Bargaining: 18th Session Summary and General Membership Meeting on Thursday

***November 30, 2017 — 107 days since our contract expired on August 15!***

Yesterday, the GEO Bargaining Team (BT) and the UIUC Administration held their eighteenth bargaining session / sixth mediation session.

Please read below for more information on what happened yesterday and what comes next.

After an 11-hour bargaining session, we signed a memorandum of understanding forcing the Administration to comply with an arbitration decision from 2016 by reimbursing former graduate employees who were wrongly denied TA positions in 2014 and 2015 and thus forced to pay tuition.These students have graduated, but GEO still fought for their reimbursement–and we won over $100,000 these students were owed. The Administration had fought long and hard to not pay this money back, even refusing to respond to our Grievance Committee’s phone calls and emails, so the fact that we were able to achieve this victory today shows that our organizing efforts have paid off. Let’s keep the momentum going and win our best contract ever!

For more information about the MCS Arbitration, you can read this article in the Public i.

What Comes Next:

Join us in fighting for a fair contract!

General Membership Meeting: Work Actions and Organizing

The meeting will be today, November 30, 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.

We encourage you to make it a priority to attend these weekly GMMs in order for us all to work together to get the contract that we want.

NEXT BARGAINING SESSION:

The session is tentatively scheduled for  Dec. 12th. All members are welcome to attend for part or all of the session. You can also find more information about bargaining on our website.

If you have questions about bargaining or the BT’s proposal, attending a meeting is the best way to address them. You can reach us at barg@uigeo.org.

Are you a member?

Our members are why we succeed at the bargaining table! If you haven’t signed a membership card yet, don’t delay! Contact us at geo@uigeo.org to sign a membership card. If you’re not sure of your membership status, please ask!

See the GEO event calendar for future BT meetings, bargaining sessions, and other events. Add it to your Google calendar by searching for geo@uigeo.org.

Follow GEO Online:

Website: www.uigeo.org

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.

In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th Street

McKinley Foundation, Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Email: geo@uigeo.org

Updates from the GEO, November 15, 2017

 

***November 15, 2017 — 92 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Table of Contents:

  • ANNOUNCEMENTS
    • Bargaining/Mediation Update
    • Temporary Full-Time Organizers
    • Information About Tuition Waiver Taxation Plan
    • Response to Administration’s Website on Bargaining
  • EVENTS
    • Wear It Wednesday
    • Work-In Wednesday & Fight the Tuition Waiver Tax
    • One Year’s Enough: Rally on the Anniversary of Trump’s Election
    • Save Graduate Education Tuition Waivers
    • Weekly General Membership Meetings
  • COMMITTEE UPDATES
  • CONNECT WITH GEO

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

Bargaining/Mediation Update

Our 17th bargaining session was another frustrating one, as the Admin showed no willingness to move on the major economic proposals yet. However, they did finally indicate some willingness to finally comply with an arbitration and pay back MCS students who had been denied tuition waivers in violation of our contract. You can read more about the MCS case here, and find the full recap of the bargaining session here.

Our next mediation session will be Wednesday, Nov. 29th, from 9am-5pm, at the Illinois Fire Services Institute (11 Gerty Drive, Champaign, IL 61820). All members are welcome to attend, and coffee/light refreshments will be provided. If you come, we suggest you bring some work, as there is a lot of down time during mediation.

Temporary Full-Time Organizers

GEO has hired two temporary full-time organizers to help us with the on-the-ground organizing that will be necessary to win this contract! You’ll see them around campus, talking to members, so be sure to say hi!

Coming to us from Michigan State University, Joel Reinstein has organized for several years in the Palestine solidarity movement. He’s excited to work for GEO and activate grad workers to build a strong, member-driven union.

Muhammad Yousuf is a recent alum of UIUC and has organized with various student and community activist groups over the past four years. No stranger to keeping admin in check, he’s ready to help the GEO fight for a fair contract.

Information About Tuition Waiver Taxation Plan

The proposed GOP Tax Plan threatens to tax tuition waivers as income. Section 117d of the current Tax code exempts tuition waivers from taxation, but has been eliminated in the draft of the new Tax Plan. For graduate students, this would mean being taxed on a massive sum of money that never even graces their bank accounts.

