GEO joins the BDS movement: Press Release!


Media contact: Anais N. Surkin, Union Representative/Organizer: 917-940-0312,

UMass Amherst Union of Graduate Student Workers Endorses BDS!

Members of the Graduate Employee Organization at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst vote overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution to  join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement!

During a three day (April 12-14) vote, by secret ballot, the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO/UAW2322) at University of Massachusetts in Amherst voted overwhelmingly (95%) in favor of adopting a resolution to stand in solidarity with Palestinian civil society and join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. The largest collective bargaining unit within UAW Local Amalgamated 2322 (UAW 2322), GEO represents over 2,000 graduate student workers at the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This makes GEO the second major body of unionized workers in the U.S. to formally join the BDS movement by membership vote.

This resolution renews and furthers a 2003 GEO resolution to divest from the Israeli occupation, and honors the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society– including trade unions, university faculty, and student groups– to embrace BDS worldwide as a tactic to put political and economic pressure on the Israeli state until it complies with international law and respects the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories. The resolution also calls on our employer, UMass, and our union, the UAW, to divest from and boycott companies that fuel and profit from the military occupation and repression of Palestinians.  During a period of open dialogue when all members were encouraged to express diverse views, engage and organize, both the GEO Black Caucus and Jewish GEO members publicly endorsed the resolution.

A similar resolution passed in December 2014 by UAW 2865, the student-worker union at the University of California (UC) was later nullified by the International Executive Board of the UAW. That nullification is currently under appeal.  GEO and our local, UAW2322, stand with the UC union’s decision to appeal the nullification of their democratic vote to embrace BDS. We urge the UAW International to respect the democratic membership vote to endorse BDS, and in doing so we invite them to join us on the right side of history.

Quotes from GEO/UAW Members:

Santiago Vidales, GEO Co-Chair  “The fact that an overwhelming majority of our union voted for BDS is a testament to what social justice unionism looks like. Over and over again we were asked why GEO was getting involved in world politics. The reality is that Palestinian workers on our campus are entitled to their basic human and civil rights when they travel back home. By answering the call of the BDS Movement in Palestine, GEO members join other graduate worker unions across the country in demanding that our universities, our unions, and our communities boycott and divest from Israel’s violent occupation of Palestinian territories. We know that our principled stand will be criticized, scrutinized and challenged. But we know that we are building a movement for liberation. The liberation of Palestinian people is inherently connected to our own.”

Kevina King and Tiamba Wilkerson, GEO Black Caucus Executive Board  “The Black Caucus is immensely proud that our union put its proverbial “money where its mouth is” and voted in support of justice for the Palestinian people. It is especially meaningful for the Black Caucus, as we recognize the historical links between the liberation struggles of Black and Palestinian people, and how our traditions of resistance continue to inspire other oppressed and marginalized peoples across the world. International solidarity, particularly between Black and Palestinian people, is as important now as it has ever been, as both communities continue to fight state sanctioned terrorism and racist violence.”

Ghazah Abbasi, GEO member, Department of Sociology Global capitalism is a colonial, white-supremacist, heteropatriarchal system that alienates us deeply and multiply. A key part of overcoming our alienation is understanding our common humanity with other workers and peoples within and outside the US. It would be deeply contradictory for graduate student workers of UMass Amherst to campaign for our own rights while being complacent about the atrocious rights-violations taking place in Israel with the ideological and financial backing of the United States government. As a GEO member, I am deeply gratified to see that my union is committed to advocating for the fundamental dignity and equality of all workers, and all people, throughout the world. Peoples’ rights as workers are ‘legal’ rights dependent on the security of their other ‘natural’ inalienable rights – such as the right to food, physical security, physical mobility, and freedom from violence. Yet these basic rights are consistently denied to the Palestinian peoples by the state of Israel. Because there can be no conditions for fair and equitable work under colonialism and military siege, it is imperative to demand the immediate and unqualified decolonization of Palestine.”

Alyssa Goldstein, GEO/UAW2322 Palestine Solidarity Caucus Member As a Jewish GEO member and one of the drafters of the “Jews Support BDS” letter, I am so proud to see this resolution pass with overwhelming support. The state of Israel does not stand for or represent the Jewish people, and we must not allow its oppression of the Palestinians to continue in our name. The Jewish activists, in my union and elsewhere, who speak out for Palestinian equality uphold the tradition of the Jewish commitment to justice.

Full Election and Referendum Results!

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

Co-Chairs: Santiago Vidales and Armanthia Duncan
Mobilization Coordinator: Adam Garfield
Steering At-Large Member: Adaeze Egwautu

Furthermore, the referendum on the BDS Resolution: “Standing in
Solidarity with Palestinian civil society and joining the Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions Movement” was approved by 95% of voters.

