Dear GEO-UAW family,

An enthusiastic congratulations to all of our members who graduated today! We are consistently humbled to have so many wonderful, brilliant people in this union, and we wish all of today’s graduates a bright, happy future. Thank you for all you have contributed to our campus and our union!

We also have wonderful news to share with all of you: after nearly a year of negotiations, our Bargaining Committee has finally reached a tentative agreement with the University on our new contract! The agreement includes a number of major wins, which are written below.

We feel confident in calling this agreement a significant victory for our union. Amid a challenging campus climate, we were able to make many major gains that will empower and protect the graduate student workforce at UMass Amherst now and in the future.

The next step is to vote on whether to ratify the new contract; see below for details on the ratification vote. We encourage you to read the contract highlights carefully and contact the Bargaining Committee with any questions about the agreement in advance of the vote. Many thanks to everyone who helped with the negotiation process, from sending us ideas for demands to participating in negotiations as observers to rallying for a fair contract. We could not have done any of this without you, and we feel so honored to have stood alongside all of you in the fight for a fair contract.

What a beautiful way to end the year! See you at the ratification polls next Thursday!

Warmly and in solidarity,

Your GEO-UAW Bargaining Committee & AY 2014-2015 leaders




There will be a ratification vote on the Tentative Agreement reached between the UAW/Local 2322/GEO (“the Union”) and UMass Amherst to modify the previous collective bargaining agreement between the Union and UMass. The new collective bargaining agreement will be effective from the date of execution by the Union and UMass (following ratification) until August 31, 2017.



TIME: 9AM-5:30PM


The Tentative Agreement includes a service fee provision. Under Massachusetts law, if the Tentative Agreement is ratified by a majority of those who vote, the service fee provision will require that bargaining unit members who choose not to join or maintain membership in GEO pay a service fee in lieu of membership dues as a condition of employment. Union membership dues for bargaining unit members is 2%. The service (agency) fee is currently 1.78%.

The ratification vote is open to all current graduate student employees in the bargaining unit represented by the Union. Proxy voting and absentee balloting are not permitted.

The ballots will be counted and the results certified and posted at immediately following the close of polls on Thursday, May 14th. All graduate student employees are welcome to attend the count, which will begin at 5:30PM.

The current collective bargaining agreement and the tentatively agreed modifications which are the subject of the ratification vote can be viewed on-line at

Local 2322’s most recent financial report, in the form of a balance sheet and operating statement listing all receipts and disbursements of the previous financial year are available for inspection during regular business hours in the GEO office, Room 201, in the Student Union.




The GEO Bargaining Committee has reached a tentative agreement with UMass on a new contract which includes significant improvements in our pay, benefits and working conditions.  We are proud to recommend this contract for ratification and urge members to turn out and vote “yes” on May 14th!


Pay Increases


Pay rates will increase by 10.5% over the life of the contract (which will expire August 31, 2017) implemented as follows:

3.5% May, 2015
3.5% September, 2015
3.5% September, 2016

Graduate student employees will receive an immediate “signing bonus” of $350 (for 20 hour employees—those who work more or less hours per week will receive a pro-rated amount).

CPE rates will increase 6% over the life of the agreement on the following schedule:

2% May, 2015
2% May, 2016
2% May, 2017.

Affordable Health Care 

We have achieved major savings in health care costs.

In 2011, UMass unilaterally replaced the modest co-pays in the health plan with 15% co-insurance for all benefits and services, with a cap on annual out-of-pocket expenditures of $3,000 for individuals and $12,500 for families.  This contract replaces the co-insurance with affordable co-payments for certain benefits/services, including doctors, specialists, and psychotherapists, reduces the remaining co-insurance from 15% to 10% and significantly reduces the cap on annual out-of-pocket expenditures to $1,500 for individuals and $4,500 for families.    In addition, the lower cap is retroactive for the current plan year and any member whose out-of-pocket medical costs exceeded the new limits is entitled to reimbursement for the difference.

We also won strong new language that will prevent UMass from ever again unilaterally increasing out-of-pocket costs or cutting benefits without bargaining with the Union!