Learn more about this issue via the document linked below:

Tuition Waiver Taxation Fact Sheet

Response to Administration’s Website on Bargaining

The Administration has created and begun to advertise a website about bargaining with us. Besides standard propaganda, the website contains several inaccuracies. For a full breakdown of the harmful claims they make, see Gabe Malo’s excellent analysis on his blog here (numbers for healthcare costs have been updated slightly since his post was written, but do not change the point he’s making). We have summarized these points below:

  • Referring to average compensation obfuscates the distressingly low wages that many graduate employees receive. Furthermore, graduate employees are not allowed to work full time and most cannot work over the summer, making comparison to broader assessments of a living wage inappropriate.
  • Tuition waivers are not “real money.” Our compensation is freedom from paying tuition, rather than the money to pay for tuition. Therefore the dollar value of tuition waivers should not be considered part of our compensation.
  • The Administration has proposed a cap on their portion of health insurance premium payments. Even with the increases they have proposed to the percentage they would pay and the cap, they would reach this cap in a year or two if the current trend in premium increases continued. Thus our healthcare costs would continue to rise, actually in excess of what we would pay under the status quo. They mention nothing of our proposals for summer health insurance coverage or keeping ACA standards of care.
  • Their discussion of fee waivers fails to mention that we pay in excess of $500/semester in fees and health insurance, far more than at many competing universities. This reduces our take-home yearly pay by over $1000. And while currently 72% of fees are all or partially waived, most of these are determined by the Graduate Handbook which they could change at any time.  

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EVENTS

GEO members are encouraged to attend the following events this week:

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 & Fight the Tuition Waiver Tax

#WorkInWednesday

We have a weekly work-in on Wednesdays at the Courtyard Cafe in the Illini Union, 11:00am-1:00pm. This week, we will utilise this time to also fight the GOP’s new tax bill that that seeks to tax the tuition waivers received by Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants. Graduate Assistants already receive $0 paychecks some months due to this tax. Fight this tax bill by calling your representatives and telling them this is not acceptable. GEO will have a script ready for you at the work-in.  If you can’t make it to the work-in, here’s a script for you to use when you call your representatives on your own time!

So come on out and make some calls 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.

One Year is Enough Rally

Join us at the One Year’s Enough rally at the Alma Mater on Thursday, November 16 from 1:00pm to 2:00pm. The GEO is cosponsoring this event with some of our campus RSOs to build and participate in a day of student action. This rally is occurring with other rallies through the One Year is Enough campaign (https://www.oneyearisenough.com/).

Rally to Save Graduate Education Tuition Waivers

Come to the Alma Mater Thursday, November 16 at 5:30pm for a rally to Save Graduate Education Tuition Waivers. The recently proposed tax reform plan will tax tuition waivers as income, threatening the ability of all but the independently wealthy to attend graduate school. After the rally we’ll march together to the General Membership meeting at the Channing Murray Foundation.  

General Membership Meeting

Come to the weekly General Membership Meeting at the Channing Murray Foundation at 6:30PM on 11/16/17. We will be focusing on best practices for effective organizing and strategies for how to get your friends and colleagues involved in GEO. Pizza will be provided!

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COMMITTEE UPDATES

RA Working Group:

The RA Working Group has formed to research and implement methods of successfully organizing and advocating for Research Assistants. Please contact Zoë MacDowell Kaswan at officer3@uigeo.org for more information or if you are interested in participating.

Solidarity Committee (Sol Comm):

The Solidarity Committee (SolComm) serves to build ties of solidarity between the GEO and other people’s movements and local social justice-oriented projects. If you have any questions or would like to get involved, please contact the Solidarity Chair at solcomm@uigeo.org. Our next meeting is on Friday, December 8, 6:00 pm at the GEO Office.

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! The next meeting is on Monday, November 27, 7:00 pm at the GEO Office. Contact grievance@uigeo.org for more information.

Stewards’ Council (SC):

The Stewards Council is always looking for new members who want to help organize their departments! Stewards are a visible representative of the GEO in their departments, and representatives of their department to the GEO. Please contact the Stewards’ Council Chair at sc@uigeo.org for the next meeting time and any other 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. Please contact the Communications Officer at commcomm@uigeo.org for the next meeting time and/or if you are interested in joining or working on designing fliers and posters.

