Bargaining Updates

Quick click index of bargaining updates:

 


3/12/15 GEO Bargaining Update

Hello GEO members!

The bargaining committee met on Tuesday for the first of two bargaining sessions this week. Management repeatedly refuses to share information with GEO on healthcare that would enable both sides to bargain more fully and effectively over this critical issue. In response, GEO has filed a formal information request to which management is (predictably) dragging their heels to respond. Management thinks that if they drag out negotiations that GEO will get tired and settle for less than what our members deserve. GEO is here to say that management’s strategy will not work; GEO will not be worn down by a petty delay.

On Tuesday, the GEO bargaining committee hand delivered a letter to Chancellor Subbaswamy demanding him to direct his negotiating team to stop these childish games and to bargain in good faith. GEO is giving the administration an opportunity to work with us to correct this situation and get this contract settled in a timely fashion. If GEO doesn’t see significant movement from management at the next bargaining session this Friday, then we will take this as a signal that it is time to escalate our contract campaign.

A contract campaign will not be as effective without the full participation of our members. GEO’s mobilizing force has been canvassing the campus this week, informing members of our bargaining successes and struggles. GEO has several campaign strategies in mind and many different ways for members to show support for GEO and frustration with management. Be on the lookout for days of action and events in the near future!

Here are some of the major issues that GEO has already won:

• All-gender bathrooms all graduate employees are now able to request access to an all-gender bathroom near their place of work (classroom, office space, or otherwise)

• Affirmative action hiring committee: we are pushing the administration to hire more graduate student-workers of color and revise their hiring procedures

• Paid family and medical leave: we got administration to include 40 hours of paid family and medical leave in one of their proposals. This would be on top off our additional time off and vacation time (which is already guaranteed in our contract)

• Out of Pocket Maximum (OOPM): management has stated at the table that they could lower to OOPM from $3,000 to $1,500, but GEO knows we can do better

The chart below illustrates the three biggest proposals left to go: wages, workload and healthcare. We present a side-by-side comparison of our proposals and management’s counter-proposals on these issues. Management’s proposals simply don’t stack up and are not in the best interests of graduate student workers.

Management’s wage proposal does not even begin to keep up with inflation and the rising cost-of-living expenses. This “raise” would keep graduate student employee wages stagnant and would not alleviate the burdens currently faced by our members.

The rampant overwork of our members that happens across all departments is unacceptable and must stop. Management simply refuses to see overwork as an issue.

Co-insurance shifts costs from the plan to our members, to the tune of thousands of dollars per year for our members. UMass admits that co-insurance discourages many members from getting needed health care for themselves and their families. This must stop!

  Union Proposal Admin Proposal
Wages 5% increase per year (15% total over 3 years)

 

 

1.5% increase per semester (9% total over 3 years)

 

Workload Recognize daily and weekly workload maximums and institute an expedited workload grievance procedure

 

Do nothing: The Admin believes we are already sufficiently protected

 

Healthcare Create co-payment system with dramatically decreased out of pocket maximum (ex :you pay a flat fee of say $25 for your doctor’s visit)

 

Continue with co-insurance (ex: you pay 15% of whatever your doctor’s visit is going to cost)

 

We hope that all of our members have a great Spring Break and we look forward to waging a successful campaign with you when classes resume.

In solidarity,
GEO

 


2/27/15 GEO Bargaining Update

Hello GEO family!

The bargaining update this week focuses on an issue that is near and dear to our hearts: healthcare.

The GEO healthcare proposal is straightforward — we want to eliminate co-insurance and instead have a system of fixed co-payments, and we want to lower the total out-of-pocket costs for our members. We want our members to be able to afford the care that they need, when they need it. Rather than members having to guess the cost of a doctor visit, hospitalization, or diagnostic service, GEO believes that our members should know ahead of time what these costs will be so that members can budget for them.

**SKIN IN THE GAME**

The management lead negotiator, Susan Chinman, does not believe that GEO members have enough *skin in the game* when it comes to their healthcare, in other words, that members are not paying enough for services. Management is worried that if graduate student employee health care costs go down, then graduate student employees might actually _use_ their benefits. This insulting statement assumes that GEO members are not already invested in their own healthcare, that members are not already paying enormous sums for the care that they need. It also points to a troubling truth: the University knows that the current cost of healthcare is prohibitive. Our members often forego healthcare because they cannot afford it, and management is uninterested in fixing the problem.

