With time running out before the expiration of its contract with the University, the Graduate Employees Organization”s North Campus membership yesterday voted down a proposal to indefinitely extend the current contract. Today, a meeting will be held on Central Campus for the second part of the vote.
The contract expires tomorrow. If the proposal is denied, the contract will be renewed for only two weeks, and a vote on further action will be held Feb. 17.
Possibilities for job action, including a temporary or indefinite walkout, will be considered at that meeting.
Any action approved will likely happen in March after spring break, said GEO president and Rackham student Cedric deLeon. DeLeon encouraged members to vote to defeat the indefinite extension and expressed the need for solidarity among graduate student instructors.
“An injury to one is an injury to all because you might be the next one to suffer if we do nothing today,” he said.
“In resisting your proposals, the University clearly means to test your resolve,” he added.
But DeLeon said GEO won a small victory in the latest round of bargaining on Tuesday. The University offered to decrease by 20 percent the tuition paid by graduate student instructors who work “low fractions” of time, or less than 9.5 hours a week. The full price of tuition is waived for GSIs who work more than 9.5 hours a week. The University waives part of the tuition for those who work less.
Another problem with “low fraction” pay is that it does not include an option to buy health insurance, said Alyssa Picard, a Rackham student and GEO chief negotiator. A GEO proposal would allow such employees to buy insurance at the same discounted rate as tuition.
University negotiators also offered to increase wages by 2 percent during each of the next three years. Picard said this proposal is “offensive” because the percentage is below what University economists say the rate of inflation will be in those years.
“That amounts to a wage decrease for us” after being adjusted for inflation, she said.
Another point of contention addressed in Tuesday”s bargaining was harassment protection. GEO wants language in the contract to prevent work-place harassment of GSIs, Picard said. She said the revision offered Tuesday by the University was inadequate. “It doesn”t specify what harassment is,” Picard said. “They want to set the bar for having to do anything very high.”
The University also proposed a program that would give graduate students more choice in health benefits. But Picard said there are still problems with the proposal, including the lack of long-term disability insurance.
GEO made its own proposal Tuesday on the issue of instructor training. The union wants four hours of mandatory training for all GSIs. University negotiators gave no answer, Picard said.
At the meeting yesterday, Picard and deLeon addressed several other unresolved problems with the current situation. Among them was what Picard said is an unfair system of language tests that discriminates against foreign students.
The University tests English speaking skills of foreign citizens but not of others, she said.
The vote held yesterday and today asks members to prioritize these and other issues to determine their importance in negotiations, which will continue next Tuesday.