Coordinating Committee (CC):

The Coordinating Committee (CC) is made up of elected officers from all committees, though any member may attend meetings. Our meetings are open to all GEO members. Please contact the Co-Presidents at cc@uigeo.org 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. For more information, please contact geo@uigeo.org.

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CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

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.

In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283

Email: geo@uigeo.org

Response to Admin’s website about bargaining

Summary:

  • Referring to average compensation obfuscates the distressingly low wages that many graduate employees receive. Furthermore, graduate employees are not allowed to work full time and most cannot work over the summer, making comparison to broader assessments of a living wage inappropriate.
  • Tuition waivers are not “real money.” Our compensation is freedom from paying tuition, rather than the money to pay for tuition. Therefore the dollar value of tuition waivers should not be considered part of our compensation.
  • The Administration has proposed a cap on their portion of health insurance premium payments. Even with the increases they have proposed to the percentage they would pay and the cap, they would reach this cap in a year or two if the current trend in premium increases continued. Thus our healthcare costs would continue to rise, actually in excess of what we would pay under the status quo. They mention nothing of our proposals for summer health insurance coverage or keeping ACA standards of care.
  • Their discussion of fee waivers fails to mention that we pay in excess of $500/semester in fees and health insurance, far more than at many competing universities. This reduces our take-home yearly pay by over $1000. And while currently 72% of fees are all or partially waived, most of these are determined by the Graduate Handbook which they could change at any time. 

Long response by GEO member Gabe Malo:

The University is circulating this page to faculty. It justifies the positions that the University is taking in contract negotiations with the GEO (which represents the University’s teaching assistants and graduate assistants). The information given on that page, however, is incredibly misleading. I’d like to presently (and with much credit to Grace Hébert, who called out this site and some of its flaws in her Facebook post) address some of these problems here:

1) The average compensation that they list is not what many individuals are receiving. For instance, my appointment gives me the absolute minimum. That’s $16,360.83 a year before taxes for twenty hours a week. This is several thousand dollars less than the living wage cited by the University in other materials.

2.) They state that we earn the equivalent of $20.97 an hour, and remind us that a living wage is $10.42 an hour. This comparison is neither fair nor apt. The living wage presumes a 40 hour work week. The average appointment is for 50% of that, or 20 hours. The maximum appointment that a graduate student is allowed is 67% (or around 27 hours) for domestic students, and 50% for international students. Moreover, the living wage presumes that you are employed for the entire year. Most teaching appointments only last for nine months. Many of us are not paid at all during the months of June, July, and August.

Making up these disparities is difficult-to-impossible. Graduate students are expected to conduct research, attend classes, and/or write in addition to the duties related to their appointment, most of which are unrelated to their academic progress. Carrying a second job in addition to both an active appointment and a vital academic career is next-to-impossible. Summer labor is also difficult to find; while some of us are able to scrape together minimal summer funding—or are lucky enough to land appointments that extend over the summer—the vast majority of us must look for work or save during the rest of the year. Finding such work is difficult—there is high demand in Chambana for relatively few seasonal jobs.

The situation for international students is even more dire. Most international students cannot legally work for anyone other than the university while they are in the US, meaning that University funding is the only source of income available to them while they are earning their degrees. Even if they want to look for off-campus work, their visas won’t allow it. They are entirely dependent upon the University for funding.

3.) They include tuition waivers as part of our compensation package. Tuition waivers cannot be spent. I cannot use my tuition waiver for rent. I cannot use my tuition waiver to buy groceries. It is a benefit, but it is not a benefit that meaningfully affects my day-to-day needs. It should be considered separately from the total cost of living.

4.) They imply that their offer on healthcare is an increase relative to their current coverage. It is not. The University wants to change from covering 80% of our premium to covering 83% of our premium or $550, whichever is less. Essentially, they want to cap the amount of our insurance that they pay. This is not a generous offer; this is a desire to control their costs. They also fail to mention that the GEO has asked for language guaranteeing the same coverages found in the ACA guidelines. Much of this coverage was not guaranteed prior to the ACA (for instance, we used to have a pre-existing conditions exclusion). We do not want to lose this coverage if the ACA is repealed.