**NOT HIGH, NOT MIDDLE, BUT LOW**

GEO proposed a high-level health coverage plan that would keep out-of-pocket costs low and co-payments reasonable. Management responded that they are not interested in a high-level plan. Management is not interested in a mid-level plan. Management has said at the bargaining table that they are only interested in a low-level plan within the platinum range for our members. This attitude is disrespectful to our members and disrespectful to the bargaining process. Management does not value graduate student labor enough to ensure that graduate student employees remain healthy enough to do their jobs.

Despite the frustrating conversations at the table this past Friday, the GEO bargaining team is still giddy over our all-gender bathroom win. Not only will graduate employees be able to access all-gender restrooms, but we also created a process to increase the total number of all-gender restrooms on our campus. The importance of this victory cannot be overstated. Safe and accessible restrooms are a workplace issue, and now, thanks to GEO, management knows it.

In solidarity,

your GEO bargaining team

 


2/17/15 GEO Bargaining Update

Dear fellow GEO members,

There are many exciting things to report in this member update!

Last week, management disrespectfully and unilaterally cancelled a bargaining session at the last minute, and your elected bargaining team took swift action.  In under nine hours, using word-of-mouth and social media, we mobilized 40 GEO members and supporters, especially undergraduate allies, to stage a sit-in and bargaining teach-in outside of the Dean of the Graduate School’s office.

You can check out photos of the action on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GEOUAW/photos_stream and listen to a WMUA interview with two bargaining committee members here: https://soundcloud.com/wmua-news/graduate-students-push-for-expanded-benefits.

The importance of member mobilization and collective action cannot be overstated. The sit-in put us in a very strong position and during our next bargaining session with administrators we won five (!) tentative agreements, bringing our total agreed upon proposals to seven.   Reaching these tentative agreements on specific proposals provide the building blocks for agreeing on the entire contract and completing negotiations.

In addition to winning proposals that will allow the Union to better service our members, we won a spread-out payment schedule to make it easier for GSEs to purchase semester parking passes and we won the right for GSEs to have access to safe bathroom facilities near their workspace.We are particularly excited about this last proposal because it means that UMass Amherst is now the second university in the nation, along with the University of California, to contractually guarantee access to all-gender restrooms for graduate student employees. We are also very close to reaching agreement on three more proposals including one that will make the processes and criteria for appointment and reappointment procedures more transparent and up-to-date. We have also won the first paid parental leave for graduate student employees. The momentum is really picking up and are excited to continue to make progress toward winning the best contract we can for our membership.

The fight isn’t over, though. There are still many outstanding issues that the bargaining committee continues to push forward. Many of these issues are the “bread and butter” of our contract, including Health Insurance, Wages and CPE, and Workload. We are really pushing to lower out-of-pocket costs for healthcare and eliminate co-insurance, fight for higher wages, and to keep our members from being worked beyond their contracted number of hours.

Now more than ever, we need the membership to stay informed and involved in what is happening at the bargaining table. You can do this through attending membership meetings and talking with your department’s Steward. Additionally, members are always welcome to stop by the GEO office, room 201 in the Student Union. To win the best contract we can, we need member support and member shows of strength and solidarity!

To learn about the proposals or to share your own testimonials on the issues, please go to tinyurl.com/GEOBargains.

If you’ve stuck with us this far through the e-mail, congratulations! We told you there were a lot of exciting updates! To close out this e-mail, GEO staff and leadership would like to welcome and congratulate the newly elected members of the Bargaining team:

Stacey Sexton, Higher Education & Public Policy (promoted from alternate to paid);

Matthew Donlevy, English/American Studies (promoted from unpaid to paid);
Alyssa Goldstein, Sociology (new Committee member, unpaid);
Will Syldor, Education (new Committee member, unpaid);
Peter Huntington, Geosciences (new Committee member, alternate);
Zach Kimes, Political Science (new Committee member, alternate);
Kim Sawyer, Labor Studies (new Committee member, alternate)

We look forward to the new insights and energy that you all will bring!

In solidarity,

GEO

 


10/14/14: Tell Chancellor Subbaswamy: Support Diversity with Action, not Platitudes!

Dear GEO members and supporters

Did you see? The Chancellor has announced a Town Hall this Thursday to discuss “key issues involving diversity” in the Strategic Plan.  Meanwhile, his administration continues to undermine diversity with unfair bargaining demands and tactics aimed at the employees who make UMass Amherst work.

Democratic and active unions promote diversity by giving workers a voice and opportunities to demand justice – not just wait on it to ‘trickle down’ from a top-down plan.  GEO has been in contract negotiations since June.  While the UMass PR machine pats the administration on the back for promoting ‘diversity,’ Unions’ proposals to protect workers who are discriminated against are met with the administration’s silence, dismissal, and gross mischaracterizations.

