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May 31, 2005 - Image 33

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-05-31

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The Michigan Daily - Orientation Edition 2005 - 21

Three reasons not to despise GEO
JORDAN SCHRADER PoiR HURON STAlTEMEN

1 11 11

March 3, 2005 - "Whatever you did not do for one of the least
n Thursday after- of these, you did not do for me."
noon, I tried to Apologies for quoting Jesus in defense of GEO.
-n explain to some of But the union has consistently looked out for the
my roommates why they least of its members. It has made the most mar-
shouldn't cross the picket ginal groups, which would be easiest to cast aside,
linesoultht raduate sdet the centerpiece of its campaigns.
lines that graduate student The union stood behind parents in 2002, per-
instructors had formed out- suading the administration to nearly double child
side University buildings care subsidies and investigate the availability of
The reasons to stay away child care on campus.
from class that day seemed This year, it is looking out for its transgen-
so obvious to me that I had trouble even articulat- der members. GEO has already persuaded the
ing them: Crossing a picket line is something that University to add anti-discrimination clauses
is just not done. I think I began learning that lesson concerning "gender identity." And while I'm
around the time my mother was pushing me in a skeptical about GEO's demand for health care
stroller along a teachers' union picket line benefits that cover sex-change operations, it does
I tried to explain to my friends that respecting a reflect a deep concern by the union for the rights
picket line means respecting the unions that created of the minority.
the middle class and stood up to corporate Ameri- A win-win situation for couples
ca on behalf of the common man. I told them that Another GEO demand that may end up being
if they saw unions as corrupt rackets, meddling too impractical and expensive to gain any traction
in the free market and exploiting their benevolent is the "designated beneficiary." But if the adminis-
employers, it was only because the people who run tration does agree to some version of this plan, it
this country have promoted that image. could have positive repercussions beyond the Uni-
And then my opponents pulled out their versity. It could go a long way toward making a
trump card. compromise in the culture wars.
All well and good, my roommates said, but GSIs GEO understandably doubts that same-sex ben-
are still a bunch of whiny slackers who have their efits will survive the legal fight over the meaning
entire education paid for and still complain about of Proposal 2, which banned gay unions in Michi-
not making enough in salary and benefits. o rpsl2 hc andgyuin nMci
It's hard to defend against that kind of argu- gan. So the GSIs want to expand benefits. Under
ment. The Graduate Employees' Organization just the GEO plan, one adult chooses another adult to
doesn't have a platform that's easy to rally behind. share his benefits. That's it. No requirement that
While some students take out enormous loans the two people be married or meet any qualifica-
and work a full-time job to make ends meet while tions as partners.
attending graduate school, a typical GSI has his Advocates of gay rights can cheer this plan
full tuition bill paid and also earns about $20 an because it puts same-sex and opposite-sex rela-
hour. He receives health and dental benefits for tionships on the same level. And conservatives will
himself and his dependents, along with a stipend note that the plan removes their biggest complaint
to cover some day care costs. ' about same-sex benefits: that they give "special
The people who awkwardly lead our discus-
sion sections and write illegible comments on our treatment" to gay couples, discriminating against
papers are not the proletariat. And when they make unmarried heterosexual partners. If this innovative
a big ruckus every three years at contract time solution spreads, it could end all rational objections
about their plight, threatening to bring the Uni- to same-sex benefits.
versity to a halt if they don't get their way, it can A culture of respect
alienate some undergraduates who question their In its 30-year history, GEO has forced the Uni-
dubious complaints. versity to take GSIs seriously and consider what
So I'd like to focus on the positive aspects of would happen if these instructors, the foundation of
GEO, and some reasons to support the union - undergraduate education, stopped working. More
even if you question its scare tactics and its claims importantly, decades of GEO action have created a
of being oppressed. Here are three things to con- imprtante of e ation hae crt
sider about GSIs: campus culture of fairness that is now bearing fruit,
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

SAM BUTLER THE SOAPBOX MArci 23, 200
P- / L-E L P
p/qHELP
GE\ \
Go M
It's not quite the undergraduate protest I was hoping for.

prompting other groups to unionize and demand
redress of their own grievances. Some of those
grievances are much more significant than GEO's.
Until inspiration from GEO led them to union-
ize, lecturers had no idea year to year whether they
would be working. The University could drop them
at a whim. Last year these instructors won greater
job security and increased wages. Now the clerical
workers at the University, fearing the axe of budget
cuts, are trying to unionize.
As long as GEO's demands maintain a modi-
cum of common sense, the group also fosters a

culture of respect for unions among the under-
graduates who watch it battle the University.
Which is why I wish these GSIs were more
cautious. They are helping to mold the opin-
ions of undergraduates about workers' rights.
It would be too bad if they went on strike
based on exaggerated complaints and ended
up souring impressionable young students on
the whole labor movement.
Schruder can be reached
atjtschrad@umich.edu.

Oil and gasoline prices are
not relevant to college stu-
dents; beer prices are
TO THE DAILY:
I thought a recent article on the oil price
increase (Oil prices hit record-high, 09/29/04) was
well written and informative, but as a bicyclist
and proponent of public transportation it failed to
really strike a cord. I think Ann Arbor and college
towns in general are pretty pedestrian friendly,
and gas prices don't affect a large number of the
population. The turmoil in the Middle East makes
oil prices news every day, while at the same time
more attention needs to be paid to another com-
modity with an even more outrageous price per
barrel - beer, something that affects every col-
lege student.
As stated in your article, the price of a barrel
of oil has just surpassed $50 a barrel whereas, if
we look at beer, you are paying at least $100 a
barrel for "low octane" beers such as Anheiser
Busch, Miller and Coors products and well over
$200 a barrel for "high octane" beers like Bell's
and Rogue. Thus, a barrel of quality beer is over
four times more expensive than a barrel of oil!
Because most people don't buy beer or oil by the

barrel, let us examine the price per gallon; a gal-
lon of unleaded gasoline hovers around the $2
per gallon mark, whereas a half-gallon growler of
beer costs around $8. So why is the outlandishly
high price of beer not getting any coverage in a
pedestrian-friendly, beer-drinking city, especial-
ly because beer was part of the world economy
thousands of years before automobiles were even
invented?
The sad thing is that the United States is home
to the top two hop-producing regions in the
world, and is also the native home of corn (a pop-
ular adjunct in macro-brewed lagers), so the only
reason for the exorbitant price of beer is the state
and federal governments' "sin taxes," intended to
curb alcohol abuse. These sin taxes do not prevent
alcoholism - they simply hurt the casual beer
drinkers who make up the majority. Sadly, an
alcoholic will always be able to buy a cheap beer,
but discerning beer drinkers will not likely pay
a small fortune for a locally brewed beer. This
in turn hurts the local economy. We should learn
from Bulgaria and utilize the brewing industry as
an integral part of our economy, not just some-
thing to tax into the ground because a few people
abuse it.
Zach Beckwith
LSA junior

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