We, the members of the Graduate Employees Union at Michigan State University, commit ourselves to fostering participatory democracy in our university and in our community. We ground our union in principles of equality, fairness, justice, mutual respect, and a commitment to quality education. We believe that all workers have the rights to a living wage, quality health care, safe working conditions, and a workplace free from discrimination.
The Graduate Employees Union exists to make our university a better place in which to work and study. Because Michigan State University was founded as the pioneer land grant institution in America, specifically intended to be an alternative to an elitist idea of higher education, we commit ourselves to the task of protecting and enhancing the ideals of public education, and will work to make our university a more equitable, accessible, and freely available institution, where the work that we all do is valued and respected. We seek to be a union that increases members’ power through our organizing and collective bargaining, rather than a small group of individuals who solve our member’s problems for them, without their participation in that struggle.
We recognize that the power of the union fundamentally rests in its membership, and it is through our collective action that we are all empowered. Our union derives its strength from the great diversity of talents and skills, backgrounds and preparations that our members possess, and from this great diversity we draw the strength to improve our living conditions, our working conditions, our university, and our community.
It is in pursuit of these goals that we establish this Constitution.
Article I. Name
The name of this organization shall be the Graduate Employees Union (GEU).
Article II. Affiliation
The GEU shall be affiliated with AFT-Michigan (American Federation of Teachers), and the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), local number 6196. The Stewards Council will determine appropriate delegates.
Article III. Objectives
Section 3-1. Organizing: To empower graduate employees at MSU.
Section 3-2. Collective Representation for Bargaining: To act as the representative for those graduate employees in the bargaining unit in negotiations with the university administration and the state legislature over wages, benefits, hours, and working conditions.
Section 3-3. Education: To promote quality graduate and undergraduate education at Michigan State University.
Section 3-4. Community: To foster a sense of community among graduate employees from all departments and backgrounds.
Section 3-5. Solidarity: To cooperate with others in the pursuit of common goals.
Section 3-6. Social Justice: To acknowledge that economic justice cannot be separated from the fight for social justice, civil rights, and human rights within and beyond the borders of our campus, to recognize that events beyond our campus often directly affect our working and living conditions, and to work toward the spread of unionism, solidarity, and social justice.
Article IV. General Principles and Guarantees
Section 4-1. Right to Membership: No person otherwise eligible for membership in the GEU shall be denied membership or discriminated against based on race, creed, religious affiliation, color, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity and expression, sex, sexual orientation, physical and/or mental disability, or political affiliation or other characteristics subject to discrimination.
Section 4-2. Democratic Elections: For elected positions, members shall have the right to fair and democratic elections, including due notice of nominations and elections, equal opportunity for candidates, and fair elections procedures.
Section 4-3. Right to Hold Office: Members shall have an equal right to run for and hold office.
Section 4-4. Accounting of Funds: Members shall have the right to a full and clear accounting of all GEU funds including periodic reports to the membership by the appropriate fiscal officers and an annual financial review as required by law or national affiliation.
Section 4-5. Participation in Decisions: Members shall have the right to full participation in the decision-making process, and shall receive due notice of membership meetings. Members shall have access to any information necessary for the exercise of this right.
Article V. Membership
Section 5-1. All graduate students at Michigan State University are eligible for membership in the union.
Section 5-2. Members are required to remain in good standing with GEU by paying regular dues (see Article XI) as specified in the adopted policies of GEU.
Section 5-3. All members in good standing shall have equal rights and privileges as given in this constitution, except as specified by Article XII, Sec. 12-2 and 12-3.
Section 5-4. Reserved Powers of Members: The membership of GEU holds the sole authority in matters concerning non-performance of elected officials’ duties, ratification of contract, matters of union affiliation, strike votes, and the determination of dues rates. GEU elected officials are restricted to act only within the scope of those powers assigned by the membership.
Article VI. Membership Meetings
Section 6-1. Regular Meetings: Regular Membership meetings shall be scheduled and called by the Stewards Council at least once each academic semester. No fewer than ten days notice shall be given for the calling of regular meetings. Any member may have any relevant matter placed on the agenda by submitting it to the Information Officer at least two days prior to the meeting. Every membership meeting shall provide a time for Members’ Privilege. At any meeting, a member shall have the right to make a motion on any topic being considered by the meeting.
Section 6-2. Special Meetings: Section 6-2. Special Meetings: Special Membership meetings shall be called at the discretion of the Executive Board, the Stewards Council or by petition of five (5) percent of the membership. Due notice shall be given in accordance with the circumstances. Any relevant topic which a member wishes to be included on the agenda must be submitted to the Information Officer at least twenty–four hours, when possible, before the meeting. Only business for which notice has been given shall be transacted.
