Members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization have overwhelmingly voted to support signing a tentative three-year agreement with the University of Michigan less than one week before fall term classes begin.
Union leaders officially signed the tentative agreement document the morning of Aug. 22. The ratification process will run from noon Aug. 22 through midnight Aug. 24. GEO represents about 2,300 graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants.
“We are extremely pleased that GEO members have voted to sign a tentative contract agreement with the university and move this matter forward for ratification,” said Kim Broekhuizen, university spokesperson. “We look forward to learning the outcome of the contract ratification vote later this week and a smooth start to the academic year next week.”
The agreement comes after the university presented the union with U-M’s last, best and final contractual offer Aug. 20. The proposal was delivered to the union at the start of a scheduled bargaining session.
After nine months of challenging labor negotiations and a union strike that led some GEO members to walk off the job in the final weeks of the winter term, a new contract could be in place before classes resume Aug. 28.
“Members’ decision to authorize the bargaining team to reach a tentative agreement reflects the major gains we’ve won in this campaign,” GEO President Jared Eno said. “With an effective 80% raise for many from combined increases to our wages and new commitments to summer pay, harassment protections for all grad workers, and new benefits for parents, international students and transgender workers, members are finally seeing months of striking and hard work pay off.”
The reference to an effective 80% increase includes an increased stipend for graduate students who are part of the recently announced Rackham Summer Funding Program, which had been approved separately by the Rackham Graduate School and is not part of the tentative agreement with GEO.
The agreement includes the following provisions for GSI’s and GSSAs in a contract spanning three years:
- Annual salary increases of 8% in 2023, 6% in 2024 and 6% in 2025 for Ann Arbor campus employees (20% over three years).
- Annual salary increases of 3.5% for Dearborn campus employees (10.5% over three years).
- Annual salary increases of about 9% for Flint campus employees to align its minimum stipend to that of UM-Dearborn at the end of the contract term.
- A $1,000 bonus to employees on all campuses.
- Up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees who are birthing parents.
- Lower annual out-of-pocket maximums on mental health and physical therapy copays.
- Expanded gender-affirming benefits.
- The creation of special conferences between GEO leaders and university officials to discuss gender-affirming care and benefits.
- The creation of multi-meeting special conferences on disability accommodations and concerns about campus infrastructure and resources available to persons with disabilities.
- The creation of a three-year pilot program, providing up to one semester of funding for an employee to transition out of an unhealthy working relationship, including an abusive, discriminatory and/or harassing relationship. The pilot program does not require the employee to report the situation to U-M’s Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX Office, a sticking point that union leaders have continually identified as a priority in bargaining.
- The creation of a $20,000 per year International Graduate Workers Assistance Fund.
- New requirements for academic units to publish GSI class-size policies.
- The creation of a dedicated GSI/GSSA employment website.
In collective bargaining, a “last, best and final offer” is a formal proposal that one side presents to the other that includes all benefits and compromises. This is usually done to allow union members to vote to accept or reject an employer’s best-case proposal.
Eno had sent an email Aug. 17 to university leaders, requesting the university provide the offer in advance of an Aug. 21 GEO meeting so union members could vote on whether to tentatively approve it.
Outside of the bargaining process, the university also has offered side letters of commitment pledging to continue the Rackham Summer Funding Program through at least August 2026 and similarly expand funding for Ph.D. students with commitments on the Dearborn campus to 12 months by summer 2025.
The university also committed to create and implement a transitional funding program for GSRAs and fellowship students by the end of the 2023-24 academic year. Additionally, per GEO’s request, President Santa J. Ono has agreed to make a statement in support of an unarmed non-police emergency response program available to members of the U-M community.