5.) They completely sidestep the issue of summer health insurance. The University currently does not pay for either access to McKinley or health insurance over the summer. This is approximately $175 for McKinley, and approximately $370 for insurance coverage (amount as of Summer 2016). This amount must be paid in May, immediately prior to three months of no wages.

6.) They point out that they cover “72% of all fees.” This (on top of the uncovered amount for insurance, which ends up being a little over $100) means that I personally started this semester owing about $500. That’s more than 1/3 of my monthly take-home pay. Fees alone reduce my effective compensation to around $15,300 a year.

All of this isn’t just inaccurate; it’s insulting. It’s being disseminated to the faculty and to the department heads that control our academic fate. It’s attempting to make us look like petulant children who are challenging an already generous agreement. We aren’t. We are labor. We teach your students, we run your libraries, we help publish your journals. We facilitate research. We are as much the university as the administrator with whom our union is negotiating. And all we want is to be able to live, not comfortably, but viably.

Bargaining: 17th Session Summary and General Membership Meeting on Thursday

***November 7, 2017 — 83 days since our contract expired on August 15!***

Today, the GEO Bargaining Team (BT) and the UIUC Administration held their seventeenth bargaining session / fifth mediation session. Once again, the Administration refused to make substantial movement toward our proposals.

Please read below for more information on what happened today and what comes next.

  • The Administration still wants us to reduce our financial proposals, especially wages, but we refused. They want us to reduce our own proposals rather than giving us meaningful proposals of their own. We’ve provided extensive rationale and data for our proposals justifying our proposals, but they haven’t done the same for us. 
  • The Administration finally indicated some willingness to honor an arbitration decision from January 2016 and pay back some MCS graduates who were denied access to tuition waivers. They are still not willing to pay back all affected graduates, but this is a positive step. We are working to resolve this for as many graduate employees as possible to make sure they get the money they are owed. If you’re interested in learning more about the MCS arbitration, check out this article published in the Public i. 
  • After initially proposing deep cuts to our current language on appointment terms, the Administration has begun to move back towards status quo. However, a lot of work still needs to be done to reach an agreement. The Administration is still pushing us to abandon our ability to grieve late appointment letters. 
  • The Administration is still refusing to acknowledge the importance of our tuition waivers. They have again proposed their earlier side letter that would allow them to reduce tuition waiver protections and undercut our bargaining unit.

What Comes Next: Join us in fighting for a fair contract!

General Membership Meeting: Strike Planning and Mediation Update

The meeting will be on Thursday, November 9, 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.

We encourage you to make it a priority to attend these weekly GMMs in order for us all to work together to get the contract that we want.

NEXT BARGAINING SESSION:

The session is tentatively scheduled for November 16th. All members are welcome to attend for part or all of the session. You can also find more information about bargaining on our website.

If you have questions about bargaining or the BT’s proposal, attending a meeting is the best way to address them. You can reach us at barg@uigeo.org.

Are you a member?

Our members are why we succeed at the bargaining table! If you haven’t signed a membership card yet, don’t delay! Contact us at geo@uigeo.org to sign a membership card. If you’re not sure of your membership status, please ask!

See the GEO event calendar for future BT meetings, bargaining sessions, and other events. Add it to your Google calendar by searching for geo@uigeo.org.

Follow GEO Online:

Website: www.uigeo.org

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.

 

16th Session Summary, Rally, and Strike Vote at General Membership Meeting on Thursday

***October 31, 2017 — 77 days since our contract expired on August 15!***

Today, the GEO Bargaining Team (BT) and the UIUC Administration held their sixteenth bargaining session / fourth mediation session, which was the longest session yet. Once again, the Administration refused to make substantial movement toward our proposals. Now it’s time to get organized to take serious action to show them we mean business–including gearing up for a strike.

Please read below for more information on what happened today and what comes next.

  • We stayed to bargain; the Administration left. We are ready to bargain anywhere, anytime, but a little after 5pm, the Administration said they were done for the day rather than responding to the latest proposal we sent them.

