Urbana-Champaign (October 25, 2017): Members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are peacefully sitting in at the Swanlund Administration Building on October 26th to protest the Administration’s refusal to provide a fair contract during the bargaining process. The sit-in will be accompanied by a rally and mediation update from 11:30am-12:30pm with speakers from across the campus and community. All supporters and media are invited to attend.
October 26th will mark the 72nd day that Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants have worked without a new contract since the old contract expired. The GEO has been negotiating with the Administration since March, coming to the first bargaining session with a full, comprehensive contract proposal, with data and narratives justifying the need for such proposals. 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, many of whom make thousands of dollars less than the University’s own published cost of living.
In September, the parties requested a federal mediator to be brought in to help expedite the bargaining process. After two mediation sessions, in which the GEO made substantial movements on its proposals, but saw little movement from the Administration, GEO told the Administration that if they did not come to the session on October 24th ready to work with them and make substantial movement towards their proposals, they would have no choice but to escalate their actions outside the room. At the session, they gave GEO a disappointing economic proposal that fails to seriously address the working conditions and financial reality that graduate employees face: it does not guarantee tuition waiver protections, offers only a 1% raise in the first year of the five year contract and no guaranteed raises after, and leaves graduate employees paying more for their health care. It offers no stipend for parents, no fee waiver or guarantee that the cost of fees won’t go up, and allows the Administration to get away with not even trying to send appointment letters on time. In response, the GEO will hold a strike vote beginning this week.
GEO invites all supporters to sign its petition to the Board of Trustees and the Administration to sign GEO’s proposals: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/fair-contract-now-for-the-graduate-employees-organization-geo-at-the-university-of-illinois-at-urbana-champaign?source=direct_link&
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.