The University of Michigan and the Graduate Employees’ Organization, the union representing graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants, have begun negotiations. Contract talks are expected to continue through the spring.
More than 2,200 graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants play an important role in undergraduate education and faculty-led research while they pursue their graduate or professional degrees.
At U-M, both bargaining teams have said they are committed to negotiating in good faith and working collaboratively.
“We recognize the importance of graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants to the academic mission of the university and to the academic success of our students,” said Sascha Matish, associate vice provost for academic affairs and senior director of Academic Human Resources. “We are committed to bargaining in good faith with GEO to reach a fair agreement that serves the interest of all parties.”
GSIs work with faculty members as teachers, graders and tutors. They teach introductory classes, facilitate discussions in small sections connected to large lecture courses, run laboratory sections, teach lessons in the studio, and have office hours during which one-to-one teaching occurs. GSSAs perform administrative, counseling or education duties other than those of a GSI.
The labor relationship between GEO and U-M is one of the oldest among graduate employee unions in the United States. The first GEO contract was reached in 1975.
U-M offers a competitive benefits package for GSIs and GSSAs. Graduate student employees covered by the contract are paid a stipend for their work and receive a tuition waiver proportioned to the number of hours they work. Most GSIs and GSSAs work 16-20 hours per week, are paid approximately $21,500 per academic year, and receive a waiver for the full cost of their tuition.
They also receive health insurance through the university’s GradCare plan. GradCare is similar to the university’s Premier Care plan for employees, but GSIs and GSSAs pay no monthly premium contribution. They also are eligible for a subsidy for child care, paid medical or parental leave, and additional benefits.
During the longstanding bargaining relationship between GEO and the university, the parties have achieved considerable gains for GSIs and GSSAs, including expanded health-care coverage, tuition waiver and leaves of absences.
The current three-year contract with GEO expires May 1, 2020.