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 or If for any reason you wish to reach out to us individually, you can reach Warren at, Chris at, Kathy at, Drew at, or Katsy at

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

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 ( If you do not know, ask your supervisor and email the union (  

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 ( and GEO ( and 
If your child’s school is closed and you must remain home to care for them, immediately inform HR  ( and GEO ( and 
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 ( and 
If you have been deemed as required on-site or essential, let GEO ( 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 ( and And finally, if you are exposed to someone who develops COVID-19, or if you develop COVID-19 symptoms, please inform both UHS ( 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 or If for any reason you wish to reach out to us individually, you can reach Warren at, Chris at, Kathy at, Drew at, or Katsy at


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 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.)


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.

CAPS Update

CAPS courses–courses run by the College of Advancing and Professional Studies–have long been a source of confusion and frustration. If you’ve ever taken a course online, over the weekend, or not during the normal Fall or Spring semesters, you’ve probably been in a CAPS course–and been confused about the costs and how it interacts with your tuition waivers.

CAPS had its own policy for waivers that UMass used to try to bypass our collective bargaining agreement. Instead of applying normal tuition waivers, CAPS policy was to only give full-time employees a 50% waiver; all others received a 25% waiver.

But now, finally, CAPS will use the normal graduate assistant tuition waivers! GEO has been in meetings with management since 2015 to normalize this process. Back in March of this year we finally had enough and threatened to take the school to arbitration court. After a long fight, the University finally recognized that tuition is tuition! We’ve won!

For any CAPS course that is part of your degree, and has no on-campus alternative that the student could take, the waiver will now look like the normal tuition waiver.

Graduate assistants can now expect to see those CAPS tuition fees waived at the same percentage as any other course. CAPS courses do have a different price, so if you have questions, come see us for more information–but no matter what your FTE status, CAPS courses have become cheaper under the current system than they’ve been in the past. A lot of members in the GEO bargaining unit will benefit from this immediately and in the future. 

The agreement we worked out with the university only applies for courses that occur during the regular Fall and Spring semesters; we’ll be going back to the table and trying to negotiate an even stronger deal come bargaining. We’ll need your support! 

If you have any questions about this–or aren’t sure if you’re one of the students, get in touch with us! And if you have any other questions, email us at 

Thanks so much for your support!

All-Member Meeting

Our All-Member Meeting is this Tuesday! And we’re switching it up a bit. Instead of our regular afternoon meeting, we’re going to be holding it in the morning! Campus Center room 3450 at 9am–even if you can’t come, swing by! Grab some coffee and a donut on us before you head off to class and work.

We’re going to be meeting for about an hour in the morning to discuss bargaining and the bargaining survey [see here!] We want everyone to feel like they have a solid grasp on the basics of bargaining as we head into the cycle in Spring; it’s an important part of our benefits, wages, and waivers as graduate assistants here at UMass Boston.

As part of the all-member meeting, we’ll discuss the bargaining survey. The bargaining survey went out TODAY, and we need as many people as possible to complete it. The bargaining survey will inform us as we craft our bargaining platform, which we’ll use to shape our decisions as we move into bargaining. In spring, we’ll have a ratification process occur to get the bargaining platform signed by as many GEO members as possible, so we can come to the table with the university with the full backing of our membership!

Weather alert? For updates on these events, follow us at:
Facebook: /GEOUMB
Twitter: @geo_umass

Bargaining Survey


Every three years we enter into a series of negotiations with the university that cover graduate assistant pay, waivers, and benefits–each cycle, we fight hard at the table to come to an agreement that better supports graduate assistants at UMass Boston, and each cycle, the fight is difficult. Last round, we entered bargaining with a university intent on cutting around 400k in benefits to Graduate Assistants–we walked away from the table fifteen months later… with an increase of support of approximately 3.5 million.

Bargaining is a long process, but it’s one of the most important ones in which the union engages. When we stand together and fight together, we can win at the table.

And the first step of bargaining is the Bargaining Survey. The survey is a series of questions about your experience as an employee at UMass Boston: it is a comprehensive survey meant to give us feedback about what matters most to you. When you fill out the bargaining survey, you give the Bargaining Committee–a group of volunteers and Organizing Committee Members–a solid basis on which to develop the Bargaining Platform. Check the QR code here:

If you have any additional questions about the bargaining survey, email us at !

Harvard Strike Solidarity

Back in October, the Harvard Graduate Student Union–the HGSU-UAW–held a vote to authorize a strike if Harvard did not come to the bargaining table to guarantee fair wages, comprehensive health coverage, and protection against discrimination and sexual harassment. They went through with the authorization and set the strike deadline for December 3rd. If Harvard refused to offer better pay, better health insurance, and better language for harassment and discrimination, the Harvard Graduate Student Union would go on strike on that day. December 3rd. 1030am.

