2/26/15 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.


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.


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 on Friday, we won five (!) tentative agreements, bringing our total agreed upon proposals to seven. Reaching these tentative agreements on specific proposals provides us with 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 graduate student employees (GSEs) to purchase semester parking passes and we won the right for GSEs to have access to all-gender 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 (including Continuing & Professional Education), and Workload. We are really pushing to lower out-of-pocket costs for healthcare and eliminate co-insurance, fight for higher wages, and to protect 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,
Your GEO-UAW Bargaining Committee

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

Contract Ratification!

Hello GEO-UAW 2322 Members,

We are pleased to announce that, following two days of balloting in the Campus Center and a vote at the GEO Membership Meeting on Thursday, September 20, the tentative agreement negotiated by your elected bargaining committee was overwhelmingly ratified.  The vote was 99% in favor of ratification.  The next step is proofreading the final contract and signing it.  We hope to be in touch soon with dates to expect the negotiated wage increases and other benefits.

We want to thank all of the stewards and activists who helped by flyering, visiting and calling members, staffing our table on the Campus Center concourse, and working on the days of the vote.  Your hard work ensured the largest ratification vote turnout for several contract cycles, and one of the best-attended membership meetings in recent memory.  This is a great start to the year for GEO!

Thank you,
The GEO Bargaining Committee

Jocelyn Silverlight, Bargaining Co-Chair, GEO Co-Chair
Thomas Herndon, Bargaining Co-Chair
Kathleen Baldwin, Bargaining Member
Anders Minter, Bargaining Member
Jonathan Cooper, Bargaining Member
Derek Doughty, GEO Co-Chair
Danielle Allessio, GEO Membership Mobilization Coordinator
Yetunde Ajao, GEO Organizer
Ron Patenaude, UAW 2322 President
Ryan Quinn, UAW 2322 Servicing Rep.
Court Cline, UAW 2322 Servicing Rep.