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News :: Labor
Graduate student-workers at UMass-Amherst win tentative contract agreement
15 May 2005
After 14 months of battle, the Graduate Employee Organization, UAW Local 2322 reached a tentative contract agreement with the administration at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst May 10. A ratification vote is scheduled for May 19-20.
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Graduate student-workers at UMass-Amherst win tentative contract agreement

By Bryan G. Pfeifer

After 14 months of battle, the Graduate Employee Organization, UAW Local 2322 reached a tentative contract agreement with the administration at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst May 10. A ratification vote is scheduled for May 19-20.

A heartening and powerful labor-community-student alliance won this stage of the struggle.

“The incredible turn out at the March 31 rally and march, the complete shutdown of the university on April 21 because of the undergraduate boycott and GEO walkout, the teach-ins, grade-ins, carol singing and bombarding of Chancellor Lombardi, and many other contract campaign events have all paid off, and allowed us to reach a tentative agreement with the university today over the terms of a new contract,” declared GEO in an email to its approximately 2, 400 members May 10.

If ratified by the membership, the contract will be signed by designated union and administration representatives and forwarded to the state legislature for approval. If approved by this body the contract then goes to the Massachusetts Governor, currently Mitt Romney, for signature approval.

The tentative agreement gives the union a two percent raise during each year of a three-year contract that covers July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007. The sides reached agreement on health fees and child-care fees, which before the massive protest action’s, the administration demanded major concessions.

And despite a bigoted attack on same-sex domestic partner health benefits that the administration wanted to abolish, GEO refused to be divided and kept this hard-won concession. A memorandum of understanding also guarantees that the current funding of $800,000 for recruitment and retention of ALANA (African/Latin@/Asian/Pacific Islander/Native American) students continue through fiscal year 2007.

“We believe we've reached a fair contract that enhances our members' standard of living,” said Jen Turner, GEO president.

Before the tentative agreement was reached, GEO had planned to picket the inauguration of UMass President Jack M. Wilson in Boston May 12 and teaching assistants planned to withhold grades at the end of this semester. Many GEO members still participated in an informational picket at Wilson’s inauguration with the largely undergraduate Take Back UMass coalition that chartered two buses to the inauguration. The student-worker coalition members distributed leaflets protesting the administration’s plans to strip undergraduate student organization’s independence by placing them under a administration-controlled Student Center.

-- 30 --
See also:
http://www.geouaw.org
http://www.takebackumass.com

This work is in the public domain