Author: geoumassboston

An Open Letter // Against the Police Presence at the University of Massachusetts Boston

The Graduate Employee Organization stands in solidarity with the thousands of protesters who have been militant in demanding justice for George Floyd after his murder by four Minneapolis Police Officers: Rek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao. The killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many other Black Men, Women, and gender non-binary people by the state re-entrenches the anti-Black racism underlying the U.S. criminal justice system and its law enforcement. We stand against police terror, and against the white supremacist system which police terror serves. 

In the last couple of days… [read more and sign onto our open letter here]

UPDATE // IMPACT BARGAINING

  • After two months of meetings with the university, we re-evaluated the point of impact bargaining and came to the conclusion that management was using it to delay us from main-table bargaining, and to distract us from other issues.
  • The agreement we signed still offers protections for Spring GAs, and runs to the end of Spring semester.
  • We were also able to guarantee a pause on parking fees, pushed for the refunds that have come through, and got the optional statue-of-limitations delay for those who may need more time to complete their degree.
  • We got the university to agree to the voluntary CDC guidelines for on-campus GAs, and managed to ensure any left-over conference funds would be rolled into next year — and spent on members who were out money due to canceled conferences this semester.
  • As we shift away from impact bargaining, our focus will be to re-enter main-table bargaining with the university to get better language and protections in place for GAs–including everything we’ve talked about and been fighting for throughout early Spring before the pandemic hit.

GUIDANCE // Unemployment Insurance for Graduate Assistants

After research and consultation with legal, we’ve come to the conclusion that it is likely graduate assistants will be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance over summer. To that end, we’ve prepared the following guidelines, catch-alls and warnings that follow to make sure folks know about what pitfalls they may run into and what benefits they can get. This is the best information we have at the moment; the exact numbers here are likely to change over time as we get better information.

EDIT on 5.19: information on when to apply (day after employment ends), if you’re eligible if you’re graduating (yes, if you had a job lined up that fell through due to COVID), and what to do if you’re denied PUA (tell us ASAP).

  • How much do I get?
    • In MA, you get half of the average weekly benefit, which has a minimum of $267 per week. That’s likely what you will be getting on that end, but:
    • We’re also all eligible for Pandemic Financial Unemployment Compensation, which is another $600 per week (until the end of June), for a total of $867 until the end of June.
  • How do I apply?
    • Apply when your employment with the university ends.
    • The process starts with normal Unemployment Insurance; normal applying for unemployment.
    • Normal UI will turn you down. But with their denial, you can then go to the office of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which will ask you if you have received a denial from the normal Unemployment office, to which you will be able to say yes.
    • Unfortunately this is a hoop in place that we need to jump through.
  • When do I apply?
    • The day after your job ends. For most of us, that will be the 24th.
  • What if I’m graduating?
    • If you were supposed to be employed but your employment has been delayed or retracted due to COVID, you’ll still be eligible.
  • What about partial work loss?
    • The way the benefit works is that if there is any week in which your income exceeds your base unemployment benefit ($267), you will not receive unemployment for that week.
    • Unfortunately that means a minor reduction in total hours may not be covered.
  • Week-to-Week
    • UI and PUA eligibility is checked week-to-week, and benefits are paid on a weekly basis.
    • If you make more than the base unemployment benefit (of $267) in one week, you won’t be eligible for that amount, nor for the $600 from Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (FPUC). That said, you would be eligible the next week, depending on earnings.
    • The rough math is: 
      • the Department of Unemployment Assistance counts one third of how much you make against your base unemployment benefit before the $600 FPUC funds.
      • So 1/3rd of your total weekly earnings is greater than $287, you won’t receive FPUC, or UI, for that week.
      • You should be back on for the next week–as UI calculates week-to-week–unless 1/3rd of your total pay from all jobs is, again, above $287.
  • For international/out of country:
    • While you can receive the unemployment benefit while out of the state, you may not receive unemployment from Mass while out of the country.
    • For PUA, you are eligible if you have a valid SSN, and a USCIS issued document. Basically, UI is looking for the A# — the alien registration number. 
    • You must still be in country to receive the benefit in this case or any. 
  • Some miscellaneous things:
    • Having to jump through the hoop of being denied for Unemployment Insurance before applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is painful, but required to earn the benefit from the research we’ve done.
    • Overpayment is something to monitor. The system is new, and if they make an error, you may be responsible for it. Double check the math using the benefits calculator linked here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/how-your-unemployment-benefits-are-determined#unemployment-benefits-determination-calculator-
    • Benefits are contingent based on you not having a reasonable assurance of returning to work. Because the university budget is delayed, we do not have that assurance. You only have reasonable assurance of continuing to work if you have a signed contract for the Fall semester.
  • What if I’m denied both regular unemployment and PUA?
    • Let us know. It’s our understanding that you will not be denied PUA… if that happens, we need to know to figure out what happened on the back-end.

