Preparing for a Strike

***February 19, 2018 —  189 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Table of Contents:

  • Co-President’s Message
  • Announcements
    • Bargaining Update
    • Picket Training
    • Pre-Strike GMM
  • FAQs and Basic Information on Striking and Tuition Waivers
  • Connect with Faculty – Templates
  • Financial Planning Information
  • Breakdown of the Admin’s FAQ
  • Connect with GEO

 

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Co-President’s Message

Greetings GEO members,

In exactly one week, we will exercise our legal right, and last option, and go out on strike to demand a fair contract that promises the following: tuition waiver protection for graduate students that do teaching or graduate assistant work, and financial stability through in an increase in our other economic proposals.  This will be a strike for our very survival as a union and some of our members’ ability to attend this university.  These stakes are not hyperbolic; rather, they portray a dire situation that could transform both the University of Illinois and U.S. higher education as we know it.

For many of our members who have never participated in such a major event, the question is simple: what exactly is a strike and how can we be as effective as possible in winning it? A Strike is 2 Parts: Withholding our labor and disrupting campus operations via picketing.  This means we MUST NOT teach, grade work, submit grades, answer work-related emails, or produce any contributions to the operations of this campus.  Additionally, we must picket classroom buildings throughout the campus to fully disrupt productivity on campus.  Yes, the major act of a strike is to withhold labor; however, to win the proposals we want in our contract, we must demonstrate our organizing power and exercise every tactic as possible.  We must be as strong as ever and picketing ensures that our strike is multifaceted and devastating enough to win benefits for everyone in our wonderful campus community.  If classroom buildings are empty and we are disrupting campus, it will force the administration to bargain a fair contract.  This is how we will win!

We must do whatever necessary to educate both members and non-members of the dangers of crossing the picket line, which means performing your job labor during a strike or walking into picketed buildings.  Crossing the picket line not only undermines and weakens the strike itself, but it hurts our colleagues, friends, students, and departments.  If you know a member or non-member that is unsure about the strike or does not want to support the strike, we must have multiple conversations that emphasize supporting each other and solidarity to win this for all of us!

Thank you all for all of your hard work in preparing for such a difficult, yet rewarding action.  A work stoppage is a righteous move by workers used solely as a final option to protect ourselves, our undergraduates, and the quality of education at this university.  Please stay tuned to all updates, logistics, and advice for the strike and DO NOT HESITATE to contact GEO at any point for any questions, comments, ideas, or volunteering to help.  We have seven days to make sure everyone is on the right page with our plan so we will win!!!

In Solidarity,

Gus Wood and Marilia Correa

Co-Presidents

Graduate Employees Organization Local 6300 IFT/AFT AFL-CIO

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Announcements:

Bargaining Update

At our last session, on Thursday, Feb. 15, over the course of 12 hours, GEO and the Administration sent several proposals back and forth. Because the Administration insists on continuing to threaten tuition waivers and is unwilling to provide a meaningful increase in their financial package, little movement was made toward reaching a compromise. The Administration has never argued that they can’t afford our proposals, but it is clear they simply do not value our labor enough to provide us with fair compensation and financial stability. We will continue to meet to try to avoid a strike, but more than ever we need to make sure we’re continuing to put in the organizing effort to make sure we’re ready to walk off the job on February 26th.

We’ll be back in the bargaining room Friday, Feb. 23rd, hoping to reach a settlement before our strike Monday. All members are invited.

Picket Training

Picket Trainings will be held multiple times throughout the week. Keep an eye out for facebook events or email us at geo@uigeo.org to get the schedule for this week. It is very important that you attend at least one Picket Training, especially if you intend to serve as a Picket Captain.

Pre-Strike GMM

Our next General Membership will be Thursday, February 22, at 6:30pm in the Channing Murray Foundation (1209 W Oregon St, Urbana). We will spend roughly 30-45 minutes on Strike Information and spend another 45 minutes making signs and chants for the picket lines.With our Union under threat, it’s important to come together and prepare for a strike that wins us a contract! Food and childcare provided.