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

In Solidarity,
GEO Elections Committee


Dear GEO Members,

Nominations have closed for GEO elections for 2016-2017. Thank you to everyone who has stepped up to nominate themselves or thoughtfully nominated someone else. Voting will begin by secret ballot on April 12. Candidate statements will be available at the polling station and are available now on the GEO website. Please see the official election notice below:

There will be an election for GEO-UAW 2322 Officers: (2) Co-Chairs, (1)Membership Mobilization Coordinator and (2) Steering Members At-Large. There will also be a referendum on the resolution entitled “Standing in Solidarity with Palestinian Civil Society and Joining the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement” that has been presented by the Palestine Solidarity Caucus and placed on the agenda by the Steering Committee. The full text of the resolution is available on the GEO website and will be available at the polling station.


Nominations for these positions have closed. Voting will occur at the April 14th Membership Meeting by secret ballot in Student Union Commonwealth Room (Earth Foods Café). The meeting is scheduled from 6pm-8pm, so voting will occur during the first hour of the meeting, from 6pm-7pm at Earth Foods Café.

In accordance with the bylaws, to accommodate those who cannot attend the membership meeting, additional voting by secret ballot will take place in the Campus Center Concourse and Earth Foods Café on the following days and times:

Campus Center Concourse:
Tuesday, April 12            11pm-1pm
Wednesday, April 13       1pm-3pm.

Earth Foods Café:
Thursday, April 14          4pm-6pm



In accordance with the GEO Bylaws, all officers are elected for one year terms. They will take office on June 1 of the year in which they were elected. For the academic year in which they serve, the three officers (2 Co-Chairs and 1 Mobilization Coordinator) will each receive one full time equivalent (FTE) stipend (20 hours/week) so long as such stipends are provided by the University. The two (2) GEO Co-Chairs will be paid for 52 weeks, from May 29, 2016 through May 27, 2017. The one (1) Mobilization Coordinator will be paid for 38 weeks, from September 4, 2016 through May 27, 2017.

Two (2) GEO Co-Chairs:
Responsibilities will include but are not limited to: organizing and overseeing the election of Stewards in departments and/or work sites; Chairing Steering Committee meetings and General Membership meetings and ensuring agendas are set for both; primary GEO representatives to the Joint Council of Local 2322 and must attend Joint Council meetings; except where otherwise noted, the co-chairs shall be considered to be the official representatives of GEO to the Administration and in all external relations; sign agreements between GEO and the University (with approval of the General Membership and/or Assembly of Stewards); shall serve as liaisons for the Steering Committee to the Staff; responsible for ensuring GEO representation at Central Labor Council meetings; speak on behalf of GEO to media, the University, etc.; act as primary liaisons between GEO and other Unions; manage the production of media and publicity; oversee publication of GEO newsletter and web page; organizing Standing Committees; and assist the union in achieving its overall mission in the workplace.

One (1) Membership Mobilization Coordinator:
Responsibilities include but are not limited to: supervising membership drives; assisting in boosting attendance; attending Steering and Assembly of Stewards meetings; introducing all new members and visitors; assisting the GEO Co-Chairs in preserving order when called upon to do so; ensuring that minutes are taken at all GEO meetings; maintaining records of organization; submitting requisitions to the Local and International as needed; planning and administering GEO operating budget and chairing the GEO Finance Committee; facilitating GEO sponsorship of events and organizations; taking charge of all property of GEO not otherwise provided for; to monitor and give guidance on procedural questions and rules; ensuring that those attending GEO meetings are either members or invited visitors; assuming duties if the Co-Chairs they are unavailable; and assisting the union in achieving its overall mission in the workplace.

Two (2) Steering Member At-Large:
Steering Committee shall be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the unit including, but not limited to: the direction of the day-to-day operations of the organization; the oversight of the staff; preparation and submission of all proposals, budgets, budget requisitions and budget modifications to the Assembly of Stewards for approval; coordination and oversight of standing committees; the appropriate maintenance of the health of the organization; management and execution of the budget; all correspondence and relations between the leadership, the Assembly of Stewards and the membership; and all external relations excepting those duties specifically proscribed for other committees (such as the Bargaining Committee).

The Steering Committee shall meet at least two times a month during the academic year. The committee shall meet once a month at other times. Additional meetings can be called as needed by the officers.

The Steering Committee shall be empowered to make decisions on behalf on the membership, except as limited by these bylaws. The Steering Committee shall not make any decisions which contradict those made by the Assembly of Stewards or the membership or contradict the will or intent of the Assembly of Stewards or the membership.

Please contact if you have any questions.

In Solidarity,
GEO Elections Committee