Mediation Begins, March on Swanlund, Announcements, Events, and Updates October 2, 2017

***October 2, 2017 — 48 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Table of Contents:

    • March on Swanlund, Oct 4 at Noon
    • Weekly General Membership Meetings
    • Bargaining Update: Mediation
    • GEO Response to Mass Mail from Chancellor Jones on September 24, 2017
    • Call for a Videographer
    • New Stewards’ Council Co-Chair
    • Grad Student Healthcare Workshop
    • Healthcare Town Hall
    • Wear It Wednesday
    • Work-In Wednesday
    • Coffee Cart
    • Solidarity Committee
    • Grievance Committee
    • Stewards’ Council
    • Communications Committee
    • Coordinating Committee
    • Health Care Working Group
    • RA Working Group



Greetings GEO Family,

Wednesday, October 4th will mark the 50th day that we have worked for the University without a contract guaranteeing our protections. That means we are in danger of not getting the pay raise we desperately need and deserve, and that we must continue to accept the increased fees that many grad employees pay per semester. It also means that grad employees are in danger of having to pay some or ALL of our tuition in future semesters. Lastly, it means potential drastic changes to our access to affordable healthcare. The University administrators have made it explicitly clear that they want to dictate the terms of our contract, setting in motion these potential dangers to our working and living conditions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. These dangers could also destroy our union over time and end all protections in our contract.

In order to fight for the fair contract that we all deserve, on Wednesday, October 4th, at 12PM, we will gather on the Main Quad to MARCH to SWANLUND, demanding the university administration work with us to secure this fair contract. WE DESERVE A FAIR CONTRACT. All we ever want to be is REASONABLE AND PROACTIVE. We want a contract that protects every graduate employee’s ability to work in a safe, healthy, and productive environment. That requires our members to get the 8 percent pay raise and 4% yearly pay raise that we all desperately need and deserve. That requires guaranteed tuition waivers and fee waivers so we no longer worry about job and housing and food insecurities. That requires a smaller health care premium and better access to counseling and mental health services. That requires monthly child care subsidy to parents so that it eases the economic burden. This is reasonable and proactive for you, the members we fight for.

Talk to each other and non-GEO members to let them know that our union is in danger and we must unite and fight. Hold department meetings, post up flyers, call the administration offices and demand that they propose a fair contract! Only through our willingness to unite thousands of graduate employees, undergraduate students, faculty, and community members, can we win the contract WE DESERVE. We Unite, We Win.

Please, GEO family, fight for our rights that we deserve. We must demonstrate to the University administration that we are willing to stand firmly, united in struggle, to protect our rights and preserve our union.  

Our condolences go out to the victims, families and those affected by last night’s horrific tragedy in Las Vegas.

Gus Wood and Marilia Correa
Graduate Employees’ Organization Local 6300



March on Swanlund, October 4th at Noon
To protest the Administration’s continued stalling in the bargaining room, we will be marching on the Swanlund Administration building on October 4th at noon. October 4th marks 50 days GEO members have worked without a contract. Our march will begin at Anniversary Plaza. We’ll then march around the quad before holding a brief rally outside of the Swanlund Administration Building. The Administration will only take us seriously at the bargaining table if we can show them our collective power to disrupt campus. We need every GEO member and ally to join the march and fight for a fair contract. Here is a link to the Facebook event for the march.

GEO March on Swanlund flyer


Weekly General Membership Meetings (GMMs)
We have been bargaining for a new contract since March and succeeded in expanding our Non-Discrimination statement, making Parental Leave more flexible, and adding a new Visa and Immigration Leave article. However, we still have most of the contract left to negotiate — including all economic issues. To keep all our members updated regularly, we have scheduled weekly GMMs. These will help our bargaining team know what members want and allow us to coordinate actions to get the contract that we deserve! These GMMs will be held every Thursday, 6:30:7:30pm, at the Channing Murray Foundation (1209 W Oregon Street, Urbana). Food and childcare will be provided. Come and help GEO get the contract you want! Here is a link to the Facebook event for the GMMs.

