Graduate Employee Union seeks to expand union rights
MSU and the Graduate Employees Union are currently negotiating a new contract that outlines graduate employees’ protections, salaries and benefits.
The negotiations are related to a 2012 bill signed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder which rendered any graduate employee, besides teaching assistants, unable to unionize and bargain for workplace protections.
Even though the law states only graduate teaching assistants may unionize, the contract and all it provides will be extended to all graduate employees, as it has been for previous contracts, president of the GEU Sylvia Marques said.
“Most of the benefits that we negotiate get extended to all graduate employees – the university doesn’t want to deal with some multi-tier employment structure,” Marques said.
Graduate employees can switch positions from semester to semester, from teaching assistants to research assistants. Extending the contract to all employees allows those graduate employees to change their position without fear of losing benefits.
The GEU was formed in 2001, and is one of 11 labor unions on campus. It was meant to represent teaching assistants and other graduate employees. It has negotiated a series of four contracts since its creation. The current contract ends May 15.
The contract outlines employees’ rights such as health insurance benefits, protection from over-work, salary and protection from discrimination, GEU treasurer and voting member of executive board Charlie Loelius said.
Loelius sees the contract as a way to provide serious protections and necessary benefits for graduate employees.
“Our greatest tool for protecting teaching assistants and advancing justice is our collective bargaining agreement,” Loelius said.
The GEU is currently focused on four main issues while negotiating, including an increase in yearly salary, an increase in tuition that is covered by MSU for graduate students, maintaining affordable healthcare and improving the anti-discrimination language that already exists in the contract, Marques said.