GEO Grad employees are SQUEEZED BY FEES!

Vlog about the Squeezed by Fees action by GEO UAW 2322 Grad Employee Organization and their struggle for a fair contract at UMass Amherst

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


For Immediate Release
March 13, 2007

Contact: Swati Birla or Jeremy Wolf (413) 545-0705


AMHERST, MA –Members of the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO)/UAW Local 2322 have been “squeezed by fees” long enough and will be taking their plight to the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees at their regular meeting on Wednesday, March 14th at 8:30 am in the Faculty Board Room in the Medical School Building at the Worcester campus.

Graduate employees will appear before the Board in lemon costumes to petition for “lemon-aid,” or a rollback of the mandatory graduate fees that have risen by 126% in recent years. The lemon brigade will be delivering to the trustees a gift basket of lemons, along with petitions from its members. The lemons will be chaperoned at the meeting by several UMass Amherst “administrators,” who will thank the Board for their recent double-digit pay increases, pass out $100 bills to everyone and chastise the lemons for their audacity.

“The Chancellor just received a 39% raise to $347,499 and salaries for University administrators have risen nearly 50% over the last two years. I know it’s hard to believe, but that leaves a sour taste, even in my mouth,” said Irene Boeckmann, graduate student employee and one of the lemon-aiders.

The Union’s contract proposals include rollbacks of mandatory fees and cost of living raises, an increased commitment from UMass to support diversity, improved and expanded childcare facilities, paid parental leave and increased job security.

“Among its five peer institutions, UMass Amherst ranks last when you deduct the mandatory fees charged from the stipends offered. When the best and brightest graduate students look at UMass vs. the University of Connecticut, they see that after fees they’ll be making over $5000 more at UConn. It doesn’t take a genius to see that UConn is the juicier deal,” said Swati Birla, graduate student employee and one of the lemon-aiders.

UMass faculty are also interested in addressing the skyrocketing fees that put the squeeze on academic departments, as well as their graduate employees. The Massachusetts Society of Professors, the union representing faculty at UMass Amherst, have proposed a similar reduction in the curriculum fee in their negotiations with the University. In addition, the Faculty Research Council has stated that “ [the curriculum fee] reduced the competitive advantage of our larger grants and may drive the direct cost of Research Assistants to a level precluding their appointment to small science grants” and recommends freezing or eliminating the fee altogether.

Were the University to agree to stop charging the curriculum fee, the current fees departments pay could be used to hire 495 new graduate researchers or 95 new faculty, all desperately needed if the University is to adequately staff its classrooms and engage in cutting-edge research. In addition, the University would only need to commit 1.27% of their state funding in order to relieve graduate students of the single largest mandatory fee—the graduate service fee—and this would reposition the University to rank 4th instead of last among its peers in graduate student compensation.

To view the video after the event, visit

GEO represents more than 2,400 graduate student employees at UMass Amherst and is affiliated with UAW Local 2322, which represents 3,600 workers in western Massachusetts in the fields of higher education, early childhood education, and health and human services.

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