  1. The university claims to combat discrimination with ‘positive and aggressive action.’  Where’s the proof? There is no oversight or enforcement.   We think our members should have a say in reviewing institutional data and recommending better policies.  The administration has had this proposal for months, and has remained silent.
  2. The administration has rejected Union proposals respecting reproductive and family rights – including paid parental/medical leave and addressing complications pregnant workers have in getting parking near their workspace.
  3. The administration claims to agree that workers should have access to bathroom facilities reflecting their gender identities, including gender-neutral bathroom access.  But, they will not bargain over the subject or make any contractual commitment to any action.
  4. The administration has still not responded to our proposals for a raise and to fix our health insurance by eliminating co-insurance.  These proposals most impact graduate students with less access to other forms of healthcare or funds, those with chronic health issues, and those who have had to forego important (so-called ‘specialist’) medical care for the fear of an uncertain bill.  For some of us, our time here at UMass is the first time we’ve had employer-based insurance.  The university instituted co-insurance a few years ago, and there is no reason to continue it.  We want to make the insurance as straightforward and affordable as possible.  The admin’s response is still forthcoming.
  5. The administration has refused to bargain over rules to restrain departments from unilaterally increasing workloads without increasing pay and over the lack of transparency in appointment and reappointment decisions.  Graduate employee diversity is impacted by unreasonable work demands, unfair pay, and a lack of job security from semester to semester—all of which make it increasingly difficult for economically disadvantaged students to afford a UMass graduate education.

These five proposals are only part of the changes we’re fighting for.  If the Chancellor is serious about diversity, he should show it where it counts by directing his negotiators to stop playing games and start addressing the needs of graduate employees at the bargaining table.  In solidarity,

In solidarity,

The GEO Bargaining Committee

 


9/18/14: Update on Negotiations Related to Health Insurance

We are writing to update you on negotiations specifically relating to health insurance for graduate employees. We will send out an additional, more general update by the end of the week.

The GEO bargaining committee has made several insurance-related proposals, including the following:

·         Eliminate in-network co-insurance

·         Prohibit the administration from raising our out-of-pocket costs during the life of the contract

·         Prohibit reductions in benefits without bargaining with the Union

·         Increase the University’s annual contribution to the Health and Welfare Trust (which pays for             dental and vision benefits for graduate employees)

·         Lower the work hours threshold for eligibility for the health fee waiver

Although based on bargaining surveys there is much that our members would like to see improved about our health insurance, our number one priority is to address the unreasonable and unfair out-of-pocket costs our members pay.

The most significant source of these costs is a 15% “co-insurance” charge for in-network care, which was unilaterally imposed by the University two years ago at the same time that it became self-insured.    

GEO filed a grievance over the introduction of the in-network co-insurance which was settled with an agreement by the University to a $3,000 annual cap on co-insurance payments. Still, according to data we have obtained from the University, over ten percent of our members are hitting this cap each year.  Of course, by design, these costs have fallen hardest on those with the greatest need—because of a pregnancy, a serious illness or injury, or a chronic health condition. The University has acknowledged that the co-insurance also operates to discourage some employees and their dependents from getting needed care.

With support from our international union, the United Auto Workers, we have obtained detailed information from the University about health care usage and costs since the introduction of the co-insurance as well as about the financing of the health plan.  Although we are still reviewing the information and have requested some additional data as well as some data that was left out of management’s response, it appears that the health plan is well-funded and that continuation of the co-insurance is completely unjustifiable.

UMass has had our health insurance proposals for over two months, and has yet to respond with any counter-proposal.  They have also actively refused to talk about health insurance thus far. We need to send the message to the University that graduate employees deserve affordable insurance and that it is time to come to the table and address this issue.

If you have been affected by these onerous co-insurance costs, we would like to hear from you. Please click GEO Healthcare Testimonials to send us your story.

In Solidarity,

Your Bargaining Committee

 


8/21/14

Get involved!

 

We need help with orienting new graduate student-workers and tabling at events.

Can you help by pairing up with one of the GEO staff members to do an orientation in your department? And/or could you help us table at one of the start of school events? If so please respond to this email letting us know that you can and which department(s) you are in! Thank you!

 

There will be more opportunities to get involved as the semester is ramping up and more people are on campus. We plan to open negotiation sessions to all GEO members beginning in the fall, and will regularly invite rank-and-file members to share their stories and experiences with management. Management does not know what our lives are like or how challenging it can be to balance a full-time graduate education with the responsibilities of an employee on our current pay and with our limited benefits. Keep an eye on your email in the coming weeks; GEO leadership and the Bargaining Committee will be in touch with you regularly this semester.

