Member Stories: Anonymous GEO Member/Grad Employee and Parent

Here’s another testimonial from a GEO member and parent, who wished to remain anonymous. We can win better working and living conditions, but only if we all come together and fight for them! We hope all members will come by our General Membership Meeting, tonight from 6:30-7:30 at the Channing Murray Foundation!


“I am a PhD candidate and a mother to a 2 year old little girl. I am somewhat of a non-traditional graduate student in that I went from undergraduate to a Master’s program and while finishing my Master’s degree, I started working full-time as a lab instructor at a university. I worked at the university for 4 years before starting at UIUC in a PhD program. I have been in the current program for six years. If you add all those years together, I am not a typical 22/23 year old graduate student who came directly out of undergrad. After 3 years in the program, my husband and I decided to start a family. Yes, this was actively our decision. We wanted a family, and our ages were a deciding factor. At this time in the lab where I work, I was the senior graduate student and the defacto lab manager. Anything that needed done was sent to me and I took care of the problem. My advisor mentioned several times that I was invaluable. Apparently I was invaluable only until I became pregnant. Once my advisor learned that I was pregnant, my 67% assistantship was cut to 56%. An 11% pay cut is a major amount when you’re a student, especially a student who is now expecting a child. My husband and I scrambled to find a reasonably priced caregiver. Many of the best daycares charge upwards of $250/week! That is 49.8% of my monthly income. The in home daycares that are certified by DCFS are $175/week. This is 34.9% of my monthly income which is marginally more affordable, but not much. So, we were left with leaving our baby girl at an in-home daycare that was not certified by DCFS, but is still 26.9% of my monthly income. The same week we started our daughter in this daycare, there was a major national news story about a mom who left her son with a noncertified daycare provider and who paid the ultimate price. I was terrified, as any parent would be. And, because my pay was cut, because I was not protected, because I couldn’t afford a better place, my daughter continued in a noncertified day care. Thankfully, my daycare provider was an excellent person, but it is unfortunate that I was forced into this position. I should have been able to send her to a daycare with proper oversight. This is the position that many graduate employee parents are forced into.

The argument that it is our decision to become parents, while true, is disrespecting us as people and as productive members of the university. Yes, it was our decision to start a family. But, my desire to pursue knowledge and higher education should not come at the cost of my desire to have a family. And my basic right to have a family should be protected within the halls of academia.”

Member Stories: Liza

GEO member Liza, a graduate employee, MFA candidate, and parent, shares her story about the hardships of being a parent while working at UIUC. The Administration has made it clear that they have no interest in making improvements to grad employee working and living conditions unless we fight for them. Read Liza’s story below, and come out to our General Membership Meeting tomorrow to get involved in the fight!


Sylvestre Diaz family photo

We moved to Champaign so I could being my three year MFA-venture when our son was 6 months old. My partner, my son’s father, is a freelance artist/illustrator and as naive first-time parents we thought that we could just have our son “hang out” as we both worked in the studio. This, of course, is the furthest thing from the truth. We survive almost solely on my incredibly limited income as a graduate teaching assistant. When I am in class, or completing work for my program, my son’s father takes care of him which means that he is not able to make any money while I am doing school related things. To say that we are having a hard time economically is an understatement that I directly link to lack of support for child care. If we were able to afford child care both of us could get work done during the day and we would be able to collectively make enough money to survive. This would also positively impact our health- currently the stress of living in poverty coupled with the stress of trying to get work done after my son goes to bed has been astronomical, and I have doubted on several occasions our ability to get through this program in tact as a healthy family. In fact I consciously understand that this environment is not the healthiest place for my family to be. We are away from family and our support system and have found absolutely no support from the University to compensate.

Weekly GMMs, Bargaining Update, Sign GEO’s Petition, Announcements, Events, and Updates | October 16, 2017

***October 16, 2017 — 62 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Table of Contents:

  • ANNOUNCEMENTS
    • Weekly General Membership Meetings
    • Bargaining Update
    • Sign GEO’s petition!
    • UIUC Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance (UGA) Survey About Workplace Issues
  • EVENTS
    • Wear It Wednesday
    • Work-In Wednesday
    • Coffee Cart
  • COMMITTEE UPDATES
    • Solidarity Committee
    • Grievance Committee
    • Stewards’ Council
    • Communications Committee
    • Coordinating Committee
    • Health Care Working Group
    • RA Working Group
  • CONNECT WITH GEO


 

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Weekly General Membership Meetings (GMMs)

To keep all our members updated regularly about bargaining and our organizing action plan, we have scheduled weekly General Membership Meetings (GMMs) every Thursday. These will help our Bargaining Team know what members want and allow us to coordinate actions to get the contract that we deserve! The next GMM is this 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

The next mediation session will be on Tuesday, October 24th, 9:00am, at the Illinois Fire Service Institute (11 Gerty Dr, Champaign, IL). We have not decided on an end time, but plan to go several hours longer than our usual end time of 1:00pm. All members are welcome to attend for part or all of the session. You can also find more information about bargaining on our website.