UPDATE / Parking Pass Cancelations

If you have not yet had your parking pass properly canceled or have not yet been reimbursed for your parking pass from March 15th onward, you may still have some steps to do. The university has done this entire process in a way that’s just uneven and painful for membership and we cannot understand why they won’t just cancel and reimburse.

The text below is copy and pasted directly from the email that went out from Human Resources. If you have not yet received a parking pass reimbursement from March 15th onward, or are still having your parking pass deducted, fill this out.


We are writing to remind faculty and staff of the campus process for cancelling parking passes, which may be found on the HR Website.  For a limited time, we will be amending the cancellation process to provide that cancellation requests received in HR by Thursday, May 7 will be processed retroactive to March 15.  Cancellation requests received after May 7 will be processed as of the start of the pay period in which they are received, in keeping with the standard policy.  

In order to cancel your payroll parking deduction please complete the Employee Parking Pre-Tax Payroll Deduction Form indicating that you would like to cancel your pass. Then email the form to hr@umb.edu. Please note, that all forms need to be submitted to HR by Thursday, May 7, 2020 in order to be considered for the limited time retroactive cancellation.

INFO / Townhall and Questions for May 14th

On Thursday May 14th the university is going to hold a virtual town-hall–we encourage all of you to attend to ask your questions about the finances of the university and get information, as that seems to be the topic at hand.

The deadline for the questions for the Town Hall is this Thursday. We encourage you to email any and all questions you have to chancellor@umb.edu… and in case you needed some, we’ve prepared a handful below.

  • “When does our new chancellor take charge and become the proper chancellor?”
  • “Are you taking money from reserves to pay for additional support to students during COVID? Why not?”
  • “How is the 13 million being paid to UMass Boston as part of CAREs being allocated?”
  • “What are you going to be doing to ensure the continuation of research on campus, considering how much money comes in from research projects and the common good they work toward?”
  • “Are you going to honor employment commitments made to incoming and continuing PhD and Masters degree candidates in the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year?”

We encourage you to send any of those questions, along with any of your own questions, for the townhall–again, send them to chancellor@umb.edu

The university is going to allocate time for questions after the town hall as well… so if you’ve got some more that you want to ask, you’ll have the time to do it.

Coronavirus + GEO: What You Need to Know

Our extended update can be found below under “GEO Coronavirus Update”.
Right now, we are working with the university to make sure all of our members are made safe in the middle of this crisis. We are working to ensure no members experience disruptions to their pay and benefits.

Find our membership survey, the UMB United Petition to Chancellor Newman, and our COVID-19 Bargaining Platform and Demands here.

Find important resources on the virus here.

PLEASE reach out if you have any questions. You can email us for any reason at geo@umb.edu or UAW1596@aol.com. If for any reason you wish to reach out to us individually, you can reach Warren at whinckle@gmail.com, Chris at Christopher.Whyna001@umb.edu, Kathy at kmelish@aol.com, Drew at drewbevis@gmail.com, or Katsy at katsyris.riveraki001@umb.edu

GEO Coronavirus Update 3.18.20

As of now, GEO has suspended all of our normal activity (including, but not limited to, elections, all member meetings, other meetings, and our Spring Party. If you have questions about your SSF grant, email the SSF manager Katsy at katsyris.riveraki001@umb.edu).

Our number one goal right now is to ensure all GA’s and graduate students are safe and receiving the correct information, while making sure there is as minimal disruption to your work as students, teachers, and researchers as possible during this crisis. 

Right now, the university is not closed. Measures have been put in place to increase social distancing and reduce the number of people on campus. Classes have been made virtual and many–but not all–employees have been switched to remote modalities. If you have been deemed essential, or required on-site, email the union (geo@umb.edu). If you do not know, ask your supervisor and email the union (geo@umb.edu).  

It is important to note that we are in DAILY discussions with management and the administration and that new information is coming down the pipe seemingly by the hour. We will be sending as many updates as necessary… but the university’s response so far has lacked both transparency or clarity. We’re doing what we can to speak directly to membership about all of this: it’s the best course for us with management being as difficult as they are. If you haven’t, please fill this survey out so we know your concerns and immediate needs. 