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FAQs and Basic Information on Striking and Tuition Waivers

Strike FAQ: Basic information about striking, retaliation, talking to faculty and students, the Admin’s website, and more.

Strike Manual: Detailed information on striking including legality, financial planning, and the nitty-gritty of how striking works.

Bargaining Movement Document: GEO has shown a willingness to meet the Administration halfway again and again. This document details what movements have been made from our original proposals.

Undergraduate FAQ: Are your undergrads asking questions? This FAQ is a good place for them to start.

On January 29, 2018, after GEO filed Intent to Strike paperwork, the Administration sent a massmail in which they expressed “surprise and disappointment” at the development. Here is our one-page response, which discusses why the paperwork was filed, as well as the importance of graduate employees to the University as a whole.

Tuition Waivers are one of the most contentious issues in this bargaining cycle.

This one-page FAQ on the Administration’s Tuition Waiver proposal covers the basics.  

You can read the current side letter containing tuition waiver protections on the final page of our contract, here. The Admin’s proposed new side letter is on the final page of their latest offer, here.

On February 9, 2018, the Administration sent out a massmail that contained a great deal of misinformation on tuition waivers. Here is our response.

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Connect with Faculty – Templates

Faculty Support Letter Template: A template letter that faculty can use to show their support.

Template Letter for Class Cancellation: A template letter for asking your professors to cancel their classes (including graduate seminars!).

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Financial Planning Information

FAQ for Finances: This document is an FAQ for preparing financially for a strike.

Support Resources for the Strike: This document contains information for any financial emergencies that may arise as a result of withheld pay, including emergency shelter and food resources.

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Breakdown of the Admin’s FAQ

Admin FAQ Breakdown: A breakdown of the inaccuracies and misleading statements found within the Administration’s FAQ as published on their Human Resources page.

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CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

Sign up for text updates! Text updates are the fastest, best way to get crucial GEO information. 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

This is a newsletter for members about our recent news and events. The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), IFT/AFT local 6300, AFL-CIO, is a member-run labor union and represents Teaching and Graduate Assistants (TAs and GAs) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Tuition Waivers Under Attack and Strike Date Announcement

***February 7, 2018 —  176 days since our contract expired on August 15th***
Table of Contents:

  • 23rd Bargaining Session Recap
  • Strike Date Announcement
  • General Membership Meeting

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23rd Bargaining Session Recap

Thank you to the members who turned out this morning AND this evening to demonstrate our power! The morning’s rally was fantastic, and everyone who turned out on short notice to rally again at 7:00pm was inspiring. It truly paints a picture of what we can accomplish when we come together.

At this session, the administration revealed their plans to terminate full tuition waiver protections and bust our Union. The administration argues that our tuition waivers are a permissive subject of bargaining, meaning that we legally cannot strike over it. Our position is that, as compensation, tuition waivers are a mandatory subject of bargaining and legal to strike over, a position also upheld by two legally-binding arbitration decisions.

The administration wants to make it so that they can redesignate any program to be self-supporting, which means that both current and incoming graduate students could lose access to tuition waiver generating appointments, even if they do the work of a TA or GA. If members don’t have tuition waivers, they won’t be able to attend school here.

As tuition waiver generating appointments disappear from many departments, we will be forced to compete over the limited number of waiver-generating positions in the small number of departments that offer them. Not only will this make graduate education unaffordable, but it means that fewer graduate employees will be legally protected by GEO’s contract. This will decimate individual graduate programs. Departments will only be able to recruit those who can afford to pay tuition rather than seeking out the best students. With fewer graduate students on campus and fewer positions covered by the contract, GEO will go extinct.

The administration is claiming that the GEO is attempting to prevent them from creating new programs. We recognize that the administration has the right to create new programs. However, as long as a graduate employee performs bargaining unit work, then that graduate employee MUST be paid their full compensation under the terms of our contract, including a tuition waiver.

We’re no longer just fighting for fair compensation and working conditions: we’re fighting for the life of our Union, the ability to attend graduate school, the strength of our departments, and the future of higher education.

