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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15th Session Summary, Rally, and Strike Vote at General Membership Meeting on Thursday

***October 24, 2017 — 70 days since our contract expired on August 15!***

Today, the GEO Bargaining Team (BT) and the UIUC Administration held their fifteenth bargaining session / third mediation session, which was the longest session yet. Once again, the Administration refused to make substantial movement toward our proposals. Now it’s time for us 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 signed a Tentative Agreement (TA) on Grievance Procedure and Health and Safety. Despite promising to provide us a healthcare proposal at the beginning of the session, the Administration changed their tune and decided they wanted to clear non-economic items off the table first. They asked us to drop our Distribution of Information proposal to sign a TA on Grievance Procedure and Health and Safety. After some back and forth, we ended up signing a TA on Grievance Procedure and Health and Safety so that we could move forward to bargain more contentious issues.  
  • They gave us a disappointing economic proposal. This included everything left on the table, including our biggest priorities such as Tuition Waivers, Wages, and Healthcare. However, their proposal 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 us our appointment letters on time. What they are offering is at odds with what we want–not only does it not provide us with any gains, it takes away rights from our current contract. Simply put, it’s unsatisfactory. Now, it’s clear that if we want to keep our protections in place and make contract gains in bargaining, then we need all members to come together and take action, including preparing for a strike.

What Comes Next:

Rally and Mediation Update — and Swanlund Sit-In

We will have a rally with speakers on Thursday, October 26th, 11:30am-12:30pm, at the Swanlund Administration Building (corner of 6th and John) to demand a fair contract, and to provide an update on the mediation session. We’re calling on all members, students, faculty, staff, and supporters to join us at the rally in solidarity. Wear your GEO swag and bring a sign!

Now, because the Administration has refused to make substantial movement, we’ve decided to turn up the heat by also holding a peaceful sit-in in the Swanlund Building from 8am-5pm on Thursday to go along with the rally. This action is designed to demonstrate our resolve to the Admin and raise awareness of our struggle in the public, and we need as many members and supporters as possible to come join us for as long as possible (and please feel free to bring your work!). We will not be blocking any access to the building or asking anyone to engage in civil disobedience. Please email geo@uigeo.org with any questions.

General Membership Meeting: Strike Vote

Our General Membership meeting this week is CRUCIAL, as we’ll be providing more information about the Admin’s proposal and beginning our strike vote to see how members feel about going on strike. 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 kicking off the strike vote, we will also discuss the logistics of preparing for a strike and will have an opportunity to elect a slate of interested members to join 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 31st, 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 will be at the 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.

 

Sign Our Petition for a Fair Contract Now and Fill Out the Work Action Survey

***October 23, 2017 — 69 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

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&.

 

Work Action Survey

If you are a member of the GEO bargaining unit, you should have also received an email with a link to our brief Work Action Survey. Please fill it out to help ensure that we win a contract which reflects our members’ biggest priorities! Email us at geo@uigeo.org if you didn’t get a link.

 

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.

 

Letter of Support for the University of Chicago GSU

11th October, 2017

Daniel Diermeier
The University of Chicago
Edward H. Levi Hall
5801 South Ellis Avenue
Chicago, Ill 60637
ddiermeier@uchicago.eduDear Provost Diermeier,

We, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), are writing to express our support for graduate workers at the University of Chicago in their effort to form a union. We urge you to allow graduate assistants to vote on whether Graduate Students United (GSU), IFT/AFT/AAUP, should be their collective bargaining agent. Since 2007, the members of Graduate Students United have worked to secure increased pay, better healthcare, improved parental leave policies, childcare stipends, and a freeze in Advanced Residency tuition. However, without a Collective Bargaining Agreement, the reforms they have fought for can be ignored or undone by a few clicks on a keyboard. They seek to unionize to ensure that graduate employees have a legally recognized right to democratic input in decisions which impact their lives as workers at the University of Chicago.

Graduate students perform essential work for the university as teachers and researchers. At some point, every undergraduate student is taught by a graduate instructor, and graduate researchers advance academic frontiers. Graduate student labor is the backbone of universities across the world. As members of the GEO, we know all too well that the protections offered by unions are critical for graduate students. All workers should have a right to vote democratically on whether to join a union. Without collective bargaining, graduate employees are often left to face the weight of the entire graduate college on their own. This allows administrators to take advantage of graduate labor and leaves graduate workers vulnerable to difficult choices, such as choosing between quality healthcare and their next meal.

The University of Chicago Administration has argued in hearings with the National Labor Relations Board that graduate employees are not workers. Treating graduate workers solely as students and not employees invalidates the many hours of labor we do for our students and faculty members. The intellectual labor of graduate workers is a major reason why the University of Chicago continues to be a preeminent institution of higher learning and research in the United States. The University of Chicago would not function without graduate workers.

Despite the decision of the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board that University of Chicago graduate assistants are employees and eligible for union representation, the Administration continues its opposition. Your Administration has claimed that Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants are a burden to the faculty. Though this tactic has delayed the GSU union election, they still retain majority support among graduate employees. On September 22nd, you filed an appeal to the election order again arguing that graduate workers are not truly workers and requested a stay of the union election. This move will deny the vote to over two thousand graduate assistants and is profoundly undemocratic.

We urge you to reverse this disastrous decision and allow the vote to proceed. We urge you to be on the side of workers.

Sincerely yours,

The Graduate Employees’ Organization
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
IFT/AFT Local 6300 – AFL-CIO

Email: geo@uigeo.org
Website: www.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


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