  

We feel that this policy is incredibly important. Housing has been identified by GEO members as a top priority. Ann Arbor is not affordable on our current salary, let alone for those making minimum wage in Michigan. We believe that everyone should be entitled to a roof over their heads, especially in the cold of winter. This policy, which would have the university open up vacant dorms for emergency housing, could be a matter of life and death for some in our community. This is particularly important given that we are facing down a deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will undoubtedly disproportionately affect the most vulnerable among us. We call on the university, President Schlissel, and the Board of Regents to work with City Council to make this policy a reality.

GEO Statement on Contested Election

At a general membership meeting this evening, members of the Graduate Employees Organization – AFT Local 3550 overwhelmingly voted to commit to a plan of nonviolent action – up to and including participation in a general strike – in the event that Donald Trump refuses to accept the results of the election. Our organization is firmly committed to the principles of democracy, which extend far beyond the ballot box. Though these principles are invoked frequently in the United States, they are much more rarely put into practice. We call for every vote cast in this election – both in the state of Michigan and across the country – to be duly counted. Our organization stands firmly in opposition to any attempt to subvert the outcome of the election, be it through blatantly illegal means or through judicial maneuverings. 

GEO is committed to working with our allies in the community and in the labor movement to fight for and protect democracy.  We encourage our sibling unions and our neighbors to join us in this fight. Should Donald Trump attempt to steal or undermine election results, we will see you in the streets.