Here is a link to the university administration’s proposal from the bargaining session today. We are seeking the same tuition waiver side letter language as our last contract, which can be found at uigeo.org.

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GEO Announces Strike Date to the University Administration

In response to these threats, we are announcing our strike date of Monday, February 26, 2018. If they have not made significant movement to protect our tuition waivers, ensure economic stability, and preserve our Union by 8:00 am on that day, picketing will begin.

Our team stayed and bargained with the administration for 15 hours. We will do everything in our power to avoid a strike, but as the administration saw today, we are prepared to strike if we have to.

On our website, we have resources to help inform and answer questions about a strike. Our FAQ includes information on how to talk to faculty and students about the strike, information about retaliation (which is illegal), and a link to our detailed Strike Manual. If you have other questions, talk to your steward or email us at geo@uigeo.org!
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What Comes Next:
Join us in fighting for a fair contract!
General Membership Meeting

Our next GMM will be Thursday, February 8, at 6:30pm in the Channing Murray Foundation (1209 W Oregon St, Urbana). With our Union under threat, it’s important to come together and prepare for a strike that wins us a contract! Food and childcare provided.
Commitment and Accountability is how we win!
CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc


Sign up for text updates! Text updates are the fastest, best way to get crucial GEO information. 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
This is a newsletter for members about our recent news and events. The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), IFT/AFT local 6300, AFL-CIO, is a member-run labor union and represents Teaching and Graduate Assistants (TAs and GAs) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

For Immediate Release: U of I Grad Employees Set Strike Date

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

February 8, 2017

CONTACT
Gus Wood
Co-President, UIUC GEO
404- 213-8355 (mobile)
GWoodiii3@gmail.com

U of I Grad Employees Set Strike Date

 

Workers set to walk off February 26th over administration’s threat to take away tuition waivers

URBANA-CHAMPAIGNWEDNESDAY -The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) will declare a strike on February 26th over the administration’s plan to terminate tuition waivers for graduate employees, essentially forcing workers to pay to keep their jobs, as well as proposals by the University that would impact the workers’ financial stability, making graduate employment unaffordable.

After 10 months of bargaining, yesterday the administration revealed their draconian plan to terminate full tuition waiver protections, which would have compounded effects over time. More clearly, the University administration refuses to bargain tuition waivers with us.  Our position is that, as compensation, tuition waivers are a mandatory subject of bargaining and legal to strike over, a position upheld by two separate legally binding arbitration decisions. In other words, the University administration is telling graduate employees that make $17,000 or less that we have to start paying more to work here than we are making in our salaries. If tuition waivers aren’t protected in our contract, fewer waivers will be made available to graduate workers, who will have to compete for fewer and fewer of them. In the current system each worker has equal access to a tuition waiver. What the administration proposes will favor some departments over others, forcing graduate workers into a Hunger Games scenario where they compete, instead of cooperate to maintain the high level of education available to undergraduates Not only will this make graduate education unaffordable, but it means that fewer graduate employees will be legally protected by our union contract, as the administration’s position is that only employees with tuition waivers are members of our bargaining unit. In the long term, this will decimate individual graduate programs: departments will only be able to recruit those who can afford to pay high tuition rather than seeking out the best students.  With fewer graduate students on campus and fewer positions covered by the contract, GEO will go extinct.

GEO understands new programs are important in maintaining a world-class education for all students.  Administration must work with GEO on a plan that is best for the graduate workers and the students they serve.  However, unilaterally taking away tuition waivers does nothing to improve teaching and learning.

What this means is that we’re no longer just fighting for fair compensation and working conditions: we’re fighting for the life of our Union, our ability to attend grad school, the future of our departments, and the future of higher education.

“Our amazing GEO members rallied by the hundreds twice today: once on less than two hours notice to commit to finishing this contract negotiation without a strike.  We want a contract that emphasizes our two biggest priorities: securing members’ financial stability and protecting tuition waivers.  Without these, education is not accessible to all GEO members who teach and work at this university.  After today’s bargaining session, our membership demonstrated that we are willing to strike and will do so to prevent the University administration from busting our union,” said Katie Lee, a GEO Bargaining Team lead negotiator.

