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

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