Bargaining Update
At our last bargaining session, we signed a TA that grants us more flexible parental accommodation and states that supervisors and HR must strive to accommodate grad employees who have to miss work due to visa issues. We also got the Administration to agree to bring in a mediator to help move bargaining along, and we’ll have our first mediation session (thirteenth bargaining session), on Tuesday, October 3rd, from 9:00am-1:00pm, at the Levis Faculty Center Room 208 (919 West Illinois Street in Urbana). All GEO members are welcome to attend. The day will begin with opening statements by our team and the Administration, and then we’ll break into caucus rooms with the mediator facilitating the sending of proposals back and forth.

The following mediation sessions will be on Tuesday, October 10th and 24th, 9:00am-1:00pm, at the Illinois Fire Service Institute (11 Gerty Dr, Champaign, IL). All GEO members are welcome to attend.

What we want:

Tuition Waivers: Keep our language protecting tuition waivers

Health Care: Admin contributes a higher percentage of our premium, more counseling center visits, summer health care coverage, dependent coverage, guaranteed minimum health care standards as defined by the ACA

Child Care: Monthly subsidy for parents, better access to campus resources

Fee Waiver: All student fees waived

Wages: 8% raise to the minimum salary, 4% yearly raises

What the Admin wants:

Tuition Waiver: Tiered waiver system that could force out-of-state and international grad employees to pay part of their tuition, the right to “modify” our tuition waivers at will

Health Care: Change from covering 80% of our premium to 80% of our premium or $500, whichever is less, none of the other things we’ve proposed

Child Care: No Child Care article

Fee Waiver: No Fee Waiver article

Wages: No proposed wage increases, language that would allow them to cut our pay

All members are also invited to come give their input and help out at our next Bargaining Team Meeting, Wednesday, October 4, 5:00pm-8:00pm in the GEO Office.


GEO Statement in Response to Mass Mail from Chancellor Robert Jones to the UIUC Community on September 24, 2017
On Sunday night, Chancellor Robert Jones sent a deeply problematic mass mail to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) students, faculty, and staff on the subject of “intolerance” on college campuses. It is unclear what sparked the Chancellor to send this email on a Sunday night. The message is flawed in many ways, but most egregious is the Chancellor’s claim that there have been “anti-Semitic attacks hidden under the guise of anti-Zionist rhetoric.” Besides being inaccurate, this strikes us as an attempt by the Chancellor to vilify UIUC’s Students for Justice in Palestine, a student group which has been at the forefront of student struggles against white supremacy, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and antisemitism. We in the GEO stand with Students for Justice in Palestine, and we condemn Chancellor Jones’ ill-conceived statement.

The full statement is available on the at this link on the GEO website.


Call for videographer
The GEO is looking for a member with experience in videography to help share our member testimonials with a wider audience. If you have camera equipment, video editing skills, and you want to join the fight for a fair contract, please contact us at


New Stewards’ Council Co-Chair
At the last Stewards’ Council meeting, Chibundo Egwuatu from the Anthropology department was elected to fill a vacancy and serve as Stewards’ Council (SC) Co-Chair. Chibundo is a community organizer and activist with extensive experience in the Champaign-Urbana area, and the SC is glad she has decided to share her talents with the GEO.




Grad Student Healthcare Workshop
Do you have questions about your graduate student healthcare? GEO’s Healthcare Working Group has been studying our insurance and has answers for you! This event will take place on October 5th at 5:00pm in 165 Noyes Laboratory. As always, free food will be provided.

Healthcare Town Hall
In addition to the event above, the Healthcare Working Group will also be holding a town hall on Monday, October 9th, 5:00-6:00pm, in the Latino/Latina Studies Conference Room (1207 W Oregon St, Urbana, IL 61801). Please come and learn more about the healthcare plan we work with, hear about healthcare resources, and hear from the Champaign County Healthcare Consumers Group. They are happy to try and answer your questions, or talk with you after.