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The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) represent 2600 graduate employees in the University of Illinois system. GEO is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers

All GEO Members Needed at Bargaining Session on the 7th, Truth about Tuition Waivers, and More

***February 5, 2018 —  175 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Table of Contents:

  • Co-President’s Message
  • Bargaining Update
  • ISG Resolution
  • Strike FAQ, Resources, Manual
  • Connect with GEO

GEO members,

This past week proves that we continue to grow larger and stronger because we hold two core principles in GEO: transparency and commitment.  Throughout this bargaining cycle, we have been completely transparent in our objectives, motivations, and movements regarding our contract proposals and our willingness to do everything to avoid a strike.  Unfortunately, we are “shocked and disappointed” that the University of Illinois administrative bargaining team, led by Provost Andreas Cangellaris, does not feel they owe transparency and commitment to the graduate workers on this campus, have forced us to work without a contract for over 170 days, and forced us to file an Intent to Strike Notice.  If you or a colleague you know are as disappointed and shocked as we are, then please join us in solidarity on Wednesday morning, Feb. 7th, 8AM, to show the administration how much we care about our financial stability and resolving this contract before a strike occurs.  Think of these stakes when you sign a strike commitment card and ask other members to sign strike commitment cards, because that is what it takes to win this contract and if the administration knows we all care enough to commit to strike, it is possible to resolve this contract fight at the table on the 7th.

We are also shocked and disappointed about the false narrative in the Provost’s massmail and other administrative messaging regarding GEO priorities at the bargaining table.  The truth about tuition waivers on the bargaining table right now is this:

The University administration wants tuition waivers to be an OPTIONAL benefit for graduate students working.  GEO believes, as do TWO separate ARBITRATORS, that tuition waivers are a substantial part of the compensation package guaranteed by our contract.  The University of Illinois administration wants to make tuition waivers optional for people working in any program that they might choose or create in the future.  GEO believes that any graduate student doing graduate employee work is entitled to a full tuition waiver guaranteed by the union contract.  Over nearly the span of a decade, the University administration has taken at least two programs, one in Fine and Applied Arts and one in Masters in Computer Science, and turned them into self-funded programs.   In effect, they forced the graduate students working in those programs to go out and find a tuition waiver from another department.  GEO grieved both of these actions as violations of our contract.  Two separate labor arbitrators upheld these grievances, forcing the admin to pay out over $1 MILLION to grad students.  It is this practice that the admin wants to continue.  To do this, the admin wants to change our current status quo tuition waiver side letter language.  Obviously, the University administration can create whatever program they want to create.  However, as long as there is a graduate student in that program doing graduate employee work, then that graduate student MUST be paid their full compensation, including a tuition waiver, via our contract.  We, as graduate workers will NOT pay to work at this university.  This is part of our priority of securing financial stability for our members in this contract.  If a strike occurs, it will be about preserving our tuition waiver protection and obtaining more money to better our financial conditions as workers and students.

Wednesday, February 7th will be a defining moment for the Graduate Employees Organization.  We need every single GEO member and ally to be at the Fire Services Institute at 8AM to win this contract next week.  Our bargaining team is willing to negotiate at anytime and anyplace to avoid a strike.  That is the type of transparency and commitment it takes to fight for and win financial stability and better working conditions for graduate workers at UIUC.  Thank you all!

Gus Wood & Marilia Correa

Co-Presidents,

Graduate Employees Organization Local 6300 UIUC

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Bargaining Update

At our last bargaining session on January 30th, our membership turned out in force to line the hallways of the Fire Services Institute to show the Administration our commitment to winning this contract fight. Because of our actions, we were able to reach an agreement in principle with the Administration on Appointment Terms, which would provide any employee who received a late appointment letter $50 in compensation. Full recap of the session is available here.