Paid Family Medical Leave

For the first time, graduate student employees will have paid time for qualifying family and medical leave.  Members will be entitled to use a full year’s worth of vacation and other “paid time off” which is normally earned based on time worked before it is earned.  In addition, for parental leave for birth or adoption, graduate student employees will be entitled to sixty hours of paid leave (for 20 hr. employees—those who work more or less will receive a pro-rated amount.)

Childcare Support

UMass will contribute an additional $15,000 per year to be used to supplement existing resources from the Health and Welfare Trust fund used to provide subsidies to graduate student employees for daycare costs.  Between these sources, the intent is to cover 100% of the need for the lowest-income graduate students and 50% of the need for those in the middle range.

Workload Relief

We have also added to existing protections against excessive workloads, with a cap on daily and weekly hours for TAs, TOs, PAs, ARDs and interns.  (Although these caps are not applicable to RAs because of unique features of this position, all graduate student employees have protections in the contract against workloads that exceed their contracted hours for the semester and provide a process for adjustment.  The new agreement adds an “expedited” process for resolving disputes where a graduate student employee is refused a necessary workload adjustment.

Safe & Accessible Bathrooms

TAs and TOs now have a right under our contract to have access to a gender-neutral bathroom within reasonable distance of their work assignment.  In addition, the contract establishes a joint union-management committee which will conduct a campus-wide study of buildings where our members work to identify locations where gender-neutral bathroom facilities exist or could be designated without construction and to provide cost estimates and recommendations for buildings where gender-neutral facilities will require construction.  In addition, this committee will have resources to pay a graduate student employee with appropriate expertise.

Fair & Transparent Appointment/Reappointment Process and Criteria


This contract addresses the lack of transparency in some departments by requiring all departments to post and maintain up-to-date procedures and criteria on-line.

Equal Employment Opportunity

A joint GEO-Administration committee will review and make recommendations on University policies on recruitment, hiring and retention of graduate student employees.  There is also the potential for a paid appointment for a graduate student with applicable expertise.

Health and Safety

We also, for the first time, will have a standing GEO-Administration committee that will be a forum for addressing health and safety concerns specific to our members.


Parking Fees


Graduate student employees will have the option of spreading parking fee payroll deductions over 3 pay periods.

Introducing your 2015-2016 GEO officers

Dear GEO Members,

As your semester winds down, don’t forget to congratulate your incoming 2015-2016 GEO officers:

Anais Surkin
Santiago Vidales

Membership Coordinator:
Avery Furst

Steering At-Large Member:
Anna Waltman

Please keep in mind that the Steering Committee is still short one “at large” member and nominations will likely be opened again for this position in Fall 2015. Finally, while the Elections Co usually does not publicly post the final count, any member interested in those details, voter turnout, etc., can email us at for more information. Thanks to all those who nominated themselves or others! And thanks to all those who turned out to the polls!

Best wishes and solidarity,
Carly Houston Overfelt
on behalf of the Elections Committee

GEO Elections – Candidate Statements

Co-Chair Candidates

Anais Nastassja Surkin

Hi GEO family!!

My name is Anais.  I am a student in Social Justice Education and Labor Studies. Last year I served as GEO grievance coordinator and this year as co-chair; I also serve on Bargaining Committee and Joint Council. Before UMass, I worked with LGBTQ, sex worker, and immigrant communities in NYC resisting personal and political violence. At UMass I have been a research assistant and teaching associate. I also mentor facilitators of anti-oppression workshops.

I have an extensive background in organizing, advocacy, education and social justice work and have spent the past two years tirelessly handling grievances, negotiating with administrators, doing internal mobilization work and building coalitions. I have held to last year’s campaign promise of building an organized social justice union by collaborating with other groups on campus. This year we organized campus events including teach-ins and speakers like Cece McDonald– and we sent three busses to the Millions March Day of Anger in NYC! I have also worked to deepen relationships with leaders and rank & file members of other graduate employee unions in building the student-worker labor movement. These are all examples of how I am working to strengthen and build coalitions towards democratic equitable universities as linked to the broader movement for global social, political, environmental and economic justice. I strongly believe that decision-making power at universities should be shared between students and workers.

