GEO 2015 – 2016 Election: Candidate Statements

GEO Co-Chair

Damola Oduwale

My name is Damola Oduwale a graduate student in Resource Economics. Prior to coming to UMass Amherst in Fall 2013, I have worked in the private sector with an active Worker’s Union. As an undergraduate student, I was a member of the National Association of Nigerian Student (NANS). A robust and active student organization that was at the fore-front of advocating for the reversal of unpopular policies in the Nigerian University systems. I have had the opportunity to work in a team to achieve stated goals, and to work independently to meet expected targets. These experiences have given me the opportunity to contribute to the social capital of the society through my community-based services.

I am stepping forward to serve in the position of Co-Chair of our local union (GEO-UAW 2232). Among my many other vision for our local Union, I hope and promise to:

– Work with the members and other officers to rejuvenate the union with new perspectives and approach to activism for an optimal student employee’s welfare. My training in General Management and Welfare Economics adequately prepares me for this role.

– Work with administration to strengthen the existing relationship of mutual respect and understanding. I will engage administration on issues of wage discrimination and the respect of contractual agreements.

I envision a new approach to student labor activism; I envision a responsive and pro-active union, one that is admired and respected.  I will reach-out to all strata of student population to solicit for more participation and involvement in GEO activities, as a firm believer in the “power of large numbers” for effective advocacy. I will advocate for a more transparent hiring and evaluation process for members, a robust grievances resolution channel, propose a form of assistance and support system for members without assistantship in a given semester. Above all, I will passionately commit to serve our common good.

I humbly request for your vote for the post of GEO Co-Chair so that together we can make our Union great.

Thank you for your vote!



Damola Oduwale


GEO Co-Chair

Avery Fürst


My name is Avery Fürst, and I am a graduate student-worker with a MA in Labor Studies and am currently pursuing a graduate certificate in Social Justice Education. 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 the activist scene on campus fighting for social justice for student-workers through my involvement in the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) and the Residential Assistant Union (RAU-UAW 2322). In my former role as the co-chair of the Resident Assistant Union within UAW 2322, I was a lead organizer in the campaign that led to a 33% wage increase – over $1 million concession from the university – and movement towards job security for Resident Assistants.


Within GEO I’ve held multiple elected positons including Bargaining Committee co-chief negotiator and GEO’s current Mobilization Coordinator. As Mobilization Coordiantor I have been committed to engaging members in a multitude of ways. I put together a diversity of events ranging from mobilizing the stewards network to the Selma movie night this past spring. I also did outreach for events such as CeCe McDonald’s speech, the GSS-GEO Social earlier this semester, and the Relax-in Day for GEO members during finals. When contract bargaining was in full swing, I worked hard to keep members abreast with bargaining updates and to organize actions like the Halloween rally concerning workload, the February sit-in of Goodell, and the March action at the bargaining table around healthcare.


I am running for GEO Co-Chair to continue being responsive to our members’ needs, to engage with their interests and passions, and to increase member participation in the union. My goal is to strengthening our union by increasing the number of involved GEO members. Member participation, member leadership, and GEO members feeling connected to the union is really important to me. I want to build community within GEO by organizing socials, events, and actions that speak to our members’ interests and concerns. I would like the union to be 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 lives as graduate student-workers.


Sincerely and always in solidarity,

Avery A. Fürst



Steering At-Large Candidate

Neelofer Qadir


I am running for the Steering-At-Large position for 2015-16 after serving as an interim member to the Steering Committee during Summer 2015 and a one-year stewardship in the English work unit (2014-15). I’ve been a member of the Union since Fall 2009 and I was active in the discussions within the English department when the Writing Program moved from a 1-1 teaching load to a 2-1 teaching load. I’ve also collaborated with Union leadership and our department/work units’ stewards in my role as co-chair of the English Graduate Organization (2010-12).


During my time as a steward, I worked with several GEO members to organize a campus-wide rally against racism and police brutality. This kind of social justice work, with a particular focus on racial justice, led me to working with the Black Caucus this summer. I worked with the Caucus to develop a proposal for a short-term position as well as a full academic year position for a Caucus Coordinator. Both positions have been funded successfully by the Joint Council of UAW Local 2322.


Serving on the Steering Committee during the summer allowed me to gain knowledge of the Union’s finances, day-to-day workings, and both short and long-term goal setting. I’m energized by the new leadership’s vision for and commitment toward building a stronger social justice union and I am eager to collaborate in that vision and commitment. As a rank-and-file member running for the Steering-At-Large position, I’m dedicated to connecting with fellow members, learning the needs of different work units across campus, and bringing those varied perspectives to the decision making processes of the Steering Committee.


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