Our next session, on Wednesday, Feb. 7th, is going to be crucial, as it is the last session scheduled before we can legally strike. We’re asking all members that are able to turn out for the beginning of the session again to show the Administration we mean business. You can check out a Facebook event for this work action here. Be sure to invite all your friends and colleagues!

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ISG Resolution

At their meeting on Wednesday, January 31, the Illinois Student Government (ISG) passed a resolution supporting the GEO’s fight for a fair contract. The resolution recognizes that our proposals reflect the needs of our membership, calls upon the University administration to bargain fairly with us, and notes that movement on behalf of the University will help avoid a strike. The resolution passed with an overwhelming majority, with 24 in favor, 3 opposed, and one abstention. Various student senators voiced their support for graduate workers on campus, citing their positive experience with us as teachers, mentors, and colleagues, and the importance of our work for the prestige of the University.

The UIUC ISG is one of the few student senates that represents undergraduate as well as graduate students. There are currently multiple open graduate student seats in the senate; if you’re interested in getting involved, we encourage you to learn more at https://isg.illinois.edu/view/7038/396488

 

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Strike FAQ, Resources, and Manual

On our website, we have resources to help inform and answer questions about a strike. Our FAQ includes information on how to talk to faculty and students about the strike, information about retaliation (which is illegal), and a link to our detailed Strike Manual. If you have other questions, talk to your steward or email us at geo@uigeo.org!

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CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc


Sign up for text updates! Text updates are the fastest, best way to get crucial GEO information. 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

This is a newsletter for members about our recent news and events. The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), IFT/AFT local 6300, AFL-CIO, is a member-run labor union and represents Teaching and Graduate Assistants (TAs and GAs) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: GRADUATE EMPLOYEES’ ORGANIZATION UIUC FILES OFFICIAL NOTICE OF INTENT TO STRIKE WITH ILLINOIS EDUCATION LABOR RELATIONS BOARD AND UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN ADMINISTRATION

GRADUATE EMPLOYEES’ ORGANIZATION UIUC LOCAL 6300

Urbana-Champaign (January 29, 2018) – The Graduate Employees Organization Local 6300 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (the GEO) filed an official Intent to Strike Notice with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board today, after the University Administration failed to respond to substantial movement in the GEO’s latest comprehensive proposal, refusing to even provide a counter-offer in the bargaining session. The Intent to Strike Notice gives the GEO the legal protection to engage in a work stoppage if necessary in the future. The GEO has attempted to utilize all possible avenues towards resolving this contract at the table, including mediation, filing two Unfair Labor Practice charges against the University Administration, and making substantial movement from its original contract proposals. The Administration, however, has consistently stalled and held austere proposals that would negatively impact the economic stability of graduate employees. “We firmly hold the position that we want to resolve this contract negotiation at the bargaining table,” said co-President Gus Wood. “We do not want to strike because we love our undergraduates and our work.  However, if the University Administration continues in their pattern of neglect and disrespect for our working conditions, economic stability, and value to the success of this institution, we will declare a strike to protect our membership, our union, our undergraduates, and the integrity and quality of education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.”  

After the last three mediated bargaining sessions, the GEO’s Bargaining Team and Strike Committee determined that it is highly unlikely that contract negotiations can be resolved at the table without abandoning many union protections and the chance to secure financial stability for its membership. “The Administration’s proposals would drastically undermine the accessibility and affordability of higher education here at Illinois,” said Patrick Kimutis, a Bargaining Team Member and graduate employee in the Department of English.  “The Administration’s proposal would raise our healthcare cost and burden many graduate employees with over $1,000 worth of annual fees. And even though most graduate employees make well below the University’s published cost of living, the Administration has refused to guarantee annual raises, making our education costs unaffordable and blocking access to this University for many disadvantaged people. The Administration is waging an assault on our our economic stability.” Graduate employees at UIUC have reported having difficulties with paying monthly bills and buying food, and some members, like PhD candidate and co-President Gus Wood, feel that they are only one emergency away from significant financial disaster. Wood, whose car was repossessed in Fall 2015 while he was a TA making $17,000 a year, says that this bargaining cycle is an opportunity to make education affordable and secure financial stability for graduate workers across campus.  “Losing my car and not being able to afford bare necessities solely because I did not make enough money as a TA at UIUC was devastating and embarrassing.  I was forced to work four jobs to get my car back and maintain my bills.  I fight for a fair contract because everyone deserves financial stability,” said Wood.  “Graduate workers should not have to seek extra work outside the university like I did to avoid major financial loss because they cannot afford a car payment, a healthcare bill, child care, or any other financial hardship.  This university only operates because we provide teaching, research, clerical work, mentorship, and committee work.  Thus, our value to the success, integrity, and quality of undergraduate education here must correlate with how we are compensated.  Otherwise, more and more graduate workers will suffer hardship and be forced to make difficult choices between paying bills and eating. We must win this contract to make education affordable and accessible here.  These are the stakes of this contract struggle,” he said.  