I also strongly believe in rank & file union governance and have worked to increase transparency and democracy within GEO. Our union has a long history of prioritizing social justice, which reflects the diverse identities of our membership. Every day I work hard to build a union that centers the most marginalized among us and incorporates diverse voices, while cultivating solidarity among our members.

Since I have been handling grievances for two years now, I have only grown in my ability to win justice and organize with you. Once we ratify our new contract, I plan to learn about what YOUR priorities are for the union and what changes you want to see in your union. This year I will train stewards and systematically ramp up our contract enforcement in the areas that are most important to you. I will to prioritize rank & file leadership development, focusing on mobilization and education, by strengthening our committees and prioritizing member-driven, democratic and participatory processes.

It is an honor to hold leadership positions in our great union, yet there is still so much work to do. I believe that it is GEO’s charge to play a vital role in not only defending our rights as workers but also shaping the future of the University in resistance to privatization and exploitation. Through member-driven organizing and strong coalitions, we can continue to resist neoliberalism and oppression. We deserve social and economic justice. I will listen to you deeply and speak truth to power.  I would be honored to have your vote for GEO-UAW2322 co-chair 2015-2016 so that I can continue to work for you.

Aaron Foote

My name is Aaron Foote and I am a working class union member who will work for you! I was born in Flint, Michigan, home of the 1936 Sit-Down strikes that turned the then diffuse and powerless UAW locals into a strong unified union. My grandfather was a member of the UAW, my mother a member of the UFCW, and my father is a Teamster. I come from a long line of talented hard-working people that have also struggled to be included in their own unions. My grandfather worked at Chevrolet Forge in Detroit, Michigan, an overwhelmingly black shop with the worst working conditions of any job General Motors offered at the time. He struggled to get his union to represent him and his fellow workers who were excluded from jobs that were dominated by white workers. It was also commonplace for black workers to be excluded from being hired even when there were worker shortages across the industry. His struggle made him resent his union, and to be for good reason: It simply did not work for him. Whether it is that he and his black peers were the last ones hired and the first ones fired, or his inability to be considered for skilled trades positions because of his skin color, his union never fought to include him. Never did the UAW reach across racial lines and demand that shops include black workers on an equal footing with whites. This exclusion altered his perception of his union. The UAW never became a silver lining in a segregated world; it never gave him hope towards a more inclusive future.  My story, and many of yours draw parallels to my grandfathers. Current GEO leadership claims to represent us, but I know from conversations with many of you that it does not. They don’t reach out to assess our needs. They don’t include us in their political agendas. They don’t even know who we are. I am running for Co-chair of GEO to change this, to fight for marginalized workers on this campus, to get to know all of the amazing people who make this great university work, and to make sure this union does not continue in the footsteps of my late grandfathers’ union. Together, we must put away the traditions of old and work to build a more inclusive union for the future.

If I am elected Co-Chair of GEO, I will work to meet all of your needs, without regard to the kind of experiences you have had with GEO in the past. I promise to dispose of the stereotype that graduate students in the sciences don’t care about our union. I promise to work with all of you who are eager to change the culture of GEO and the UAW, to build a strong community that is ready to meet any challenge University administration throws at us. Together, we are strong. Together, we will win.

Join the movement by visiting our Facebook page:

Santiago Vidales

Dear GEO members,

My name is Santiago Vidales and I am getting my PhD in Latin American and US Latina/o Literature and have taught in the Comparative Literature and the Spanish and Portuguese Programs. I am running for GEO Co-Chair and would like to introduce myself to you and ask for your vote and support. Since 2011, I have been a loud and proud member of our Union by holding several elected positions such as Steward, Assembly Chair and Bargaining Committee member. Through my Union involvement, I have been privileged to participate in anti-racism activism on campus and in the Valley. While working for the Bargaining Committee, I deepened my understanding of our contract, engaged the membership and stood up to administrators when they failed to respect our rights as workers. GEO has been a very important part of my University life and I hope to give back to my Union and my community.