  • We made movement on multiple issues, but the Administration did not respond in any substantive way. Our proposal included health care, child care, appointment terms, and fee waiver. The Administration’s response fails to address the working conditions and financial reality that graduate employees face. Their proposal ended up the same as last week’s except for a tiny $50 increase to already flawed health care language after 8 hours of bargaining. It does not guarantee tuition waivers, offers only a 1% raise in the first year of a five year contract and no guaranteed raises after, and leaves graduate employees paying more for their health insurance in the long term. It offers no stipend for parents, no fee waiver or guarantee that the cost of fees won’t go up, and takes away any deadline for the Administration to send appointment letters. What they are offering not only doesn’t provide us with any gains, it takes away rights from our current contract.

  • We wanted to talk about appointment letters and how 95% of them are late, but the Administration refused to have meaningful conversation about it. They stuck to their assertion that it was “operationally difficult” for them to fulfill the agreement they made with us. We offered a compromise through a letter that would notify employees if their appointment letter was going to be late, but even that letter was deemed “operationally difficult.” Not only are they unwilling to tell you the specifics of your job 60 days in advance, they’re not willing to tell you if you’ll have a job at all.

What Comes Next:

General Membership Meeting: Strike Vote Results

Our General Membership meeting this week is CRUCIAL, as we’ll be providing information about the Admin’s proposal and presenting the results of our strike vote. The meeting will be 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.

In addition to discussing the strike vote, we will also discuss the logistics of preparing for a strike and how to talk to your department about a potential strike.

We encourage you to make it a priority to attend these weekly GMMs in order for us all to work together to get the contract that we want.

NEXT BARGAINING SESSION: Tuesday, November 7, 2017, at 9:00am. We have not decided on an end time, but plan to go several hours longer than our usual end time of 1:00pm. The session location has yet to be finalized. All members are welcome to attend for part or all of the session. You can also find more information about bargaining on our website.

If you have questions about bargaining or the BT’s proposal, attending a meeting is the best way to address them. You can reach us at barg@uigeo.org. You can also find more info about bargaining on our website.

Are you a member?

Our members are why we succeed at the bargaining table! If you haven’t signed a membership card yet, don’t delay! Contact us at geo@uigeo.org to sign a membership card. If you’re not sure of your membership status, please ask!

See the GEO event calendar for future BT meetings, bargaining sessions, and other events. Add it to your Google calendar by searching for geo@uigeo.org.

Follow GEO Online:

Website: www.uigeo.org

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.

In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St.

McKinley Foundation, Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283

Email: geo@uigeo.org

What You Need to Know About A Possible Strike, October 31, 2017

***October 31, 2017 — 77 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Strike Authorization Voting Information

At our last General Membership Meeting (GMM) we began a strike authorization vote. Should this vote pass, that does not mean we have to go on strike–but it empowers our Strike Committee to make that decision if necessary. We need all members to make their voice heard! You can vote in person or online. If you haven’t received an online voting link, please email geo@uigeo.org. If you vote online, do not vote at a polling place, and vice versa. Only vote once! We’ll announce the results at our next GMM, Thursday, from 6:30pm-7:30pm.

Additionally, polling stations will be open from 9:00am-5:00pm on Tuesday and Wednesday at the following locations:

  • GEO Office (809 S 5th St, Geneva Room, Champaign)

  • English Building (608 S Wright St, Urbana, Mary Kay Peer Lounge, in building basement)

  • Loomis Laboratory (1110 W Green, Champaign, front lobby outside Room 141)

  • Education Building (1310 S 6th St, Champaign, 1st floor lobby)

There will be pop-up polling places too:

  • Beckman Institute, Room 1005, Tuesday from 4:00pm-6:00pm

  • Lincoln Hall, Department of Sociology, 702 S Wright St, 3rd floor, Tuesday 3:00 to 5:00pm

If a strike is authorized, will I be compelled to go on strike?

The GEO will not compel anyone to go on strike but we hope that you will join us, since these negotiations affect all of us and it will take all of us to be successful this bargaining cycle.

Link to the Strike Manual

In the event of a strike, the strike manual outlines how the strike will function, what your role would be, and what plans the GEO has in place to help striking workers should their wages or health insurance be impacted. Since retaliation is often a major concern for striking workers, we have outlined below how you can prevent retaliation and what steps to take if it happens to you–all this info and more is in the manual!.