Section 6-3. A quorum for the transaction of business at any membership meeting shall consist of
not fewer than five (5) percent of the GEU’s current membership and at least two officers.
Article VII. Officers
Section 7-1. The GEU Officers shall be elected by members who are in good standing.
Section 7-2. The elected officers shall include a President, a Vice President of Organizing and Outreach, a Vice President of Contract Negotiation and Enforcement, an Information Officer, a Treasurer, and an International Chair. The elected officers shall be the Executive Committee.
Section 7-3. The term of office shall be one year. Officers shall take office on August 1st of the year in which they were elected, and shall serve until July 31st of the following calendar year. No member may serve any more than two terms in any one particular officer position. In the period between the election of officers and the date that they assume office, the officers-elect shall attend officers meetings with the sitting officers and participate in all officer activities. They shall not have voting power at these meetings, but may be called upon to advise the sitting officers.
Section 7-4. In the event of vacancy in office, except the office of President, the Stewards Council shall name an interim officer to serve until an election is held at the next membership meeting. In the event of vacancy in the office of President, the Vice President shall fill out the unexpired term.
Section 7-5. The Executive Committee shall meet once weekly, except for such breaks as agreed upon by the Committee, to direct the actions of the union. The Executive Committee shall act upon votes taken by the Stewards Council, and bring union business before the Stewards Council for discussion and action. The Executive Committee will hear and finalize yearly plans based on recommendations from the Stewards Council, will recommend final contract drafts to the membership for their vote; and be responsible for final decisions regarding spending and management of finances. The Executive Committee shall operate by consensus. When consensus cannot be reached, the matter shall be brought before the Stewards Council.
Section 7-6. The President shall be the chief executive and administrative officer of the GEU and
shall conduct the affairs of the GEU in accordance with this Constitution and in accordance with policy decisions of the membership. The President shall report regularly to the Stewards Council and the membership on their actions. The President shall sign all contracts, and other official documents of the GEU, but with the approval of the Stewards Council may designate a deputy to sign such documents. The President shall be the voting chairperson of the Executive Board and an ex officio member of all committees.
Section 7-7. The Vice President of Organizing and Outreach
A. The Vice President of Organizing and Outreach shall have responsibility for the organizing activities of GEU. The Vice President of Organizing and Outreach shall be responsible for the recruitment, education, and retention of union members and union activists.
B. The Vice President of Organizing and Outreach shall replace the President in their absence.
C. The Vice President of Organizing and Outreach shall be a voting chairperson of the Stewards’ Council.
Section 7-8. Vice President of Contract Negotiations and Enforcement
- The Vice President of Contract Negotiation and Enforcement shall have responsibility for the grievances of GEU members and the grievance process of the GEU.
- The Vice President of Contract Negotiation and Enforcement shall be the chairperson of the Member Defense Committee
Section 7-9. The Treasurer
A. The Treasurer shall be the chief financial officer of the GEU. The Treasurer shall receive and receipt for all monies of the GEU. The Treasurer shall maintain properly and have custody over all the accounts of the GEU. The Treasurer shall, in the name of the GEU, deposit monies, in an open account in a financial institution(s) in which deposits are federally insured. The Treasurer shall prepare checks for the payment of all liabilities of the GEU that are for authorized purposes. The Treasurer shall countersign all checks so prepared. The Treasurer shall serve as chair of the Budget Committee. The Treasurer will propose Budget Committee members to the Stewards Council for their approval.
B. The Treasurer shall make a financial report to the membership at least once each semester and shall be subject to questioning about such report, and shall provide an annual written report.
Section 7-10. Information Officer
A. The Information Officer shall be the chief recording officer of the GEU. The Information
Officer shall maintain and oversee membership records, publications, announcements and the minutes of all meetings.
B. The Information Officer shall be the voting chairperson of the Publicity Committee. The
Information Officer will propose Publicity Committee members to the Stewards Council for their approval.
C. The Information Officer shall, upon request from any member in good standing of GEU,
provide the minutes of any meeting not closed to the membership to the requesting member.
Section 7-11. International Chair
- The International Chair shall advocate and elevate issues particular to international members of the GEU to the Executive Committee.
- The International Chair will be the chairperson of the International Graduate Student Committee.
Section 7-12. Additional Voting Members
Upon unanimous approval of the constitutional Executive Committee members and majority approval of the Stewards Council, chairpersons of ad-hoc committees of the GEU may be temporarily granted a voting position on the Executive Committee until such a time that voting power is no longer deemed appropriate.
Article VIII. Elections
Section 8-1. Election of GEU Officers:
A. The Election Committee shall conduct the election of GEU Officers. The Stewards Council shall appoint the Election Committee, which may include stewards and any members in good standing, but may not include any sitting officers or any member running for office. The Election Committee members shall elect a person to chair the Election Committee.