We’re at the deadline. Starting tomorrow HGSU is going on strike–and we’re going to go stand in solidarity. The things the HGSU are fighting for are the same things we’re fighting for: fair wages, better health insurance coverage, better protections, and better treatment! If Harvard strikes in full force, it’ll send a shock through Boston’s university and remind every academic institution that graduate workers are employees, that they demand respect, and that, in one of the richest cities in the world, in one of the richest states in the world, they demand fair compensation

An injury to one is an injury to all. Join us. We’re going to head over after our All-Member-Meeting as a group, although if you want to go straight to the strike area, head up to Harvard. The Facebook Information is here:

If you have any questions, or want to join up but can’t attend the All-Member Meeting in the morning, email

Weather alert? For updates on these events, follow us at:
Facebook: /GEOUMB
Twitter: @geo_umass

UMass Boston Townhall

There’s a lot happening this week, and it’s going to take work to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. While the Harvard Strike starts at 1030am, and the bargaining survey has gone out, and our All-Member-Meeting happens in the morning… that’s not all.

December 3rd, 2pm–tomorrow–the Chancellor is holding another Town Hall. This one is centered around student success; to that end, the information displayed will be based around the metrics and data the university has received to student success. Over the last couple of years, UMass Boston has become stronger at tracking these numbers and at trying to measure it, but there’s still more work to do.

Show up, not only to get what might be valuable information on how the university treats and views student success, but also to get a chance to say what you think student success might look like: fair pay for work, reliable work, fair health insurance costs that don’t come with unexpected price hikes, and leaves! 

If you have any questions, or want to join up, email 

Weather alert? For updates on these events, follow us at:
Facebook: /GEOUMB
Twitter: @geo_umass

GEO Monthly Review

GEO Monthly Review

Hello members! 
We wanted to reach out and let everyone know what we’ve been up to over the past month!

New Organizing Committee Members Elected

    GEO welcomed two new members to our organizing committee: Arazeliz Reyes and Julie LaBagnara! They have both hit the ground running and are already deep into the work of the organizing committee. Stop by our office to say hi!

October All Member Meeting – Bargaining Discussion

    In late October, we held a small but mighty all member meeting during which we discussed the history of bargaining at UMB, the bargaining process, and the schedule for our next contract bargaining session beginning in the Spring. Find the slides here!

    The discussion quickly focused on how we win the demands of our members in the newest contract. Everyone understood that the strength of our bargaining position is tied directly to how many members of our unit come out and support the process. We want every single member to feel ownership over the contract process. We discussed strategies to mobilize membership, and the program rep meetings that occurred the next week focused on the specific strategies of mobilizing and informing members on the level of each and every department on our campus. 

Chancellor Newman Townhall – Find the Video Below!

    On Oct. 23rd, Chancellor Newman held a townhall in which she gave an overview of the University’s budget and financial situation. Fortunately, through the hard work of the SaveUMB coalition and our union brothers and sisters in the PSU and CSU, the Chancellor was pressured to give the majority of the time in the meeting to an open question and answer session from the wider UMB community. During this session, we heard from many different people from all over campus give their testimony on the impact of the cuts and layoffs on their experience as employees and students. 

    This townhall was extremely well attended and showed how angry and upset many different people on this campus are over the manner in which our debt crisis has been handled and who the administration has chosen to lay the burden of it on. Going forward, it represents yet another example of how eager and desperate people are on this campus to change the trajectory of austerity and privatization and turn the environment and ethos here at UMB back towards its original mission: to serve the underserved, provide an affordable, quality to education to as many people as posisble, and treat its employees as vital to that mission. 


    We are always working with members on individual issues that come up in their departments and programs. Weekly, we meet with members to discuss what has happened, what rights they have, and how we can help solve the solution. We wanted to use this space as a reminder to please come to us whenever you think something seems off or wrong about what you are being asked to do, questions over your working relationships, or 

Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions – New England

    Finally, on November 8th, we hosted a very fruitful meeting on campus with other graduate unions from across campus. Representatives from UMass Amherst and Lowell, the Jewish Labor Council, Northeaster, University of Rhode Island, and UConn, as well as other labor supporters, came together to share resources, discuss strategies, and brainstorm ways we can work together to build better working conditions for all graduate students and workers in our region. 

    Please be on the lookout for more information coming out about our work with this group, including the organizing of a GEO contingent from UMB to travel to Harvard in early December to give solidarity and provide support to grad workers there who are preparing to go on strike against a university that refuses to bargain in good faith with them.