The University of Michigan on Sept. 10 shared a more detailed response to the various requests made by the Graduate Employees’ Organization after a proposed agreement between the university and the union was rejected by GEO members Sept. 9.

The university and GEO representatives worked to reach resolution over the Labor Day weekend and through the first two days of a strike that began Sept. 8, and which has disrupted thousands of classes on the Ann Arbor campus.

A university proposal to end the strike was supported by GEO leadership but rejected by a membership vote.

The university’s proposal addressed a number of issues as the university community resumed a public-health-informed fall semester during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is detailed in the “U-M response to GEO” link at right.

According to university officials, the GEO and Academic Human Resources teams worked together to enable a mechanism for GSIs and GSSAs to address any health and safety concerns in their workplaces related to COVID-19.

The proposal clarified the availability of COVID-19 supplies, such as face coverings and hand sanitizer. The university agreed to provide additional details on testing through the Campus Maize & Blueprint website.

The university proposal further clarified how GSIs are able to address face-covering non-compliance in the classroom for those who may be teaching in-person or hybrid classes. Two thirds of GSIs are teaching remotely this fall. The university affirmed that the U-M International Center would enhance its outreach to graduate students.

Additionally, the university said it would provide temporary enhancements for this academic year to the student child care subsidy through the Office of Financial Aid.

The university said some of GEO’s demands deserved to be discussed broadly within the university community but were not subjects of bargaining, such as cutting ties with the Ann Arbor Police Department and cutting in half the budget of the university’s Division of Public Safety and Security.

The university also is carefully considering its next steps as it continues to explore ways to resolve the GEO strike, said Rick Fitzgerald, university spokesperson.

Earlier this week, the university filed unfair labor practice charges with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission because the strike violated the contract GEO ratified in April. Labor strikes by public employees also violate state law.

GEO is the labor union that represents about 2,000 graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants on all three U-M campuses. The union is affiliated with the Michigan Federation of Teachers.

The proposal to resolve the strike did not alter the terms of GEO’s three-year contract with the university, which was ratified by GEO members in April. That agreement provides raises of 3 percent or more in the next three years, even as salary increases have been frozen this year for most university employees.

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