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Graduate Employee Organization (GEO)

If you are a Teaching Assistant (TA), Teaching Associate (TO), Research Assistant (RA), Project Assistant (PA), Assistant Resident Director (ARD), Intern, Trainee, or Working Fellow you can become a member of GEO and be covered by GEO stipends and benefits. GEO is a unit of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2322, which is based in Holyoke. We are not the only graduate students affiliated with the UAW – Umass Boston, Umass Lowell, the University of Washington and the entire University of California system are too. Umass Amherst graduate students have been unionized since 1990.

What does GEO do?

The main task of GEO is to negotiate a contract with the University Administration that determines wages and benefits for graduate student employees. This is usually a major undertaking and requires many meetings, negotiations, and usually several rallies.

What benefits and assistance does GEO provide me with?

  • Tuition and curriculum fee waivers
  • Dental and vision plans
  • Discounted Health Insurance
  • Help resolving workplace conflicts

How do I become a member?

To be a voting member of GEO, you must check off the box for membership on your Dues Deduction Form. This form is sometimes attached to your assistantship contract, or you can sign it at the new employee orientation hosted by the Graduate School, or you can pick one up in the GEO office in room 201 of the Student Union. Dues are 2% of your salary. For employees with a 20 hour/week assistantship contract, this works out to about $6 a week. Graduate employees who choose not to join the union must pay an “Agency Fee,” as established under state law. This amount is recalculated each year.

How many hours a week do I need to work in order to receive a tuition and fee waiver?

In general, if you work 20 hours per week in either semester you will receive a full year’s tuition and fee waiver. If you work one 10-hour appointment in the fall and one 10-hour in the spring you receive a full year’s tuition and fee waiver. If you work one 10-hour appointment per year then you will get a waiver for one semester.

How many hours a week do I need to work in order to receive health insurance?

Health insurance is provided by the University. Anyone eligible for a tuition waiver also gets Basic health care coverage. In general, working one 20 hour appointment per year will give you Basic and SHIP coverage at a reduced rate for the entire calendar year. Working one 10-hour appointment per year will give you 95% waivers for Basic and SHIP fees for one 6-month coverage period. Working one 10-hour appointment in the fall and one 10-hour in the spring will earn you waivers for Basic and SHIP fees for the whole year. Check the website for information about Family and Domestic Partner Coverage.

How do I sign up for the Dental and Vision Plans?

These plans are administered through the Union. You must sign up for these plans every year generally by early October. Check the website for details.

What if my funding comes from a non-University source?

As long as your paycheck comes from the University of Massachusetts, you are eligible to be a member of GEO.

If I elect to pay the Continuation Fee (formerly known as the Program Fee) am I still eligible for benefits?

Again, as long as your paycheck comes from the University of Massachusetts, you are eligible to be a member of GEO. You are still eligible for benefits, but you must go to University Health Services to sign up for health insurance in person before the add/drop period of each semester.

Do I have access to any discounts as a GEO member?

Yes. Check the Union Discounts page of the website for more details. You also get discounted parking. Remember to bring a copy of your contract with you when you purchase your parking permit. Check the parking services website for current fees.

What should I do if I have a problem in my workplace or with my insurance provider?

If you feel that any portion of the contract is being violated, you can contact the ECO steward or the GEO office and speak with a staff member about your options.

How can I get involved in GEO?

  • Read over the current contract so you know what benefits you are entitled to.
  • Check out the website http://www.geouaw.org/
  • Go and find the GEO office in room 201 the Student Union. There are always friendly people there to answer your questions.
  • You will get GEO emails. Read them to stay on top of what’s going on.
  • Attend the membership meetings and social gatherings. They are a great way to meet people from other departments.
  • Support the hard work that the GEO officers do by going to a rally, even if you don’t feel particularly educated about the issue. People will fill you in once you get there.

Updated: July 27, 2010