Wear It Wednesday
Every Wednesday, wear your GEO shirt or pin for “Wear it Wednesday”! Take a photo and post it with the tag #WearItWednesday to share with us on Instagram or Twitter.

Work-In Wednesday
We have a weekly work-in on Wednesdays at the Courtyard Cafe in the Illini Union, 11:00am-1:00pm. Come on out and bring some work or your lunch and spend some time in solidarity with your fellow employees. Work-ins are a great way to increase visibility and demonstrate our solidarity to the entire campus, as well as to ask questions and learn more about bargaining, future work actions, and how you can get involved. All are welcome. And don’t forget — it’s Wear-It Wednesday, so wear some GEO swag! Here is a Facebook event link for the Work-In.

Coffee Cart
The GEO coffee cart is coming to you! Grab a free cup of coffee, some GEO swag, and chat with GEO members about current issues facing graduate employees as the cart makes its way around the quad and into nearby buildings every week! Follow us on social media to find out where the cart is. If you’d like us to visit your building, please email us at

If you see us, take a photo and post it with the tag #CoffeeWithGEO to share with us on Instagram or Twitter.

Contact with any questions about upcoming events.



Solidarity Committee (Sol Comm):
The Solidarity Committee (SolComm) serves to build ties of solidarity between the GEO and other people’s movements in the campus/community around it. It does this by supporting social justice-oriented projects through various means such as financial endorsements, statements of support, and collaborations. The SolComm has supported several organizations and movements locally and beyond with work towards economic, racial, gender, disability, prison, and environmental justice. For example, over the past summer, we tabled at the community event CU Days as part of our effort to increase GEO visibility in the community and provided free school supplies for children. We took a solidarity picture in support of the Mississippi Nissan workers’ historic union vote. We also wrote a solidarity statement, in direct conversation with the Garments Workers Trade Union (Bangladesh), when a boiler explosion killed at least 13 workers in Multifabs Ltd factory in Gazipur, Dhaka.

We would also like to congratulate the nurses at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Hospital, represented by the Illinois Nurses Association (INA). They secured a new contract on September 13, 2017, after negotiating for the last few months. They had been fighting for fairer compensation and reasonable work hours and assignments, that would ensure that they are able to perform optimally and provide higher quality patient care. Congratulations!

In addition to graduate employees, we welcome undergraduate students and CU community members to participate in the SolComm. If you have any questions/suggestions or would like to get involved, please contact the Solidarity Chair at We meet every other Friday (please check the calendar on our website) — our next meeting is on Friday, October 13, at 6:00 pm at the GEO Office. All members are welcome to attend!


Grievance Committee (GC):
A contract is only as good as our ability to enforce it. The Grievance Committee is responsible for advocating for fair labor practices at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and protecting graduate employees from abuse, and we need your help! Join the Grievance Committee for an opportunity to have a lasting impact on the lives of your peers all across campus. We meet every Tuesdays at 7pm at the GEO office. You can contact if you have any questions.
Did you know?
Our Collective Bargaining Agreement protects members of the Bargaining Unit from being overworked? You can refer to your appointment letter for information on the maximum number of hours you can be asked to work per week. If you are consistently being asked to work more than your appointment letter specifies, remain calm! Complete the work you were asked to perform, but take detailed notes and contact the Grievance Committee for advice about how to raise the issue to your employment supervisor. See Article VII in the GEO’s Collective Bargaining Agreement for more information.

Updates on Tuition Waiver Protection:
The Grievance Committee plays a key role in protecting tuition waivers for members. For example, on 26 January 2016, an independent arbitrator ruled in the GEO’s favor citing that a Masters in Computer Science (MCS) program policy violated the side letter of our contract; this MCS policy did not permit graduate students to receive tuition waiver-generating appointments from Computer Sciences and required any external department hiring MCS students to pay their tuition in cash to the CS department in addition to the graduate employees’ compensation. In effect, this policy blacklisted MCS students from waiver-generating positions because employing units were unwilling to pay tuition in cash to the CS Department. The GEO has identified 14 affected graduate students—all of whom are international students—and although the Union won the arbitration, the Administration has not only not paid these students back, but has stonewalled the GEO. The Union is continuing to work hard to pressure the Administration to meet with us and reach a settlement and relieve the financial burden this policy placed on MCS students.