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

What the Admin want:

Tuition Waiver: We pay tuition (partial to full) and Admin can change 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 childcare subsidy
Fee Waiver: No fee waiver
Wages: No raises, ability to cut our pay

All members are also invited to come give their input and help out at our next Bargaining Team Meeting, Sunday, October 22, 1:00pm-3:00pm in the GEO Office.

 

Sign GEO’s Petition!

GEO invites all members of the University of Illinois community, including graduate workers, undergrads, staff, faculty, alumni, as well as supporters of union democracy throughout Champaign-Urbana and beyond, to sign this petition to show that you publicly stand with the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) in their struggle to win a fair contract and demand that the University of Illinois Administration expeditiously sign GEO’s contract proposals. Please spread the word and share it with others. Click here to sign the petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/fair-contract-now-for-the-graduate-employees-organization-geo-at-the-university-of-illinois-at-urbana-champaign?source=direct_link&.

 

UIUC Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance (UGA) Survey About Workplace Issues

This month, UGA is conducting a survey of the issues facing university undergraduate employees in the workplace. Here is the link: https://goo.gl/forms/9dB2F0i28fWzZ5Yk2

Please share and send to undergraduate employees of the university! UGA will publish the results in early November, and are distributing paper versions of the survey at various locations on campus throughout the month. Follow them on Facebook for updates: https://www.facebook.com/uga.uiuc/

 

 


 

 

EVENTS:

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

#WorkInWednesday
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

#CoffeeWithGEO
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 geo@uigeo.org.

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

Contact geo@uigeo.org with any questions about upcoming events.

 

 


 

 

COMMITTEE UPDATES:

 

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. We meet every other Friday. The next meeting is on Friday, October 27, at 6:00 pm at the GEO Office. Please contact the Solidarity Chair at solcomm@uigeo.org if you have further questions.

 

Grievance Committee (GC):

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. We meet every Tuesdays at 7pm at the GEO office. Contact grievance@uigeo.org if you have any questions.

 

Stewards’ Council (SC):

Stewards help organize GEO membership by planning events such as the March on Swanlund, Welcome Back Party, Fair Contract Now Rally, Coffee Cart, and Office Visits–and we need your help! We will meet weekly on Tuesday from 6:00-7:00pm at the GEO Office for the rest of the Fall semester. Please contact the Stewards’ Council Co-Chairs at sc@uigeo.org to get involved or with any questions.

 

Communications Committee (Comm Comm):

The Communications Committee works to ensure GEO’s message reaches all its members and the community. For the next meeting time, please email the Communications Officer at commcomm@uigeo.org.

 

Coordinating Committee (CC):

The Coordinating Committee makes decisions about large‐scale projects, some financial decisions, and the GEO’s long‐term vision. The next meeting is on Thursday, October 19, 4:30-6:00 pm, at the GEO Office. 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 about the next meeting, please contact geo@uigeo.org.

 

RA Working Group:

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

 


 

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.

 

Bargaining: 14th Session Summary, General Membership Meeting on Thursday

***October 10, 2017 — 56 days since our contract expired on August 15!***

Today, the GEO Bargaining Team (BT) and the UIUC Administration held their fourteenth bargaining session / second mediation session.

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

  • The Administration finally gave us a counter proposal package on Appointment Terms, Grievance, and Health and Safety. Once again, the Admin indicated that they don’t care about our members’ issues and do not care to fix their systemic problem with sending appointment letters late. They want to take away our current 60 day deadline for receiving appointment letters before the start of the appointment and our ability to grieve late appointment letters. We refused to sign their language.
  • We gave the Admin proposals on Healthcare and Childcare. Again, we proved our willingness to come to the table and bargain in good faith to seek a contract that works for both parties. They gave us a response to our childcare proposal indicating that they are willing to provide childcare resources via a website link. When we pushed for a response to our health care proposal, they were unwilling to give us a counter at the session today.

  • We told the Admin that if they don’t make substantial movement at our next mediation session on the 24th, then we will be forced to respond with escalating actions outside of the bargaining room. Our March on Swanlund last week demonstrated our resolve, and we made it very clear that if the Admin do not make substantial movement in the next mediation session, then our members are prepared to continue to take the necessary actions to win a fair contract. Both parties agreed to have a longer session on the 24th.

What Comes Next:

General Membership Meeting: Electing The Strike Committee

To keep all our members updated regularly about bargaining and our organizing action plan, we have scheduled weekly General Membership Meetings (GMMs) every Thursday. These will help our Bargaining Team know what members want and allow us to coordinate actions to get the contract that we deserve! The next GMM is this 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.

At this GMM, we will discuss the logistics of preparing for a strike and will elect a slate of interested members to serve on the Strike Committee. Any member can indicate their interest in joining the Strike Committee slate to be elected. No experience is necessary–any member who wants to help out is welcome to serve.