Retaliation

What is retaliation? Any instance where your employment conditions are changed or decisions about your employment are made in retribution for activity with a union is considered retaliation. All forms of retaliation are illegal, with the exception of the withholding of pay for the time in which you withhold your labor.

Will my wages be withheld if I strike? The University Administration has the legal right to withhold wages from employees who are withholding their labor on strike. Many departments do not keep track of who goes on strike and will not reporting striking members to the Administration, though we can’t guarantee that all departments will do so. It’s a good idea to talk to department heads ahead of time to ask for support during the strike–you should reach out to your department steward to see if this has been done.

Who will help me if my wages are withheld? In the event of a strike, GEO members can vote to set aside money from the general budget for a strike fund, part of which would be used to help pay back a percentage of lost wages in the event wages are withheld, in exchange for walking the picket line. GEO would also ask its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), to subsidize small loans for striking members.

Will I be fired for withholding my labor? Members participating in a legal work action can’t be fired as long as a contract settlement is reached. In the case of a lock out, the Administration is legally required to rehire workers when negotiations are complete. The Administration is allowed to fire the entire bargaining unit and hire new adjunct workers under a new contract, but this is very unlikely given that adjuncts are paid more than grad workers, and it would be difficult to find 2,500 people with our same specializations.

What about international students? International students have the same legal protections as all other members of our bargaining unit. They are protected from illegal acts of retaliation and have the same ability to file grievances as domestic students.

What can be done to prevent retaliation? If retaliation does occur it will likely be at the departmental level. To prevent this, it is important to reach out to faculty and staff prior to a strike. Even the act of threatening to retaliate is illegal, so please document any instances of this thoroughly and report it to the GEO Grievance Committee (grievance@uigeo.org).

What if retaliation occurs? In the event that illegal acts of retaliation occur against striking grad workers the GEO can file an Unfair Labor Practice Charge with the state Labor Board. These procedures can take time, but act as another deterrent against retaliation behavior.

What should I do if I believe that I am being retaliated against? First, document everything as thoroughly as possible: take notes, ask for written statements from the supervisor that is making the decision, including an explanation of why this decision was made; and request a witness, preferable a union representative, for conversations concerning the action. Second, contact the union and discuss this situation with the grievance committee. The sooner this happens, the easier it is to right any wrongs committed against you.

How to talk to Faculty about a Strike

Make sure they know the basics. Make sure faculty know what the GEO is, that we are negotiating our contract, and what our four pillars are (Living Wage, Health Care, Access and Equality, and Protection for Tuition Waivers).

Make sure they know the numbers. Make it clear that the University is NOT broke, and that their misplaced priorities are hurting both students AND faculty. Additionally, point out that we are asking for a small raise to keep up with the rising cost of living in Champaign-Urbana, and explain to them the burden imposed on us by fees, health care costs, and child care costs. If they do not already know, tell them why tuition waivers are important for students and for the prestige of their own departments. Likely, they understand that tuition waivers are used to compete for the best students.

If your faculty members seem supportive, let them know there are ways that they can help. Here is a link to a template letter (which they can modify) you can ask faculty and other supportive parties to sign and send to the Provost expressing their support for the GEO. Faculty can also help by supporting the GEO on the picket line, wearing GEO buttons, and moving their classes out of targeted buildings in the event of a strike. You can also tell them to talk to other faculty and explain why they should support the GEO.

How to Talk to Your Students

Do not tell them about union activity during class time. This could be construed as an ethics violation. You are certainly welcome to make an announcement that for any students who are interested in learning about a possible strike and what’s going on, you would be happy to speak to them after class.

Tell them about our financial situation. Many students simply don’t know what the financial reality of graduate employees is, and are sympathetic when they learn.

Remind them that our working conditions are their learning conditions. We can’t be the best teachers we can be if we are stressing about our ability to make ends meet, or are putting off taking care of our health because we can’t afford to go to the doctor. Besides, a more competitive contract means we can attract the best graduate employees to campus, so they’ll have the best possible teachers.

Remind them that we care about them and have done everything possible to avoid a strike. Our proposals are reasonable and backed up by research and rationale. We’ve shown ourselves to be willing to compromise and work with the Administration. But if a strike is the only way we can be heard by the Administration and protect our membership, we have to be prepared to do so.

