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 geo@umb.edu 

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 geo@umb.edu !

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: https://www.facebook.com/events/800371087066089/

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

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 drewbevis@gmail.com 

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. 

UMass Boston Townhall Video

We know some of you were asking about a recording of the Townhall–and we’ve got one. The link is here: https://youtu.be/PzEEUE2rKY0

The second hour of the video is the campus community speaking up and giving testimony of what all the cuts and hikes have meant for us on the ground–students, staff, and faculty. Some of the stories are moving, and it demonstrates how important it is for us to fight hard in Spring to win during bargaining and get improvements for our workers on campus.

We’ll be preparing a fullsome report back to go out to membership soon.

If you’re interested in getting involved–email us at geo@umb.edu. There are a lot of opportunities to help, and we’d love to have you on board.

#organizing #labor #umassboston #graduatestudents #umass #townhall #enoughisenough #union #stories #transparency


Hi everyone! We’re happy to announce that this Wednesday, October 16th, at 7pm, we’ll be holding this year’s first party! In collaboration with the GSA, we’ve set up a party–we’ll be celebrating the two new members of the GEO Organizing Committee, as well as the GSA 2019 Board!

Show up if you can! The event is at the Harp and Bard Pub in Dorchester; it’s located on 1099 Dorchester Avenue, right off of Savin Hill Avenue. If you need to get there, you can either walk to Dorchester Avenue from JFK/UMass and then down Dot ave (it’s a 10-15 minute walk), or leave from the Savin Hill T and walk down Savin Hill Avenue (it’s maybe a 5 minute walk).

We’ll see you there!

All Member Report Back!

Hello to all GEO members! 

We had a really great first All Member meeting on September 18th to kick off this semester. 

We introduced our core organizing and focus for the 2019-2020 year: Health and Welfare, discussed how better to get members involved in the union, and began to talk about what it is going to take for us to win our demands at the bargaining table this year. 

Please find the slides from the presentation here

Below you’ll find our notes and takeaways from the meeting, i.e., what we are hearing from you all and what we plan on doing about it. We want every member to get the chance to see what their has in store for the new academic year!

Health and Welfare Campaign Launch and Discussion

We pay too much for healthcare, period. The blindsiding we all experienced this summer with the almost four hundred dollar increase in our premiums is but the latest example. At the meeting, we circulated our petition (please sign if you have not already!) and spoke generally about the need to reign in the increasing cost of our healthcare. 

Additionally, we spoke about the different areas where we see possibilities to build on the benefits we already have and other benefits that we’d like to have. These include,but are not limited to: better mental health access for all students on campus, an equitable solution for those students who are parents in light of losing our on-campus daycare center, and the possibility of winning Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) for GEO members who are new parents. 

In our discussion, we heard from members in Clinical Psychology who’ve been asked to get their own therapists on their own dime. Members raised issues with both the Vision and Dental process and cost, and another shared their story about the difficulty of affording a simple x-ray for their injured arm. While some of these issues are new, many are things we, as graduate workers and GEO organizing members, are acutely aware of and understand to be immediate 

Long story short, the message was clear: a focus on health and wellness in our organizing work this year is not only a crucial concern for all of our members, but that the time is now to work through these issues and successfully organize to win the benefits we deserve as members and workers on UMass Boston’s Campus

Member Engagement and Organizing

We heard from multiple members that, especially for international students, there is a lack of basic understanding of what the GEO actually does for its members. Despite GEO’s presence at graduate orientations (both campus-wide and program specific), we know that for many graduate workers this may be the last time they are in a room with GEO reps and other graduate assistants outside their department. Additionally, there was a fruitful discussion around the use of social media and how best we can engage with members online. 

As a direct response to these questions, we’ve begun work on a short member handbook that we can use as a tool in discussions around what GEO does and how best to get involved. We hope to get this out both digitally and in print within the month! 


We had a great conversation around exactly how we, as graduate students and workers, can leverage our power as we enter the bargaining stage for our new contract this January. It is a conversation that we will return to this semester at every one of our meetings and interactions with members. 

That being said, if you are interested in getting involved and learning more about bargaining in general, we are calling on volunteers to join our Bargaining Committee! There will be more information to come, but know that this year we hope to have members from all over campus come to the table with the university to show just how much power we have. 

Getting Involved

As always, if you want to get involved or have ideas for GEO, the best way to do so is to become a Program Representative. If you do not know who your program representative is, ask! It probably means you’re department needs one. Program reps meet once a month to discuss how best they can involve all members of their program in the work of the union. It is a great way to meet other graduate students across the campus. 

We will hold our next All Member meeting in mid-October, as well as continue to send out information through the Graduate Advocate newsletter and on our social media pages. 

Please reach out to as at geo@umb.edu if you would like to learn more. And, as always, follow us on Facebook for up to date info on actions, events, and, last but not least, the Fall Semester Kickoff Party on October.