The GEO hopes that the Intent to Strike Notice will serve to pressure the University administration at the parties’ next mediation session on January 30th. “We simply want a better campus and better graduate school experience for everyone across the Champaign County communities,” said GEO co-President Marília Corrêa. “If the UIUC administration forces us into a work stoppage, they will put campus operations at risk, jeopardize this Spring semester, and force classes to cancel, wasting the tuition money undergraduates pay to go here.  This Intent to Strike puts the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign County, and the state of Illinois on notice that the GEO is ready, if necessary, to utilize all means, including worker power and solidarity, to secure affordable education and working conditions, protect graduate workers, and fight for the integrity and quality of higher education.  We demand the University of Illinois Administrative bargaining team accept our reasonable comprehensive proposal on January 30th.  We, as graduate workers, deserve it.”  

For more information, contact GEO Co-Presidents Gus Wood and Marilia Correa at cc@uigeo.org or (404)213-8355

Website: uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo

@geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

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Bargaining: 21st Session Summary

***Jan 18th, 2017 — 156 days since our contract expired on August 15!***

On January 18th the GEO Bargaining Team (BT) and the UIUC Administration held their twenty-first bargaining session.

We started by talking to the mediator about what happened over the past two sessions regarding a memorandum of understanding (MOU) about the timeliness of appointment letters. At the end of the last session on January 5th, the Administration gave us a proposal that was a stark shift in their former position, ignoring all we accomplished together in a collaborative brainstorming session on December 12th. Today, we pushed the mediator to get a reason from the administration for their sudden change of heart. The mediator returned more confused than he left, suggesting that we could try to meet face to face with the admin team yet again about this topic. Given the number of things still on the table, we decided another discussion about the MOU would be a waste of time today, which is a huge disappointment given that we had previously reached an agreement in principle with the Administration. We realized we needed to do something to push them and reveal their true intentions.

At 11:22 a.m., the GEO bargaining team gave the Administration a comprehensive package proposal that contained all of the items still being negotiated. This package contained movement from the GEO’s initial positions on our wages, healthcare, appointment terms, duration, and childcare proposals. The GEO bargaining team has taken this definitive strategic position in order to demonstrate that we are interested in doing everything we can to resolve negotiations at the table and avoid a strike.

The Administration, however, does not seem to share this desire. At 2:30 p.m., the mediator let us know that the Administration would not be replying to our package today–despite the fact that we were scheduled to bargain until 4:00 p.m. They also did not respond to an information request sent over the weekend asking how the fee money we pay is spent by the University. It’s become abundantly clear that bargaining isn’t working. We believe that the Administration is bargaining in this way in order to force the GEO out onto picket lines.

These next few weeks will be crucial for us, as we prepare for a possible strike. If we all come together, we will win. We need everyone to be talking with and educating their colleagues, faculty, prospective students to your program, and your own students to inform them of our struggle and let them know what’s at stake.

What Comes Next:

Join us in fighting for a fair contract!