     

Announcements:

 

Our 1st GEO membership meeting is Tuesday September 16th from 3-5pm (location to be determined). Please come to hear bargaining updates, participate in the elections for Mobilization Coordinator, one Member-At-Large Steering Rep, and probably Bargaining Committee positions (both paid and non-paid) and join us for pizza!

 

Secondly, we will also be hosting a joint GEO-GSS welcome back mixer on Friday, August 29 at 7:30PM at the Amherst Brewing Company on University Drive in Amherst. Come out, make some new friends, and reconnect after a summer away!

 

Bargaining Update

 

Thanks for your participation in our extensive surveys this past spring. As a result of all of your feedback, the following issues have risen to the forefront of our contract campaign. To be clear, we will need the involvement and visible support of all GEO members if we are going to effectively negotiate solutions to these concerns:

 

1. Low wages that are insufficient to cover the cost of living in this area

2. Our expensive, difficult-to-navigate, and discriminatory health insurance plan

3. Rampant overwork across departments and job categories, along with frequent unilateral increases to graduate employee workloads

4. Lack of clear processes and accountability in funding allocations, disciplinary processes and appointment/reappointment decisions

5. The general unavailability of summer work

6. Pregnancy and parking; we’ve made some progress on this at the bargaining table!

 

While these six concerns rose to the top of our survey numbers, there were a range of issues that members felt strongly about, and we are working to bargain a contract representing the diverse needs, experiences, and perspectives of our members.  You can see a detailed explanation of these proposals by clicking here:

 

We, the GEO bargaining team, have met with the administration four times. Many of these early meetings focused on ‘housekeeping’ issues, so we have only just begun to actually negotiate. We started with the proposals that we feel will be easiest to resolve, and will be moving on to our larger-scale and potentially difficult-to-win demands when all of our members return in September. We will need to mobilize our entire bargaining unit in order to negotiate higher wages, a less-costly health insurance system, a more enforceable and less burdensome workload clause, parental leave, indemnification, and more transparent appointment/reappointment policies.

 

What have we discussed with management so far?

  • GEO dues and union security: We talked about the relationship between GEO and the administration. We feel that the administration has a practice of withholding important information about members that our union should legally have access to as a recognized collective bargaining unit. It is important for us to have access to basic information about GEO members in order to enforce the contract and better represent members.

  • Health and Safety: We contend that graduate workers need to have more of a voice in determining when we have been asked or directed to work in unsafe environments; our contract should also provide clearer, more transparent mechanisms for addressing workplace safety concerns.

  • We proposed to spread parking fee payment across the length of a worker’s contracted appointment instead of continuing the requirement that parking fees be paid in 2 lump sums.

  • All-Gender Bathrooms: We believe that access to safe and accessible bathroom facilities for all people, regardless of gender identity or presentation, is a right which is best protected and enforced through contract language.

  • Pregnancy and Parking: We want to ensure that all pregnant workers who require parking close to their workspace for medical reasons are able to access this accommodation without difficulty.

  • Paid parental leave: We want to institute paid parental leave for all graduate employees.

  • Discipline: Currently, we do have ‘just cause’ in our contract, but we want to make that right (and your right to union representation) more transparent and less open to abuse by supervisors.

 

We do not yet have a clear picture of the administration’s goals for these negotiations. The sparse proposal document they handed to us at the meeting on July 9th was to keep the contract exactly the same except for bringing “the current healthcare plan in line with the Affordable Care Act.” When pressed for more information on the latter, Susan Chinman (management’s chief negotiator, who also handles most grievances and negotiations related to GEO) could not provide details.  While we all want our healthcare system to comply with new government regulations, we have to stand up to any possible administrative move that would use the ACA as a smokescreen for decreasing our current benefits.

 

In solidarity,
Your GEO leaders and Bargaining Committee


 

6/24/14

Bargaining Survey and Updates!

Dear GEO-UAW 2322 supporters,

In two days, fellow GEO members (your elected bargaining committee) will be sit across from the UMass Amherst administration to begin negotiating our next collective bargaining agreement – the document that will define and shape your working environment and that of your colleagues for years to come.  If we’re going to preserve our contract and make it stronger, we need to all be involved! To start, everyone needs to fill out the Online Bargaining Survey at http://tinyurl.com/geofaircontract  It is different from the long paper survey that was disseminated a few months ago, so even if you completed it please take five minutes to complete this online survey!


For more frequent updates on bargaining follow us at:

Twitter at https://twitter.com/GEOUAW

Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GEOUAW

GEO-UAW 2322 website bargaining updates page:  https://www.geouaw.org/?page_id=2976

Also, please share these links and the survey with your friends and colleagues to encourage as much participation in the bargaining process as possible. Together we will win!

