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Email to faculty: Faculty update on GEO Negotiations

The following email was sent to faculty on August 8, 2023. It is published here for your convenience.

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing with an update on negotiations between the university and the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO).

Early this week, the university presented the union with a generous offer with the hope of achieving a new agreement and concluding over nine months of negotiations. This offer included a 20% wage increase over three years and addressed many concerns voiced by members of the bargaining unit. Given the urgency of the situation and the need to move forward with fall instructional planning, the union leadership was presented with a deadline of 4:59 Friday, August 4, with the understanding that membership ratification of a tentative agreement would take additional time. The union called a general membership meeting Thursday evening, but did not ultimately accept or decline the offer. Instead, they informed us they said they would not take a vote until late next week.

Faculty and staff are under intense pressure to make decisions on instructional staffing with the beginning of fall term approaching quickly, as many of you can attest. I had hoped to be sending a different update, and in fact delayed sending an update earlier this week in hopes that this situation would be resolved.

Continuity of education is a non-negotiable priority of the university. A semester that allows our students to pursue their education is an inflexible expectation of our students, their families, deans, university leaders, and the Board of Regents. We are committed to ensuring a fall semester free of significant disruptions to our academic mission. You can expect further announcements regarding new guidelines for fall planning next week.

As many in our faculty community have asked for details regarding the negotiations, you can find highlights of the university’s offer below:

  • Under the terms of this most recent offer, graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants on the Ann Arbor campus would have received 20% in total raises over the next three years – 8%, 6% and 6% – along with a $1,000 bonus.
  • At the request of GEO leadership, U-M Dearborn Provost Scarlatta and I also provided a statement of intent, outside of the contract, regarding the new Rackham 12-month stipend support. While this funding is not part of the GEO contract and only affects a portion of GEO members, it is part of the overall picture of graduate student support at the university. The letter states that the university has no intent to discontinue its new funding model, implemented May 1, that provides 12 months of stipend support for Rackham Ph.D. students on the Ann Arbor campus. The letter also states 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. Of course, all individual Ph.D. offer letters are enforceable and binding, but we were happy to make this statement.
  • In addition to salary increases, the offer included a new three-year pilot program that provides up to one semester of funding for a GSI or GSSA to transition out of an abusive, discriminatory or harassing work relationship with a supervisor or colleague.
  • The offer also included a provision calling for a special conference between U-M human resources and benefits leaders with GEO representatives to discuss further supporting access to healthcare coverage for those seeking gender-affirming care.

I recognize the frustration that uncertainty brings with the fall semester on the horizon. I am also reassured by the deans’ extensive efforts to ensure instructional continuity, which I believe will provide for a smooth transition into fall term. I am still hopeful the university and GEO can reach an agreement before then.

We will keep you informed in the coming days. Thank you for your patience and dedication to our academic community.

Laurie K. McCauley, DDS, MS, PhD
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
William K. and Mary Anne Najjar Professor