Union: New MSU grad student contract offers raise, helps international employees

    Spartan Stadium, Michigan State University | Michael Gerstein

    One month after criticizing Michigan State University for “negligence and apathy” during contract negotiations, the union representing its graduate school employees has announced a tentative agreement with the institution.

    In a statement on Monday afternoon, the Graduate Employees Union (GEU) said it signed an agreement late last week with the university that, if ratified, would offer myriad benefits to the unionized graduate workforce.

    Talks came to a head early last month when the university rejected part of the contract re-negotiations. The union, at the time, said that components of the deal could negatively impact foreign students. It says the new tentative agreement sufficiently addresses those issues.

    “Our goal for this contract was to make MSU a more accessible and equitable institution for our diverse body of graduate assistants,” GEU President Nick Rowe said in a statement. “Parents struggle to care for their children and too many of our colleagues are ‘severely rent-burdened’. International students disproportionately faced the brunt of both issues. This new agreement attacks these problems on all fronts, allowing our members to better secure a reasonable living for themselves and their loved ones.”

    The GEU also says the tentative agreement would offer better health insurance coverage for dependents of employees, grant a two percent annual raise beginning Aug. 16 and establish “learning communities” to “help the university keep commitments to diversity, inclusion, and foster a safe, welcoming space for [teacher’s assistants].”

    The university's main library
    Michigan State University main library, Jan. 17, 2018 | Michael Gerstein

    The contract — which would run from May 16 through May 15, 2023 — would culminate with employees getting a 2.5 percent raise in the final year of the contract.

    An MSU spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday afternoon.  

    The GEU represents more than 1,200 employees at Michigan State and is affiliated with the Michigan chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Labor/Council of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), according to the union.

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.


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