In solidarity,

Your Bargaining Committee

 


 

6/17/14

Bargaining Update:

Dear GEO-UAW members:

Hello from your new leadership! We officially took office on June 1st and are thrilled to work with you in the coming year. As you know, we’ve been preparing to begin negotiating our next contract. This email is a quick update explaining where we are in that process and how you can help us get ready.

Before we get into detailed updates, the link to our bargaining survey and two quick event announcements!

Thanks to everyone who filled out the rather long paper survey! Based on what we found, which is described below, we have created a very short, online survey asking you to rank the top demands for our new contract and give you even more opportunities to comment on various issues. We are aiming for a much larger pool of respondents to this second survey than the first– which is why we’re keeping it short and disseminating it online instead of in person– please complete it (even if you already did the paper survey) at this link: http://tinyurl.com/geofaircontract

Firstly: GEO is hosting World Cup viewing parties at The Harp, everySaturday.  Email hoyteric@gmail.com for details. Secondly: the Center for Popular Economics (based at UMass and run out of our world-famous Economics department) is offering workshops this summer. UAW Local 2322 has reserved ten seats for our members, so if learning more about economics interests you, this is an amazing opportunity. Here’s a link to the Center’s website for more information: http://www.populareconomics.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/CPE-Summer-Workshops-Schedule-2014_final.pdf

Read on for an update about bargaining and an update on survey results!

Negotiations for our next contract are set to begin on June 26th, 2014 at 2PM (location TBA– stay tuned!!!). The Bargaining Committee elected at theApril 14th General Membership meeting has met three times now and will meet biweekly for most of the summer; its six subcommittees are holding weekly meetings. The committee consists of nine members, four of whom are paid out on ten-hour assistantships, plus an unspecified number of alternates; we have about seventeen people on the Bargaining Committee altogether. In our last meeting, the Committee elected three officers. Avery Fuerst (Labor Studies) and Anna Waltman (English & American Literature) will serve as co-chief negotiators and Destiney Linker (History) will serve as historian.

We want and need your involvement and ideas in the bargaining process, and we’ll do everything we can to keep you informed. Please be in touch with your GEO leaders if you have any questions or want to be a part of negotiating your next contract. We will also have consistent support from UAW 2322 President and Servicing Rep. Jocelyn Silverlight and UAW International Servicing Rep. Karen Rosenberg throughout negotiations.

Now for the survey results! We’re lucky to have an experienced researcher from the Sociology department– Grievance Coordinator Enku Ide- on the Bargaining Committee heading up the development and analysis of our surveys. The survey was long and in-depth, and included opportunities for comments. Thanks to the work of dozens of dedicated volunteers and stewards, we achieved a diverse pool of 220 responses (10% of our members!) from graduate workers in just about every program that employs GEO members. Volunteers largely conducted the surveys in person. We got roughly even numbers of responses from STEM and non-STEM fields, and talked with folk in large and small departments across campus. This leads us to feel confident that the survey results accurately reflect what we collectively want to fight for in our next contract.

Unsurprisingly, economic demands including pay increases of 3% or higher and an increase to the Health and Welfare Trust ranked highly on this first survey. Strengthening our workload clause, improving parking access for pregnant student-workers, amending the anti-discrimination clause to include mental and neurological health status, and negotiating increased transparency in funding/appointment/reappointment decisions also ranked in the top ten demands.  Still remember to fill out the online survey at http://tinyurl.com/geofaircontract

Okay, that’s all for now. We’ll leave you with a bit of good news: last week, after almost a year of negotiations, our brothers and sisters at the Student-Workers’ Union of the University of California– UAW 2865– ratified a contract after almost a year of negotiations. They won a 17% wage increase over four years; improved pregnancy leave and family leave clauses; lactation stations and gender-neutral bathrooms in the workplace; a joint Labor-Management committee to research the impact of class size on teaching; and the creation of a new category of fellowship that will give undocumented student-workers access to rights previously only available to citizens. You can read a full report on their victory here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bW0Sy4j5lA6pa3NAGm1fol6p_CV0jst99QoDA8jo3pk/edit

This proves that a mobilized and united union does not need to choose between economic demands and demands centered around social justice.We can win both if we are well-organized and visible on campus, but we will need each and every one of you on board in order to succeed. We have great confidence in our Bargaining Committee; however, winning an improved contract requires that all of us are actively invested in pressuring the administration to negotiate fairly and respect our demands. Let’s win a better contract together!

In solidarity,

Anais (co-chair), Anna (co-chair), Yetunde (Mobilization Coordinator), Enku (Grievance Coordinator) and your bargaining committee