The University Record, March 15, 1999

Editor's Note: The University and GEO reached an agreement March 13. Please see www.umich.edu/GEO.html for details. The following article was prepared March 12.

GEO, U-M reach impasse in contract negotiations

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Members of the Graduate Employees Organization staged a walkout March 10-11, protesting a lack of agreement in contract negotiations. Photo by Bob Kalmbach
Bargaining sessions between the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) and University officials stalled last week after Thursday's late-night session failed to produce an agreement.

GEO members had previously scheduled an open-ended strike for today (March 15), if agreement could not be reached on the three key points GEO says are crucial for their membership to accept a new contract. GEO steering committee member Paul Ching said Friday that a meeting of the members had been called for 7 p.m. March 14, when another vote would determine whether the University's graduate student instructor (GSI) teaching force will strike today. Provost Nancy Cantor, chief negotiator Dan Gamble and Jeffrey Frumkin told media on Friday that negotiations had broken down and new demands by GEO representatives showed a lack of good faith, making mediation the "only option likely to bring about progress at this stage," Gamble said. At Record press time, there was little hope that additional sessions would be scheduled over the weekend. During prior negotiation sessions, GEO had indicated willingness to decrease its original demand of a 37 percent increase in compensation, and implied Thursday night they might accept the University's offer of 10 percent over three years. The two sides also seemed to be moving closer to agreement on the two issues of employment fraction calculation for GSIs and compensation for new international GSIs during their mandatory August training.

"We offered a number of proposals which were responsive to all of the union's concerns and which we were led to believe would be accepted by the union," Cantor said. "However, as we moved closer to their position, their negotiators began to ask for even more concessions and to place additional items on the table which had not been part of recent discussions." Cantor said the additional proposals would be an unacceptable financial burden for the University's general fund. "I cannot in good conscience support the demands that were issued in the final hours of bargaining early this morning," Cantor said, noting that the package the University was willing to agree to represented a $3.4 million increase-23.5 percent-over the amount allocated in the previous three-year contract.

There has not been a full-scale strike by GEO members since the union was organized in 1975. Then, a month-long strike preceded the first contract between the organization and the University. GSIs currently teach approximately 34 percent of undergraduate classes.