Call/Email the Provost

The GEO bargaining team would like EVERYONE to help us send a message to the administration today: please call (217.333.6677) or email (cangella@illinois.edu) our provost Andreas Cangellaris and demand that this institution treat graduate employees with the respect they deserve and bargain with the GEO in good faith. Demand he hear us and help the GEO bargaining team force this administrative team to stop stalling and start bargaining. Here’s a template you can use:

Provost Cangellaris,

I am a (GEO member/alumni/undergraduate student/etc). I am disgusted by the lack of good faith effort demonstrated by this administration during this bargaining cycle. You should be embarrassed that a group of administrators representing the U of I system as an employer continuously make excuses for their lack of movement from their ridiculous positions by claiming things are too operationally difficult to implement, or that they don’t have the information they need to make decisions. This is an appalling way to run a university that supposedly prides itself on providing a world-class education to its students.

Your graduate employees perform crucial labor that make this university world-class, and yet you dare them to walk off the job in order to secure such bare necessities as modest wage increases and better healthcare coverage. A graduate employee making a minimum wage on this campus is making 29% less than what is published as a living wage for this community. In this communication I will ask you nicely: please do your job in a way that actually reflects the values the U of I system claims publicly. Force the administration’s bargaining team to bargain in good faith and stop making pathetic attempts to expand management rights and nullify the effects of our collective bargaining agreement. We love our students and don’t want to do anything that detracts from the quality of their education. However, we will if we have to.

How dare you let these administrators sit around in a room all day and dare us to put this campus through a strike.

Sincerely,

Strike Committee Meeting

The Strike Committee will be meeting on Saturday, 1/20, at 4:00pm in the GEO office to prepare for a possible strike. All members are welcome and encouraged to attend.

General Membership Meeting

Our next GMM will be Thursday, January 25, at 6:30pm in the Channing Murray Foundation (1209 W Oregon St, Urbana), and it will be a crucial one. We will be discussing and answering questions about a possible strike. Please make it a priority to attend this meeting and let your colleagues and friends know they should attend as well. Food and childcare will be provided. Here’s a link to the Facebook event.

NEXT BARGAINING SESSION:

The session is tentatively scheduled for Jan 30th. All members are welcome to attend for part or all of the session. You can also find more information about bargaining on our website.

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

Are you a member?

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

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

Follow GEO Online:

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

Text the word “GEO” to 69238 to receive periodic messages concerning crucial bargaining updates and other urgent information. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to 69238 to stop receiving messages. Text HELP to 69238 for more information. Terms & Conditions.

Updates from the GEO, January 2, 2018

***January 2, 2018 — 140 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Happy New Year!

Table of Contents:

  • ANNOUNCEMENTS

    • Spring TA Orientation: Call for Volunteers

    • Bargaining Update

    • How to Stay Involved Over Winter Break

    • Electing a New Communications Officer

  • EVENTS

    • Wear It Wednesday

    • Wednesday Work-In

  • CONNECT WITH GEO

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

Spring TA Orientation: Call for Volunteers

Spring orientation for new TAs will take place on January 10th from 7:45 AM to 4:45 PM and January 11th from 7:45 AM to 1:00 PM at Wohlers Hall. Volunteers are needed to talk to new TAs, get cards signed, and hand out shirts. Even if you can only sign up for an hour, your help will be greatly appreciated! Please sign up with your availability in this sign up sheet.

Bargaining Update

Our next mediation session with the administration is scheduled for January 5th, at the Illinois Fire Services Institute (11 Gerty Dr, Champaign, IL 61820). All members are welcome to attend. A recap of our most recent bargaining session is available on our website.

How to Stay Involved Over Winter Break

We want members to stay involved with their union over winter break! Here are some suggestions for how to do so:

  • Follow us on social media, and continue to like, share, and reply to posts.

  • Send us photos of you working over break, and wearing your GEO swag to represent us in different states or countries. We’re using the hashtag #GradHoliday.

  • Talk to your friends and family about GEO and bargaining. If your family doesn’t know much about unions, or you’re worried that they might be hostile, we’ve put together some suggestions, which you can find attached to this email and on Facebook here. If they want to contact the university to express their concern for you, we suggest that they contact Provost Cangellaris or Heather Horn.

