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News ::
Unionization Victory!
05 Oct 2001
UMass Graduate employees win 2-year struggle to join a union.
UMass Graduate employees win 2-year struggle to join a union.
GEO/UAW wins historic union victory in Continuing Education at UMass

For immediate release. Contact: James A.W. Shaw at (413) 222-3775 or
Benjamin Balthaser or Pat Duffy at 545-0705

Amherst, MA (October 3, 2001)--After a two year battle, graduate employees
who teach in the Division of Continuing Education will finally vote this
semester on whether they want to join the Graduate Employee
Organization/United Auto Workers Local 2322 (GEO), according to a ruling
by the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission (MLRC). The ruling came
in the midst of a campus-wide organizing drive where graduate students
were voting department by department to refuse teaching appointments in
the Division until their legal rights were recognized.

"This is one of the most significant victories in GEO's 10-year
said Benjamin Balthaser, a campaign organizer and graduate student
instructor in the English department. "Although we are delighted by the
MLRC ruling, this is a campaign we won on the ground. Our union, and the
MLRC decision, is the direct result of the hundreds of activists who took
part in the campaign over the last two years."

Each year, about 300 courses are taught by graduate students in the DCE.
Over 80% of graduate instructors who teach in the DCE signed cards saying
they wanted to be part of GEO almost two years ago. Instead of allowing an
election at that time, the University sued GEO, taking the case to the
MLRC. After spending tens of thousands of dollars on anti-union lawyers,
fining and threatening to blacklist union activists, the University was
still not successful in stopping the campaign.

The university had contested the union election on the grounds that DCE
graduate instructors were casual labor, but the MLRC rejected that
argument. Graduate instructors who teach in DCE and during the day do the
same work, teach the same courses and many of the same students, and the
MLRC recognized that DCE instructors deserve the same union rights as GEO

The graduate instructors who are now teaching will democratically decide
whether to join GEO/UAW Local 2322. Given the last summer months of
intense organizing, GEO members and organizers expect the vote will result
in victory.

"The campaign has allowed us to get our message out," said Pat Duffy,
current graduate Continuing Education instructor in the Sociology dept.
"Not only are graduate students frustrated over their significantly lower
wages in the Division, the union can provide basic safeguards of job
security and benefits that allow teachers to worry over what they should
be worrying about: their students, their subject."
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