B. All members in good standing shall be eligible to run for office. All members in good standing shall be eligible to vote.
C. Nominations for office will open no later than 45 days prior to the last day of classes in spring semester and will remain open for two weeks. Nominees will submit their names to the Election Committee. The Election Committee will announce names of nominees to all members. Nominations may be made from the floor at the membership meeting, provided the written consent of the nominee has been obtained. Nominees will attend the last regular membership meeting of the spring semester, at which they will address and take questions from the membership. If extenuating circumstances prevent the nominee from attending the membership meeting, they may submit a written statement to be read at that meeting. Elections shall be by ballot except when there is only one candidate for an office, in which case, the election may be by voice vote at the membership meeting. A majority of votes cast at the membership meeting shall be required. For any office for which there are at least two candidates, ballots will be distributed within 5 days after the membership meeting and two additional weeks will be allowed for their return.
D. Due notice shall be given of time and place of ballot counting. Ballots shall be counted within two hours of the close of balloting period in a publicly accessible location. Any member in good standing may observe the counting process. A plurality shall be required for the election of an officer when there are more than two candidates for that office. The election committee shall announce the results and notify the membership within 24 hours. Any candidate shall have the right to ask for a recount within 24 hours of the results being announced. The recount shall be held within 24 hours of that request being communicated to the information officer. In the absence of a challenge or at the end of the recount, the election shall be certified.
E. Any officer of the GEU may be subject to recall upon petition of twenty (20) percent of the membership. The Stewards Council, excluding members up for recall, shall determine the validity of the signatures appearing on any recall petition. A special membership meeting shall be called within fourteen days of receipt of the said petition. At this meeting, the petitioners must present their reasons for recall to the membership, and the officer in question shall be allowed to speak on their own behalf in response. Any member may then ask questions of either party. Two-thirds (2/3) of members in good standing present voting in favor of the recall will allow the measure to pass, and that officer shall be removed from office immediately. The process to fill vacancies will be initiated immediately. The recalled officer shall be ineligible to serve subsequently as an officer.
Article IX. Committees
Section 9-1. Committees, both standing and ad hoc, shall be created either by action of the general membership at a Membership Meeting or by action of the Stewards Council or Executive Board. The President will be an ex-officio member of all committees. The quorum for committees, both standing and ad hoc, shall be a majority of its members including the chair.
Section 9-2. Committees shall be restricted to implementing GEU policy as determined by the Stewards Council. They shall be under the administrative supervision of the Stewards Council.
Section 9-3. Removal of any non-elected committee member requires two-thirds (2/3) vote of the Stewards Council.
Section 9-4. Standing Committees. The Standing Committees of the Union shall be the Member Defense Committee, Budget Committee, Publicity Committee, and International Graduate Student Committee.
A. The Member Defense Committee is appointed by the Stewards Council. The Member Defense Committee shall be responsible for protecting, enforcing, and clarifying the union’s contract with the university, including organizing and mobilizing, in concert with the Stewards Council, the membership and grievants, filing and prosecuting grievances, identifying and rectifying violations of the contract and of labor law. The Member Defense Committee shall be empowered to conduct research for grievance cases and for contract negotiations, except when the Bargaining Team has been formed. The Member Defense Committee may recommend cases for arbitration to the Stewards Council for a vote. The Member Defense Committee shall elect its chair. Member Defense Committee members are honor bound to preserve the confidentiality of grievants’ information and grievance processes.
B. The Budget Committee shall oversee the financial operations of the union, including the preparation of an annual budget, and, with the exception of arbitration cases, the approval of expenditures.
C. The Publicity Committee shall be responsible for the public face of the union. The Publicity Committee shall maintain contacts with the news media, maintain sources of union information, and produce publications.
D. The International Graduate Student Committee shall be responsible for collecting information about issues facing international members of the GEU and working to provide solutions for these problems, in concert with other committees in the Union when appropriate.
Section 9-5. The ad hoc committees shall be the Bargaining Team, Election Committee, and such
other committees as are determined necessary by the Stewards Council or the membership.
Section 9-6. The Bargaining Team shall be responsible for contract negotiations with the
university, including contract research and the drafting of contract proposals. The Stewards Council shall appoint the Bargaining Team members, with the approval of the membership at the next regular membership meeting following the appointment.
Article X. Stewards and Stewards Council
Section 10-1. Stewards shall serve as members’ representatives at the employing unit level. A steward’s primary responsibility is to promote recruitment, participation and activism among members. A secondary responsibility is to be aware of potential grievance situations within the employing unit.