How to Get Involved

If you haven’t had much time to get involved with GEO in the last few months, now is the time to join in! In the event of a strike we will need hard commits from people to serve as picket captains and to sign up for shifts on the picket line. If we strike, we need as many people as possible out to show the Administration our strength and that we won’t back down until we get a fair contract.

The Administration’s Spin on Negotiations

On the University’s Human Resources website, the Administration’s bargaining team has been creating little blurbs to document contract negotiations. Their summaries of negotiations are, of course, framed to show the University in the best light. For example, one of their posts celebrates that we were able to reach an agreement on non-discrimination language. What it doesn’t say is that they fought for weeks against expanding our non-discrimination clause, and refused to consider adding certain protected categories to our contract. This website also tries to make it appear that graduate employees are much better off financially than is the case, by, for example, obfuscating the numbers or counting the cost of our waived tuition as part of our wages. The fact remains that the minimum annual salary for a graduate employees at a 50% appointment is $16,360.

These updates are on the website in order to put the University in the best light possible and make us seem unreasonable. When faculty and staff learn of GEO’s efforts, they may be tempted to visit this website and take the Administration at their word. Given this, we must be ready to clarify the reality of the situation when our departments reference these summaries.

CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

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.

In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283

Email: geo@uigeo.org

Strike Authorization Voting Information | October 29, 2017

***October 29, 2017 — 75 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

At our last General Membership Meeting (GMM), in response to the Admin’s proposal on Tuesday which would not provide wages increases that would keep up with inflation; would make our healthcare much more expensive; would make grad employees continue paying around $1,000 a year in fees, with no guarantee they wouldn’t go up; offers no child care resources for parents; and opens the door for the reduction or elimination of tuition waiver programs, we began a strike authorization vote. Should this vote pass, that does not mean we have to go on strike–but it empowers our Strike Committee to make that decision if necessary. We need all members to make their voice heard!

How long is the strike authorization voting?

Strike authorization voting will continue through 5:00pm on Wednesday, November 1, 2017.

Who is eligible to vote?

All GEO members are eligible to vote. If you are not a card-signed member of the GEO, you can sign a membership card at a physical voting location or at the GEO office and immediately become eligible to vote.

How can I vote?

Voting is online and at physical locations around campus and at the GEO office. If you’re a member then you should have received a link to vote, but if you didn’t, please email geo@uigeo.org for a link to the online voting form. If you vote online, do not vote at a polling place, and vice versa. Only vote once!

Polling places will be open from 9:00am-5:00pm Monday through Wednesday at the following locations:

  • GEO Office (809 S 5th St, Geneva Room, Champaign)
  • English Building (608 S Wright St, Urbana, Mary Kay Peer Lounge, in building basement)
  • Loomis Laboratory (1110 W Green, Champaign, front lobby outside Room 141)
  • Education Building (1310 S 6th St, Champaign, 1st floor lobby)

Additionally, there will be pop-up polling places:

  • Beckman Institute, Atrium, Tuesday from 4:00pm-6:00pm
  • Foreign Language Building, Atrium, Monday 9:00am-5:00pm
  • Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory, Check GEO’s social media for poll time and location or email geo@uigeo.org.

When will the results be announced?

The results of the strike authorization vote will be announced to members at the GMM on Thursday, November 2, 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.

What is involved in striking? Who can strike? I have a lot of questions about striking!

We will send an email to members later this week with more information about what a strike would look like, should we choose to go on strike. We’ll also make our Strike Manual available soon. Check your email and our website in a few days! If we choose to authorize a strike, then we will also discuss the logistics of a strike at the GMM on Thursday, November 2, 6:30-7:30pm, at the Channing Murray Foundation (1209 W Oregon Street, Urbana). Food and childcare will be provided. Here is a link to the Facebook event for the GMMs.

 


 

CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

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.

 

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283

Email: geo@uigeo.org

 

GRADUATE EMPLOYEES’ ORGANIZATION (GEO) SIT-IN AND RALLY AT SWANLUND ADMIN BUILDING TO DEMAND FAIR CONTRACT

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 commcomm@uigeo.org.

Website: uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo

@geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

 

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