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

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.

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.

 

Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) at UIUC Statement in response to mass mail from Chancellor Robert Jones to the UIUC community on September 24, 2017

Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) at UIUC Statement in response to mass mail from Chancellor Robert Jones to the UIUC community on September 24, 2017

September 27, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Urbana-Champaign (September 27, 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.

While anti-semitism is real, and must be vigorously opposed, anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. Zionism is a political ideology, not a racial, ethnic, or religious identity. Not all Jews are Zionists or supporters of the state of Israel. In fact, many of the leading critics of the state of Israel are Jewish organizations, scholars, and activists. Furthermore, not all Zionists are Jewish. In fact, the largest Zionist organization in the United States is not a Jewish group, but is the far-right Christian organization, Christians United For Israel. Far right-wing ideologue and former Trump White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon rose to a White House position through his work as the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a propaganda site that was conceived by Andrew Breitbart during a trip to Jerusalem specifically to be a pro-Israel media organ. It also serves as a leading platform for “alt-right” fascist voices. Leading white supremacists such as Jared Taylor of “American Renaissance” fame, and “alt-right” fascist Richard Spencer — who openly argues for ethnic cleansing — are enthusiastic supporters of Zionism and Israel, as they admire Israel’s violent apartheid and settler colonial policies against Muslims, Arabs, and Africans, and they believe that the world should be carved up into racially exclusive ethnostates. Even Germany’s neo-Nazi party, the AfD, which just had some electoral success, and is antisemitic, supports the state of Israel and Zionism. The fact that a growing number of historically antisemitic organizations are supportive of the Zionist project should give us pause.

Regardless of one’s feelings toward the state of Israel, criticism of a state and antisemitism are not the same thing, and it is wrong for Chancellor Jones to equate anti-Zionism — opposition to a settler colonizer ideology and opposition to an apartheid state — with antisemitism. Such lazy and grossly inaccurate statements do not make the university a safer or more inclusive environment for education. Furthermore, by mentioning anti-Zionist rhetoric, such statements obfuscate real acts of antisemitism that may occur on campus in other forms. Given the anti-Palestinian history of UIUC, exemplified by the Administration’s highly-publicized and ethically dubious “un-hiring” of Palestinian Professor Steven Salaita, we take Chancellor Jones’ statement to be a continuation of the UIUC Administration’s anti-Palestinian bias. Chancellor Jones and the UIUC Administration owe our Palestinian students an apology for the central role they have played and continue to play in contributing to a campus climate of anti-Palestinian hostility.

“Intolerance” is not the problem on college campuses–white supremacy is. We can see this white supremacy manifested in administrative decisions such as the “un-hiring” of Dr. Steven Salaita, the attack on the American Indian Studies Program, and a pattern of withholding resources from ethnic studies programs, cultural centers, and resource centers. We can see this white supremacy manifested in the Administration’s silence on the pro-Israel Illini Republicans, who chalked racist anti-immigrant slogans all over campus last year, held a racist “affirmative action bake sale,” and use a modified racist “Chief” symbol as their organization’s logo. We can see this white supremacy as the university gives a platform to “alt-right” astroturf groups such as Turning Point USA. We can see this white supremacy as the university has yet to replace the racist “Chief” symbol with a non-racist mascot, and has allowed racist “Chief” symbolism to proliferate on campus and in the wider community.

We can see white supremacy manifested on campus in many other ways, but what we do not see on this campus is anti-Zionism being used as a cover for anti-semitism. In fact, the strongest voices against actual existing anti-semitism on this campus are Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace: two organizations that are strongly critical of Israel. It is telling that UIUC student organizations that represent the students who face the most historical and structural oppression–groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine, Black United Front, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan, Asian Pacific American Coalition, United Muslims and Minority Advocates, Campus Union for Trans Equality and Support, Black Students For Revolution, and others–have forged ties of solidarity, co-sponsoring rallies and events, and supporting each other’s organizing, while the Zionist activists on campus have consistently opposed the organizing of these groups.

We have witnessed Zionist activists on campus continually harass, surveil, and stalk Students for Justice in Palestine for years, and the Administration has allowed their creepy behavior–intended to intimidate pro-Palestine students–to go unchecked. Further, with his massmail, Chancellor Jones has contributed to a prevalent climate of Zionist harassment against Palestinian and pro-Palestine students. UIUC Students for Justice in Palestine put out a statement demanding “that the Chancellor release another massmail, clarifying the University’s independent stance on the difference between anti-Zionist work and anti-Semitic attacks. We demand that the Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Danita Brown Young, meet with members of Students for Justice in Palestine and the activist community to discuss how to better represent social justice movements on campus in an effort to live up to their promises of acceptance and understanding.” We stand in solidarity with Students for Justice in Palestine and call on the administration to comply with these reasonable demands.

In Solidarity,

The Graduate Employees’ Organization
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 

Website: www.uigeo.org
Twitter: @geo_uiuc
Facebook: @uigeo
@geosolcomm
Instagram: @geo_uiuc

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Solidarity with Illinois Nurses Association (INA) Nurses at the UI Chicago (UIC) Hospital

Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) Local 6300 at UIUC Stands in Solidarity with Illinois Nurses Association (INA) Nurses at the UI Chicago (UIC) Hospital

September 17, 2017

Nurses at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Hospital, represented by the Illinois Nurses Association (INA), just 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. The UIC Hospital initially refused to give the nurses the full wage increase they proposed, while at the same time investing $100 million in software to ensure patients pay more promptly. The hospital administration refused to even negotiate safer nurse to patient ratios proposed by the INA nurses, and proposed to place them in departments outside their area of expertise. As strongly emphasized by the nurses, both of these matters have a significant bearing on patient health, safety and well being.

The previous contract between the INA nurses and the UIC Hospital expired on August 14, but was extended until September 7. Since an agreement had not been reached with the administration even after mediation, the nurses planned to strike on September 13 for 24 hours. The UI Hospital management first tried to interfere with the strike vote by asking the UIC Security & Police to harass the nurses trying to conduct the polls. This kind of anti-union activity is not unexpected from this administration, and we must stand against it. Still, the nurses voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike. Next, the U of I Board of Trustees asked for a restraining order that would prevent the nurses in certain areas from taking part in the strike. They argued that if these nurses were to go on strike, they couldn’t find substitutes for these nurses with the same level of special expertise, and that this would endanger patient health. Sadly, this restraining order was granted. It is quite ironic, in the words of the INA nurses themselves, “that in court, (the hospital) says its nurses are indispensable, but at the bargaining table, they treat them with disrespect”. The hospital administration can not selectively care about patient safety and well-being when convenient to their agenda, and choose to disregard it when it is not. In the end, the nurses did not go strike, but it took the threat of a strike to negotiate a new contract.

We at the Graduate Employees’ Organisation (GEO) Local 6300 are in the middle of negotiating a new contract with the University of Illinois. Through bargaining so far, we have been told in various ways that our work is not valued, that it is too difficult for the University to give us our work appointments on  time, that we should be agreeable to letting the University administration unilaterally set our wages, that giving more flexible leave to the graduate employee parents is “operationally challenging” and that we are not even privy to a discussion before our health insurance is changed! We understand the importance of showing these U of I administrations that we will resist these attacks upon our contracts. Thus, we stand in full solidarity with the nurses at the UI Chicago Hospital, and congratulate them in winning the fight for a better contract that creates a safe work environment leading to the best possible health care for our communities.