Section 10-2. Members in good standing within each employing unit shall elect stewards. Each employing unit shall elect at least one steward; if more than 15 members are employed within a single unit, an additional steward may be elected for each additional 15 members or fraction thereof. In the event that steward shall become unable to fulfill their duties, a special election shall be held. Newly elected stewards shall notify the Vice President of their election.
Section 10-3. The Stewards Council shall meet once weekly, except for such breaks as agreed upon by the Council, to make recommendations for consideration and action; these shall include organizing and recruiting new members and activists, planning union activities and formulating policies for the union. The stewards shall also notify the Council of relevant issues and concerns within their employing unit. Twenty (20) percent of the Stewards Council members including at least two officers shall constitute a quorum.
Section 10-4. Special meetings of the Stewards Council may be called by a petition of five or more stewards or by the Executive Committee.
Section 10-5. The Officers of the union shall be voting members of the Stewards Council.
Section 10-6. All meetings of the Stewards Council are open to all members of the union, but may be closed by a majority vote of Stewards Council members.
Section 10-7. The Stewards Council shall set the agenda for Membership Meetings and Special Meetings called by the Stewards Council.
Section 10-8. Any steward of the GEU may be subject to recall in either of two ways:
A. Upon receipt of a petition of twenty (20) percent of the members in the steward’s employing unit. An election shall be held within fourteen (14) days of receipt of the said petition. A two-thirds (2/3) vote of the members in the steward’s employing unit shall be required to recall the steward. The Stewards Council, excluding members up for recall, shall determine the validity of the signatures appearing on any recall petition. The recalled steward shall be ineligible to serve subsequently as a steward.
B. Upon receipt of a petition of two-thirds (2/3) of the Stewards Council. An election shall be held at a Stewards Council meeting within fourteen (14) days of receipt of the said petition. A three-fourths (3/4) vote of the stewards present and voting, excluding the steward being recalled, shall be required to recall the steward. The recalled steward shall be ineligible to serve subsequently as a steward.
Article XI. Dues
Section 11-1. Dues shall be determined by the Treasurer in consultation with the Budget Committee and GEU’s professional financial review firm. The Treasurer shall present the proposed dues rate to the membership at a Membership Meeting. A majority vote of the membership present at the Membership Meeting shall approve any increase in the dues rate over the current level. No vote is needed to approve a dues rate equal to or less than that of the current level.
Section 11-2. The level of dues assessment may be increased without membership approval only in the event that an increase is needed to cover an increase in per capita fees to our affiliated organizations as ratified by delegates at state or national affiliate conventions. In this event, the membership must be notified of the increase before the first pay period in which the higher rate shall be deducted from members’ paychecks.
Article XII. Voting Procedures
Section 12-1. Unless otherwise indicated, all votes shall be determined by a majority of members present and voting.
Section 12-2. The ratification of any collective bargaining agreement shall be by a majority of votes cast by GEU members who are in good standing within the Collective Bargaining Unit. All such ratification ballots will be sent out via postal or electronic means in order to ensure the opportunity for full participation of members in good standing. The timetable for executing such votes shall be determined by the Executive Committee.
Section 12-3. A strike authorization ballot shall be determined by two-thirds (2/3) of votes cast by GEU members who are in good standing within the Collective Bargaining Unit. All such authorization ballots will be sent out via postal or electronic means in order to ensure the opportunity for full participation of members in good standing. The timetable for executing such votes shall be determined by the Executive Committee.
Article XIII. Amendments
Section 13-1. Any member or members seeking to amend the constitution shall present in writing a copy of the proposed amendment to the Information Officer. The Information Officer shall notify the Stewards Council of such proposed amendment and its consideration shall be placed on the agenda for the next Membership Meeting.
Section 13-2. A copy of the proposed amendment shall be made available in an electronic format at least 7 calendar days prior to the membership meeting. Physical copies of the proposed amendment shall be made available at the membership meeting. The proposed amendment shall be voted upon by the membership in a ballot prepared and supervised by the Information Officer if one of the following conditions is met:
- a majority of members attending and voting at the membership meeting vote in favor of the proposed amendment; or
- twenty (20) percent of the membership petition for the proposed amendment; or
- the proposed amendment was ultimately approved by a 2/3 vote at a Stewards Council. In such cases, the Information Officer must notify the members present at a membership meeting of the proposed amendment and the nature of its approval.
The period during which members may cast ballots (electronic or otherwise) shall be proposed by the Executive Board and approved by Stewards Council.
Section 13-3. A positive vote of two-thirds (2/3) of those voting, provided that ten (10) percent of the membership votes, shall be required to pass the proposed amendment. Upon such passage, the Information Officer shall amend the constitution as required.
Adopted April 19, 2004
Amended June 29, 2020