Contract proposal expires after GEO doesn’t meet deadline


A proposed offer from the University of Michigan to the Graduate Employees’ Organization expired Aug. 4 after union members said the 48-hour deadline on the deal “did not allow for the time needed to have rigorous, collective discussions about the offer.”

The latest proposal from U-M would have provided graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants on the Ann Arbor campus with 20% in total raises over the next three years — 8%, 6% and 6% — along with a $1,000 bonus in the first year.

The offer was predicated on the union acting swiftly, a move that university officials said was necessary considering fall-term classes begin in about three weeks and schools and colleges need to move forward with decisions on instructional staffing.

Under the now-expired offer, GEO members on the Dearborn campus would have received annual raises of 3.5% — for a total 10.5% pay increase over the three-year contract — and a $500 bonus. The agreement also provided annual pay increases of about 9% to GSIs and GSSAs at UM-Flint to align their pay with UM-Dearborn by the end of the contract term.

A separate letter to GEO President Jared Eno from Laurie McCauley, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and UM-Dearborn Provost Gabriella Scarlatta stated the university had no intent to discontinue its new funding model, implemented May 1, that provides 12 months of stipend support for Rackham Graduate School Ph.D. students on the Ann Arbor campus.

The letter also stated that the Ann Arbor campus will keep the funding model in place, at a minimum, through August 2026, and that the funding model will expand to UM-Dearborn for doctoral students with funding commitments by summer 2025.

During the 2022-23 academic year, which includes the current spring and summer terms, the 12-month rate of $36,083 was the highest among public-institution peers in the Big Ten and American Association of Universities.

Because of the new funding model, the vast majority of doctoral students, including those who are GEO members, now receive the increased stipend support — an amount similar to the $38,542 salary the union demanded in its latest compensation proposal — as part of their Ph.D. program.

In a statement released late in the afternoon of Aug. 4, GEO officials said the university’s comprehensive offer shows “serious movement in key areas of GEO’s campaign platform,” including compensation and sexual harassment prevention, while “falling short” on issues such as a living wage for many workers, pay parity across the university’s three campuses and provisions for transgender health care.

“This offer — the first real offer we have received from U-M in the course of these negotiations — represents a positive step forward and solid foundation for a settlement, but it is not perfect, and it is up to members to decide how to proceed,” said Evelyn Smith, the union’s lead negotiator.

Soon after the release was issued, Sascha Matish, associate vice provost and senior director of academic human resources, sent an email to Eno informing him the university’s proposal had expired.

“A key component of our proposal was that it was contingent upon a definitive response from the union by 4:59 p.m. today,” Matish wrote. “Given that it is now past 4:59 p.m. and you have informed us you are not going to provide us a response to our proposal, this email is to inform you that the university’s proposal provided to you earlier this week has now expired. We will resume our traditional negotiations at the bargaining table with GEO, as you have been previously advised.”



  1. Myles Zhang
    on August 5, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    The university just offered GEO an “exploding offer.” This is known in labor circles as “regressive bargaining” when the institution walks forward a proposal and then later moves backwards, offering less than they previously offered.

    It took the university and regents several weeks to develop this proposal, but they gave GEO only 48 hours to ratify it. GEO has over 2,000 members. To ratify the admin’s proposal, a majority of these members need time to read and vote by simple majority on whether to accept it. This requires at least a week of planning.

    By demanding a short turnaround time, the university has put GEO leadership in a tough spot: ratify it immediately within 48 hours but exclude 2,000 members the time to read and vote; or ask admins a week extension to ensure full transparency in voting. In the interest in good faith bargaining, GEO has asked the university for enough time.

    GEO members have waited nine months for this proposal. The administration can wait six days for the thoughtful response that the admin’s proposal deserves.

  2. Leah Bernardo-Ciddio
    on August 5, 2023 at 4:54 pm

    If HR is serious about settling this in time for the start of the term, being stubborn about this deadline is the wrong strategy. Worker response to the offer was much more positive than to any other offer we have ever received. We only worried that we did not have enough time to make sure that all workers could have time to think through it and participate in discussion before moving on whether to ratify. It is August. Many people are still conducting fieldwork, part of that year-round work that grad workers do. Everyone needs to be able to given the time and space to engage and decide and participate in the process of responding. HR’s constant expectation is that all of us will have the same availability as them without considering that this is THEIR full time job for which they earn a generous salary. Many of us are doing different things, either work, research, childcare, or visiting family. Please, for goodness sake, don’t be stubborn because we asked you for a few more days. UM PR’s statement that it’s the 5th compensation offer we’ve received is embarrasing once you think about how long we’ve been bargaining and when the first one was even presented to us. AHR spent weeks refusing to bargain with us and we had to be patient with you; now you be patient with us as we attempt to ensure the democracy of our union.

  3. Alaina Perez
    on August 7, 2023 at 3:19 pm

    A couple of things I’d like to add:

    – GEO members were elated that we finally received an offer. As was said, the 48-hour timeline did not allow us to consult with all members, which is the whole point of a union, to make decisions democratically with all of our membership.

    – the bonus pay would not go to W’23 GSIs

    – the offer was not given to GEO directly. The university went through LEO and AFT to get it to us, which also prolonged the process of making sure our members knew enough details to make a decision.

    – exploding offers and regressive bargaining are further displays of the University’s unwillingness to bargain in good faith

    – the pay parity issue across campuses was described by AHR during fact-finding as being due to the “different class of students” in Dearborn and Flint… interpret that how you will, but what’s certain is that pay parity was not prioritized in the university’s offer. GEO represents grad students and workers at all three campuses regardless of what “class” they belong to.

    – the university did not move on very important issues related to disability or COVID, and these issues have been identified as being extremely important to our members

    – The falsified grades, inconsistently and unfairly docked paychecks, certain departments lagging on offering GSI contracts, and this exploding offer with all it represents have essentially exposed UM’s graduate students to repeated, blatant violations of trust, respect, and academic integrity

Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.