FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: GRADUATE EMPLOYEES’ ORGANIZATION (GEO) MARCHING TO PROTEST 50 DAYS WITHOUT A NEW CONTRACT AS MEDIATION BEGINS
Urbana-Champaign (October 2, 2017): Members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be marching on the Swanlund Administration Building on October 4th to protest the University of Illinois Administration’s consistent stalling during the contract bargaining process. October 4th marks the 50th day that graduate employees have been working without a new contract. Graduate employees are marching to demand a fair contract that includes wage increases, tuition waiver protections, and decreased healthcare costs. A fair contract means a better educational experience for undergraduate students and better living and working conditions for graduate employees.
Because the University of Illinois Administration’s refusal to make meaningful progress at the bargaining table, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) requested mediation in its contract negotiations with the University of Illinois Administration, and the Administration agreed. As of August 15th, GEO’s current contract with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign expired without a new contract being signed, despite the fact that the Administration stated over the summer that they were confident a new contract would be signed before the beginning of the semester. The first mediation session will be on Tuesday, October 3rd, and the GEO remains hopeful that the bargaining process will result in a fair contract for graduate employees on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Graduate employees will make their voices heard inside and outside of the bargaining room until a fair contract is signed.
“The working conditions of graduate employees are their students’ learning conditions,” said GEO member Zoë MacDowell Kaswan.
The GEO presented its full comprehensive contract proposal in March, provided data and narratives to justify its proposals, and gave forthright answers to the Administrations’ questions at every bargaining session. In return, the Administration has repeatedly stalled bargaining and put forth regressive proposals which would negatively impact graduate employees, particularly by reducing tuition waiver protections, increasing healthcare costs, and refusing to offer wage increases. Many members’ testimonials and the data the GEO’s bargaining team presented in negotiation sessions have demonstrated repeatedly that these are not only reasonable components for a fair contract, but that they are crucial to the livelihood, health, and productivity of graduate employees on this campus.
The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, AFT/IFT Local 6300, celebrated its 20th birthday on May 1, 2017. After several years of collective organizing, UIUC graduate employees voted to establish GEO as their official union representative in the spring of 1997. The University of Illinois refused to recognize the results of the election, but years of organizing and civil disobedience, alongside a legal battle, culminated in an occupation of Swanlund Administration Building in 2002 and subsequent negotiations with University officials. The first contract was signed in 2003.
Since then, GEO has successfully bargained three additional contracts, secured tuition waiver protections, won improved wages and more affordable healthcare, established a grievance procedure to protect graduate employee rights, and much more. In GEO’s official twenty-year history, it has become famous among labor organizations nationwide for its strength and commitment to democratic principles, and a November 2009 strike that brought more than 1,000 people to campus picket lines to secure a fair contract.
The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2,700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. With an active presence in the community, the GEO continues to work for high-quality and accessible public education in Illinois.
For more information, please contact GEO’s Communications Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org.