Stewards’ Council (SC):
The Stewards Council is always looking for new members who want to help organize their departments! Stewards help organize GEO membership by planning events such as the Welcome Back Party, Fair Contract Now Rally, Coffee Cart, and Office Visits–and we need your help!

Stewards are a visible representative of the GEO in their departments, and representatives of their department to the GEO. They are the go-to people for fielding questions about the contract, or other issues that GEO members might be facing, and are essential for communicating problems in their department to the GEO. They also help keep membership in their departments informed and up-to-date about GEO activities. The SC plans a variety of events every year, such as happy hours, general membership meetings, and informational sessions for departments. By being a steward for your department, you can work with GEO to make events tailored to your department’s students’ needs and interests.

Our meetings are open to all GEO members. While each department has its own method for appointing stewards, any GEO member may serve as a steward. Some department have co-stewards. The next meeting is on Tuesday, October 3, 6:00-7:00pm, at the GEO office. We will meet weekly on Tuesday from 6:00-7:00pm for the rest of the Fall semester. Please contact the Stewards’ Council Chair at to get involved or with any questions.

Communications Committee (Comm Comm):
We’re looking for new members to join our committee! Our meetings are open to all GEO members and no prior experience with communications is necessary. This Fall we are working on messaging to members about bargaining, both in print and online via the GEO website and social media accounts. Please contact the Communications Officer at if you are interested in joining the Communications Committee or working on designing fliers and posters. All members are welcome! The next meeting is on Thursday, October 12, 4:30-6:00pm, at the GEO Office.


Coordinating Committee (CC):
The Coordinating Committee (CC) is made up of elected officers from all committees, though any member may attend meetings. The CC makes decisions about large‐scale projects, some financial decisions, and the GEO’s long‐term vision. Our meetings are open to all GEO members. The next meeting is on Thursday, October 5, 4:30-6:30pm, at the GEO Office. Please contact the Co-Presidents at with any questions about the next meeting.


Health Care Working Group (HCWG):
The Health Care Working Group works to educate graduate employees on their healthcare rights and benefits, as well as facilitating conversations about healthcare on campus between different stakeholder groups.

We will be hosting a town hall Monday, October 9th, 5:00-6:00pm in the Latino/Latina Studies department conference room (1207 W Oregon St, Urbana, IL 61801). Please come and learn more about the healthcare plan we work with, hear about healthcare resources, and hear from the Champaign County Healthcare Consumers Group. We are happy to try and answer your questions, or talk with you after. We are also hosting a Graduate Student Healthcare Workshop in the Chemistry department on Thursday, October 5th, 5:00-6:00pm, so please encourage Chemistry your friends to attend!

The HCWG is happy to do small, department-level Healthcare 101 meetings. If you think the grads in your department would benefit from one of these events, please get in touch via your department steward or by contacting the HCWG directly. HCWG meetings are open to all members. For more information about the next meeting, please contact


RA Working Group:
RAs and Fellows have concerns that overlap with, but are also distinct from, those of TAs and GAs. And although RAs and Fellows are legally excluded from GEO’s bargaining unit, thus not covered by GEO’s contract with the university, they can still be active GEO members and work together to improve conditions across the university. The RA Working Group has formed to research and implement methods of successfully organizing and advocating for these graduate student populations. Please contact Zoë MacDowell Kaswan at for more information or if you are interested in participating.





Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

Text the word “GEO” to 69238 to receive periodic messages concerning crucial bargaining updates and other urgent information. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to 69238 to stop receiving messages. Text HELP to 69238 for more information. Terms & Conditions.