I am running for Co-Chair because I can help GEO build upon its tradition of social justice activism, strong contract enforcement and community coalition building. To do this I would like to focus on the following key points:

  1. GEO leadership must ensure that we are using our contract to its fullest degree. We have achieved big wins at the Bargaining table, such as ensuring all-gender bathrooms for grad workers, but it is up to us to enforce these victories. I believe that a strong contract is most useful if we understand its full capacity and enforce all of its protections, committees and memorandums.
  2. GEO must strive to be a safe space for all people, especially marginalized and minoritized populations. A Union that rejects and actively combats racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and classism will always be on the right side of history. GEO must fight all forms of oppression by centering the voices and experiences of those generally excluded, to eliminate the erasure of underrepresented people.
  3. GEO as a whole is a reservoir of knowledge and ideas. Our mission must include routine community service and outreach. As researchers, teachers and intellectuals we have a responsibility to give back to our communities by asking them how we can build stronger relationships rooted in respect and solidarity.

I will continue working my hardest and listening closely to the needs and concerns of all members. I will continue to work against oppression and towards coalition building. To this end GEO members must be empowered to take ownership of our University. I am invested in building a stronger Union and ask for your support in strengthening GEO, ensuring all our members are heard and that all our rights are respected.

Mobilization Coordinator Candidates

Avery Fürst

My name is Avery Fürst, and I am a graduate student-worker in the Labor Studies program and plan to pursue a graduate certificate in Social Justice Education next year. I have been in GEO leadership for the last two years, serving on the Organizing Committee and the Bargaining Committee. Prior to my involvement in GEO I was a lead figure in campus activism by fighting for social justice for student-workers through my involvement in the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) and the Residential Assistant Union (RAU). In my former role as the Co-Chair of the Resident Assistant Union (RAU) within UAW 2322, I was a lead organizer in the campaign that led to a 33% wage increase – an over $1 million concession from the University- and movement towards job security for Resident Assistants.

Within GEO, I’ve held multiple elected positions including Bargaining Committee Co-Chief negotiator and currently serve as the union’s Mobilization Coordinator. As Mobilization Coordinator, I have been committed to engaging members in a multitude of ways. I have planned and led a diversity of events for members. I was in charge of the Stewards’ Organizing Training and worked on the GEO Selma Movie Night. In my role as Mobilizer, I supported the outreach for events such as CeCe McDonald’s speech, the GSS-GEO Socials and the Relax-in Day for GEO members during finals. With contract bargaining in full swing, I am working hard to keep members abreast with bargaining updates and organizing actions like the Halloween rally over workload, the February sit-in in Goodell, and the recent member-driven action at the bargaining table around healthcare.

I am seeking re-election for GEO’s Mobilization Coordinator to continue being responsive to our members’ needs, engage with their interests and passions, and to increase member participation in the Union. My goal is to strengthen our Union by growing our critical mass. Member participation, member leadership and feeling connected to the Union are vital for me. I want to build community through GEO by organizing socials, events, and actions that speak to our members’ interests and concerns. I would like the Union to be a second home for our members.

My overarching goal is to activate members to act collectively for their own interests and to improve the conditions of our working and non-working lives as graduate student-workers.


Steering At-Large Candidates

Anna Waltman

My name is Anna and I’m a PhD student in English and American Literature. I have been a proud member of GEO-UAW since 2009, active in union leadership since 2012. You likely already know me, as I’ve served as GEO co-chair for the last two years and I am currently your co-chief negotiator on the Bargaining Committee as well as one of your six elected reps on UAW Local 2322 Joint Council. For the upcoming academic year, I’m running to represent you as an At-Large Representative on Steering Committee. This will be my fourth (and likely final) term on Steering. My main goals for the upcoming year are: to serve as a source of recent institutional memory, procedural knowledge, and general support for the incoming officers, leaders, and staff; to continue developing a connected and vibrant regional, national, and international network of graduate student labor activists through the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions; and to continue collaborating with other leaders and union members to improve and enforce our contract. I look forward to helping our union continue to grow and flourish under the next set of officers, and, as your Steering representative, I will happily make myself available to any members who want to share thoughts or concerns with me about the union, the contract, etc.