On August 25th, GEO members voted to ratify our new contract, with 97% voting for ratification. This officially ends GEO's historic, 146-day strike for affordability and dignity. The 9-month campaign involved thousands of workers at every step of the way: from the platform development process, to the fight for open bargaining, to the strike, and the final weeks of discussion around the settlement. It was this deep, democratic process, which went beyond mere voting, that led to the strong feelings of unity and consensus throughout the campaign, typified in the overwhelming strike vote and now the overwhelming vote for ratification.
At a mass meeting attended by nearly 500 people on Thursday, August 10, grad workers voted to respond to the Administration's August 2 offer with a counter pushing for more gains. The meeting capped off a week of discussion, in which over 300 members participated in 32 department meetings, more than 14 working group meetings, and multiple, multi-hour sessions to discuss the August 2 offer and determine how we should respond.
At bargaining on July 13th, the 40th negotiation session between GEO and the administration, grad workers came ready to make movement with proposals related to workload (combined appointments), healthcare, international GSIs, and workplace disability accommodations. After a brief caucus with members, the Bargaining Team introduced proposals which would cap annual out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs ($750/individual or $1500/family), doctor visits ($750/individual or $1500/family), and mental health care ($100/individual or $200/family). After receiving the four package proposals from the Bargaining Team, the University’s team declined to pass any offers of its own and the session was ended.
At bargaining on June 23rd, GEO members voted to end the session early and walk out after a frustrating conversation about the latest sexual harassment scandal at the University. At the session, grads relayed the harrowing details of Professor Stephenson’s abuse of his grad workers to HR, in hopes of reassessing our proposed Transitional Funding Program (TFP) further at the table. This program would offer at least a semester of funding for grads who need to escape an abusive work environment.
On Friday, June 23, graduate workers walked out of a bargaining session with the University of Michigan’s Human Resources (HR), after HR refused to take responsibility for the latest sexual harassment scandal involving Professor Robert Stephenson’s abuse of two graduate students, reported on by the Michigan Daily on June 7. During negotiations, Garima Singh, Co-Chair of GEO’s Feminist Caucus, recounted the harrowing details of the case, in which the Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX office (ECRT) dismissed, minimized, and misinterpreted evidence against Stephenson to find that he had not violated University policy. HR hid behind technicalities in an attempt to justify their proposal on harassment protections, which would not have protected Stephenson’s survivors. With multiple harassment survivors in the room, graduate workers grew frustrated with HR’s refusal to work with graduate students to solve the harassment crisis and voted to walk out. According to GEO President Jared Eno, “graduate workers walked out today because we are fed up with HR’s prioritization of arbitrary rules and procedures over the real-life experiences of workers—which only mirrors the institutional betrayals perpetrated by ECRT.”