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, October 24th, 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. Illinois Fire Service Institute (11 Gerty Drive, Champaign). 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.

 

Photos from the GEO March on Swanlund

On October 4, 2017, graduate employees, undergrads, staff, faculty, and community supporters marched from the UIUC quad to the Swanlund Administration Building to protest GEO members working for 50 days without a new contract and to demand that the University Administration sign a fair contract now with the GEO.

Bargaining: 13th Session Summary, March on Swanlund on Wednesday

***October 3, 2017 — 49 days since our contract expired on August 15!***

Today, the GEO Bargaining Team (BT) and the UIUC Administration held their thirteenth bargaining session (first mediation session).

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

  • We met with the mediator, updated him on the status of bargaining, and explained the rationale for our proposals.
  • We presented the Admin with a new package proposal. The proposal, which addressed, among other things, appointment letters and grievance procedure, was a good-faith effort on our part to work with the Admin to compromise and move some non-economic items off the table so we can focus on the tougher conversations like wages and healthcare. Still, the Admin refused to even negotiate it.
  • The Admin refused our proposal, and did not offer a counter. They then stalled for the remainder of the session. It’s clear that the Admin has no intention of bargaining in good faith with us, and think that if they can continue to stall we’ll eventually give up and be forced to accept a regressive contract with reduced tuition waivers, more expensive healthcare, and worse wages. Only our collective actions outside the bargaining room can force them to agree to a fair contract. Therefore, we’ve got two important events lined up this week–our March on Swanlund on Wednesday at noon, and our GMM on Thursday at 6:30pm. More info on both below–your attendance and participation is crucial for us all getting a fair contract!

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.

What Comes Next:

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, come rain or shine. 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. 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.

General Membership Meeting: Strike Education

We have weekly General Membership Meetings (GMMs) every Thursday. 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! GMMs are 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.

Members, we need all of your participation for this struggle! We encourage you to make it a priority to attend these weekly events in order for us all to get the contract we want.

NEXT BARGAINING SESSION: Tuesday, October 10th, 2017, 9:00am-1:00pm, Illinois Fire Service Institute (11 Gerty Drive, Champaign). All members are welcome to attend. You can also find more information 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.

 

 

Strategies for Socially Anxious Social Activists

Are you supportive of GEO, but considering skipping the march on Wednesday due to social anxiety? A lot of us can relate! But here’s the thing — there’s no substitute for you physically being there; we need your support in the form of physical presence. To help you navigate social anxiety at the march, some of our members put together the following suggestions.

See you Wednesday October 4th at 12pm in front of the Illini Union!

Link to the Strategies for Socially-Anxious Activists.

Strategies for socially-anxious activists

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

GRADUATE EMPLOYEES’ ORGANIZATION (GEO) MARCHING TO PROTEST 50 DAYS WITHOUT A NEW CONTRACT AS MEDIATION BEGINS

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 commcomm@uigeo.org.

Website: uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo

@geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

 

###

 

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:

  • CO-PRESIDENTS’ MESSAGE
  • ANNOUNCEMENTS
    • 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
  • EVENTS
    • Grad Student Healthcare Workshop
    • Healthcare Town Hall
    • Wear It Wednesday
    • Work-In Wednesday
    • Coffee Cart
  • COMMITTEE UPDATES
    • Solidarity Committee
    • Grievance Committee
    • Stewards’ Council
    • Communications Committee
    • Coordinating Committee
    • Health Care Working Group
    • RA Working Group
  • CONNECT WITH GEO

 


CO-PRESIDENTS’ MESSAGE:

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
Co-Presidents
Graduate Employees’ Organization Local 6300

 


ANNOUNCEMENTS:

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 geo@uigeo.org.

 

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.

 


 

EVENTS:

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
#WorkInWednesday
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
#CoffeeWithGEO
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 geo@uigeo.org.

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

Contact geo@uigeo.org with any questions about upcoming events.


 

COMMITTEE UPDATES:

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 solcomm@uigeo.org. 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 grievance@uigeo.org 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 sc@uigeo.org 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 commcomm@uigeo.org 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 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.

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 geo@uigeo.org.

 

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 officer3@uigeo.org for more information or if you are interested in participating.

 


 

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.

 

Weekly General Membership Meetings Every Thursday!

As bargaining moves forward and becomes more critical, we will be holding new, shorter, weekly General Membership Meetings (GMMs). Come to the next general membership meeting to brainstorm actions we can take to win the contract that you want! We will start with a short recap of the state of bargaining, followed by group discussions of practical actions to take now.

These meetings will be held in Channing Murray Foundation (1209 W. Oregon St., Urbana) from 6:30-7:30pm every Thursday. Free food and childcare will be provided.

Here is a link to the Facebook event for the weekly General Membership Meetings.

Flier for General Membership Meetings