We exist as a labor union to make the Michigan State University community a better place in which to work and study. We believe that graduate employees have the rights to fair wages, decent health care, safe working conditions, and a workplace free from discrimination. Through collective bargaining, the Graduate Employees Union works to make MSU a more democratic, equitable, dynamic, and diverse community, where the work that we all do is valued and respected.
-Scott Henkel, GEU President 2002-2004
Who we are
Members of the Graduate Employees Union are graduate students at Michigan State University, including Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and others! We have our own academic responsibilities in courses, exams, theses, and dissertations and we also teach classes, grade students’ assignments, conduct research, and perform many of the duties which the university needs to function. We are affiliated with the AFT-Michigan (American Federation of Teachers), and the American Federation of Labor/Council of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
Why we formed a union
We formed a union — currently one of about thirty similar unions in the nation — for some very important reasons: by uniting and speaking with a common voice through collective bargaining, graduate students have a powerful tool which can be used to improve working and living conditions. We formed a union because teaching assistants, research assistants, and graduate assistants have been consistently overworked, underpaid, and disrespected. TAs, RAs, and GAs are often the first to be cut when budgets get tight, often asked to perform work that is not included in their contracts, and are often passed by when faculty and administrators are given pay raises. With a union, graduate students who work at the university have an organization that gives them the support to work to the best of their abilities, holds the university accountable for its actions, and ensures that graduate employees will be treated like professionals.
Quite simply, with a union, graduate students who work at the university can expect better pay, better tuition wavers, improved health care, better employment training, decreased workloads, and protection from unfair treatment by the university in the form of a detailed grievance procedure. Unions are the best way to fight workplace discrimination because they give individual graduate students a forum to be heard, and an ally to work with when the administration acts unjustly.
How we function
Above all else, unions are democratic organizations where each member’s opinion is sought through public elections. We function in the following ways:
- Membership meetings – held at least once a semester. At membership meetings, the entire membership is invited to speak about important issues, hear about the details of union work, and participate in planning union events.
- Actions – GEU members are passionate about enforcing our contractual rights. These actions may take the form of demonstrations, rallies, informational pickets, and other events as deemed necessary. GEU members vote to determine the time and nature of such events.
- Dues & Fees – If you decide to join GEU, you will pay dues, which can be automatically deducted from your paycheck. The dues rate is currently set at 1.6% of salary. If you do join GEU, you will be able to vote in all GEU matters- except contracts if you are not in the bargaining unit- and hold office within the union and qualify for member only benefits. By joining the union and standing together with your fellow graduate students, you ensure we can live and work in a better community.
- Non-TA Membership- While the Union is currently authorized to negotiate a contract only for Teaching Assistants, it is the case that the benefits negotiated by the union extend to Research Assistants and other students at Michigan State University. Graduate students who are not currently teaching assistants can join the union for $40.00 a year, and are entitled to all the same rights and benefits as other union members (except for voting on contracts in units they are not members of).
Structure of GEU
The Graduate Employees Union elects five Officers in the spring of each year: President, Vice President for Organizing & Outreach, Vice President for Contract Negotiations and Grievances, Treasurer, and Information Officer.
The Stewards Council consists of GEU members from all departments of the university and is responsible for organizing the union, planning events and actions, and approving union policies. Stewards are elected by members in their department and meet once a month. Members in each employing department may elect one steward for every fifteen members in the department. Stewards are the links from the academic departments to the union: they provide communication to their fellow graduate students from the union and relay information to their departments from the union.
The Member Defense Committee is the body that makes sure that our contract is enforced properly. This committee defends our contractual rights and negotiates solutions when problems arise.
The Budget Committee oversees the operations and infrastructure internal to the union, and ensures the union runs smoothly, supporting organizers and members in their work as students and as union members.
The Pedagogy Committee helps ensure TAs receive the professional development training they need to be successful in their jobs, determines the needs of our membership in terms of professional development, and communicates with MSU regarding professional development for TAs.
Political Action- Working on activating the membership around political issues like harassment and discrimination at the university.
Publicity Committee- This committee is responsible for GEU managing messaging, communications, and media contacts. Publicizing GEU events and maintaining strategic media contacts. They draft press releases, emails, advise promotional campaigns, and develop website content management strategy.
Remember: you are the union. With everyone’s help, we can continue to be a very strong organization.
If you’re interested in joining one of these committees, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.