  • Make an organizing plan for when you’re back in January, so you can hit the ground running! Think about professors or peers to whom you could talk, and how you’ll approach them. Email us if you need help doing so!

  • If you’re staying in town over break and want to help around the office or have an informal meeting, reach out! Some of us will be here too, and would be happy to meet.

Electing a New Communications Officer

We have an opening for the position of Communications Officer. The Communications Officer leads the GEO Communications Committee. The Communications Committee is in charge of keeping the bargaining unit informed, communicating with the press, and organizing GEO’s representation on social media. This is a great opportunity for anyone who is passionate about GEO’s mission. If you have an interest in being the next Communications Officer, please email the GEO at geo@uigeo.org with your contact information. All GEO members are eligible to put their names forward for the position.

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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

Work-in Wednesdays will not take place over winter break. Keep an eye on our Facebook for when they’ll resume!

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CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc


Text the word “GEO” to 69238 to receive periodic messages concerning crucial bargaining updates and other urgent information. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to 69238 to stop receiving messages. Text HELP to 69238 for more information. Terms & Conditions.

In Solidarity,


Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283

Email: geo@uigeo.org

Updates from the GEO, November 15, 2017

 

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

Table of Contents:

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

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

Bargaining/Mediation Update

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

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

Temporary Full-Time Organizers

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

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

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

Information About Tuition Waiver Taxation Plan

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

Learn more about this issue via the document linked below:

Tuition Waiver Taxation Fact Sheet

Response to Administration’s Website on Bargaining

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

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

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EVENTS

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

Wear It Wednesday

Every Wednesday, wear your GEO shirt or pin for “Wear it Wednesday”! Take a photo and post it with the tag #WearItWednesday to share with us on Instagram or Twitter.

Work-in Wednesday & Fight the Tuition Waiver Tax

#WorkInWednesday

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

So come on out and make some calls in solidarity with your fellow employees. Work-ins are a great way to increase visibility and demonstrate our solidarity to the entire campus, as well as to ask questions and learn more about bargaining, future work actions, and how you can get involved. All are welcome. And don’t forget — it’s Wear-It Wednesday, so wear some GEO swag! Here is a Facebook event link for the Work-In.

One Year is Enough Rally

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

Rally to Save Graduate Education Tuition Waivers

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

General Membership Meeting

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

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COMMITTEE UPDATES

RA Working Group:

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

Solidarity Committee (Sol Comm):

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

Grievance Committee (GC):

A contract is only as good as our ability to enforce it. The Grievance Committee is responsible for advocating for fair labor practices at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and protecting graduate employees from abuse, and we need your help! The next meeting is on Monday, November 27, 7:00 pm at the GEO Office. Contact grievance@uigeo.org for more information.

Stewards’ Council (SC):

The Stewards Council is always looking for new members who want to help organize their departments! Stewards are a visible representative of the GEO in their departments, and representatives of their department to the GEO. Please contact the Stewards’ Council Chair at sc@uigeo.org for the next meeting time and any other questions.


Communications Committee (Comm Comm):

We’re looking for new members to join our committee! Our meetings are open to all GEO members and no prior experience with communications is necessary. Please contact the Communications Officer at commcomm@uigeo.org for the next meeting time and/or if you are interested in joining or working on designing fliers and posters.

Coordinating Committee (CC):

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

Health Care Working Group (HCWG):

The Health Care Working Group works to educate graduate employees on their healthcare rights and benefits, as well as facilitating conversations about healthcare on campus between different stakeholder groups. For more information, please contact geo@uigeo.org.

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CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc


Text the word “GEO” to 69238 to receive periodic messages concerning crucial bargaining updates and other urgent information. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to 69238 to stop receiving messages. Text HELP to 69238 for more information. Terms & Conditions.

In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283

Email: geo@uigeo.org

Response to Admin’s website about bargaining

Summary:

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

Long response by GEO member Gabe Malo:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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