COVID-19: The University’s Plan and our Response
On Thursday, we entered discussions with the university and presented a series of proposals that ensured the public health and safety of the community. These proposals included guaranteeing sick leave for employees who could not work, ensuring employees caring for sick or displaced family members–those quarantining, those at home due to school closures, and more–were not penalized, and plans to minimize exposure to all members of the campus community. You can read the full proposal here. We believe the University’s response to our proposal to be wholly inadequate and irresponsible in its attempt to address this emergency situation. The FAQ issued on Friday left questions unanswered, gaps open, and employees at the mercy of the whim of their supervisors. Some of these gaps include the absence of additional leave-time, the lack of provision of personal protective equipment, and a failure to adequately address the minimization of exposure to the virus. Furthermore, the designation of which employees are required on-site has been left up to that employee’s manager. In a communication from the Provost last week, managers were told to “err by designating more rather than fewer people as ‘required onsite”. The university has not issued proper guidance to researchers and research support. It has not issued proper guidance to staff. It refuses to offer concrete information about what steps it is planning to take.  We ask that everyone show solidarity to the PSU and CSU at this time.  Their unions are working hard, but much of their membership are being given inadequate guidance, leadership, and directives, and many are being deemed as essential or required-on-site. We are asking all members of the UMass community to sign the petition linked below demanding UMass Boston prepare and adequately protect its community and workers. 

Immediate Next Steps
If you have been deemed as required on-site–for any reason–we ask you to take the following steps. Prioritize your and your own family’s health and safety.
If you or anyone in your household is high-risk (60 years or older or suffering from underlying medical conditions), immediately inform HR (Marie.Bowen@umb.edu) and GEO (geo@umb.edu and uaw1596@aol.com). 
If your child’s school is closed and you must remain home to care for them, immediately inform HR  (Marie.Bowen@umb.edu) and GEO (geo@umb.edu and uaw1596@aol.com). 
If you are asked to do anything that you believe endangers your health or safety, immediately inform your supervisor (by email) in writing, and GEO (geo@umb.edu and uaw1596@aol.com). 
If you have been deemed as required on-site or essential, let GEO (geo@umb.edu) know. We want to know why you’re required on site and what you’re being asked to do, make sure you agree with the required on-site designation, and ensure that you are being provided with what you need to stay safe.
If you are being asked to work from home and have any concerns, email GEO (geo@umb.edu and uaw1596@aol.com). And finally, if you are exposed to someone who develops COVID-19, or if you develop COVID-19 symptoms, please inform both UHS (Robert.Pomales@umb.edu) and your town’s public health department. This is essential to allow the right steps to protect the general public can be taken. 

It is possible that UMass will shut down, close campus, and suspend operations in the coming days or weeks. We don’t know. But if that happens, or if anything changes, we’ll be in touch with you. Please check your email regularly. Keep in touch with us. 

In Solidarity,
Warren, Chris, Kathy, Drew, Katsy, and the entire GEO

You can email us for any reason at geo@umb.edu or UAW1596@aol.com. If for any reason you wish to reach out to us individually, you can reach Warren at whinckle@gmail.com, Chris at Christopher.Whyna001@umb.edu, Kathy at kmelish@aol.com, Drew at drewbevis@gmail.com, or Katsy at katsyris.riveraki001@umb.edu

SPRING 2020 ELECTIONS

GEO is holding spring elections to fill two half-time assistantship positions on the organizing committee, with a start date of Fall 2020. If you are a dues-paying member of the GEO (you are a GA who pays dues), you’re eligible to self-nominate, run, and vote in the elections. (If you’re not… become one by filling out this form and sending it back to us.)

The schedule for this spring Election is as follows:

  • March 2 – March 16: Self-Nomination Period
  • March 23 – April 5: Campaigning Period
  • April 7 – April 9: Voting and Vote Counting

If you’re interested, be sure to self-nominate before March 16, and get ready to campaign and win some votes. If you have any questions, email us at geo@umb.edu. The elections self-nomination form, as well as additional information on elections and the GEO Organizing Committee, can be found here! (Or you can click “ELECTIONS – SPRING 2020” in our menu.)

BARGAINING PLATFORM

As part of bargaining for our 2020-2023 contract, we’ve developed a bargaining platform using extensive feedback and survey of all-membership. The bargaining platform is a list of goals which the Bargaining Committee will negotiate for in good faith–and it is important that the Bargaining Committee has the confidence that it is representing all UMass Boston GAs as they go into negotiations.
SIGN AND RATIFY THE Bargaining Platform. It is important that you fill out this form with correct information so that we can use it properly, and so that your voice and vote are heard.

You can sign and ratify our Bargaining Platform electronically by clicking here.