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:  http://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

Update from New Leadership & Bargaining Committee

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, every Saturday. 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 the April 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

Grad Workers Rising: May Day Solidarity Statement with CGEU

We are members of the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions, a body that represents unionized graduate workers throughout the United States and Canada, including grad workers undertaking campaigns to unionize who have not yet achieved recognition. We are course instructors; researchers; teaching & research assistants; student affairs, advising, and residence life staffers; tutors, readers, lab supervisors, and graders. We are graduate student-workers. This May Day, members of CGEU stand together to demand collective bargaining rights and fair, socially just contracts for every single graduate worker in North America, and all workers in higher education worldwide. Coordinated May Day actions, social media, and events will take place across the SUNY system as well as at UWisconsin Madison, UMass Amherst, Rutgers University, and other schools across the US and Canada on May 1st, 2014.

Whether grad student-workers have a union determines much about our working conditions and salaries, going beyond wages and hours to include whether we are formally protected from workplace and hiring discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in a way that is actually enforceable. Unions give us concrete, tangible power in bureaucratic workplaces whose administrators would otherwise see each of us only as a collection of financial transactions and numbers. Despite rhetoric we often hear about a walled-off “ivory tower,” the forces of economic crisis directly shape the reality of working and studying for faculty, undergraduate students, and graduate workers alike.

As universities have begun to function more like large businesses and state and federal financial support for public higher education has been slashed, graduate workers nationwide have felt the sizes of the classes we teach grow and the funding pools for our assistantships shrink. In the Northeastern US, this has resulted in a renewed movement toward unionizing graduate workers, and more energy toward bargaining strong contracts for those of us who are already organized. Grad workers at University of Connecticut and New York University are bargaining brand new contracts this year, while the long-unionized grad workers at the three University of Massachusetts schools (Amherst, Boston, and Lowell) and across the SUNY system are preparing to bargain new, significantly stronger contracts in the coming months. Members of UAW2865 in the University of California system continue to fight for a fair contract including the right to bargain over class size. Yale University and Brown University graduate workers have renewed their fight for union recognition.

Academic workers face similar increased demands on our time and energy to workers in other industries, along with the same stagnating wages. Academic workers of color, women, international students, and members of the LGBTQI community face institutionalized discrimination and permissive attitude toward harassment, much like workers in other industries. In 2012, a federal bill stripped graduate students of all access to federal subsidized loans and cut the six-month grace period before repayment must begin; this consigns many of us to a lifetime of debt, and an extraordinarily stressful transition out of graduate school.

The divisions between graduate workers and workers in other industries are fabricated, porous, and finite: graduate education does not last forever, and we go into a huge range of workplaces and positions after school. Strong, mobilized graduate unions serve as a consistent source of workers in a variety of fields who have had the opportunity to develop union consciousness, who have learned to care about their fellow workers, have experience in democratically-run organizations, and are willing to fight together with others for systemic change. We neither suffer nor succeed in isolation; our struggle is all workers’ struggle, and your struggle is ours.

Matt at May Day IMG_2093 IMG_2068 IMG_2066

Results of 2014-2015 GEO Election

Dear GEO Members,

Election season has come to a close and there are many people to congratulate. You can see our new GEO Officers below:

Co-Chairs: Anna Waltman and Anais Surkin
Mobilization Coordinator: Yetunde Ajao
Steering At-Large Member: Eric Hoyt

Also, congratulations to the By-Laws committee! The By-Laws revisions were overwhelmingly approved in the election. Furthermore, we have news about the Constitutional Convention Delegate/Alternate election. All four candidates will win by acclamation, due to a UAW2322 Executive Board decision to help fill open spots at the local level. So, there won’t be a GEO election for Constitutional Convention Delegates. Instead, let’s congratulate the following delegates:

Eric Hoyt
Luke Pretz
Jocelyn Silverlight
Danielle Allessio

Finally, thank you to everyone who came out and voted. We had excellent voter turnout this year.

In Solidarity,
GEO Elections Committee
elections@geouaw.org