In just a year’s time, GEO will begin the process of negotiating our labor contract with the UIC administration.  Before the bargaining committee sits down to negotiate with the administration, GEO will work together to articulate a common set of concerns regarding wages, working conditions, and the climate of UIC.  Please join in the first step of GEO’s contract campaign by taking our member survey online.

It only takes about 10 minutes, and your responses will be kept confidential.


Take the survey here:

GRADUATE EMPLOYEES ORGANIZATION LOCAL 6297 Stands in Opposition to Executive Order

Approved unanimously by the General Membership Meeting, February 2, 2017

The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Local 6297, is firmly opposed to President Trump’s recent Executive Order banning refugees as well as visitors and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.  We stand in solidarity with the unions, civil liberties organizations, public officials, community leaders, and activists who are fighting this measure.

We agree with our parent union, the American Federation of Teachers, which said in a statement: “We oppose Trump’s orders, the racist and xenophobic logic that underlies them, the havoc they have created in the lives of those affected, and the damage they have done to America’s standing in the world and to our national security.”

We reject President Trump’s narrative that this is not a ban on Muslims but rather a response to foreign terrorism. Islamophobia and xenophobia were a clear plank in his election platform. While still a candidate in December 2015, he explicitly called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Last week, he said that he would give priority to resettling Christian refugees over those of other religious backgrounds. His confidante Rudy Giuliani told Fox News this past weekend that the president specifically wanted a “Muslim ban.”

This order has direct impacts on GEO members, especially those from the seven banned countries. Those of us who are affected will not be able to attend conferences overseas, travel for job interviews, go home to visit friends and family, or have family come visit us. For those of us with partners or children in other countries, these restrictions are especially dire. As international graduate student workers provide vital labor to universities, hospitals, and research centers, this order is already having ripple effects harming entire communities and industries and, in the long term, America’s relationships with the world.

There are already heartbreaking stories of international graduate students across the country being adversely affected. Nazanin Zinouri, a recent PhD graduate of Clemson University, explains how she went to visit family in Iran and is now unable to get back into the U.S. Without warning and after seven years of living in the U.S.,  she is now indefinitely separated from her friends, her dog, her house, her car, and her job. “As far as the U.S. government is concerned, my life doesn’t matter,” she wrote.

Whether by design or through carelessness, the rapid implementation of this Executive Order has created chaos for hundreds, if not thousands, of travelers and their families.  At airports across the country, travelers with legal visas are currently being detained without lawyers, handcuffed, and questioned for hours. One woman and her two children were held for 20 hours without food at Dulles Airport. We consider these to be blatant violations of basic human rights.

It is important to note that, although the restrictions on travelers from the seven countries is set to last for 90 days, the Trump Administration is calling it a “trial” period, indicating they intend to make this permanent. It remains to be seen what the ultimate scope of these restrictions will be.

We strongly encourage GEO members to participate in the ongoing protests against this refugee and immigrant ban, which are already making a difference. For example, the Executive Order originally applied to people with Green Cards from the seven countries, but after the protests began, the Trump Administration backed off and said Green Card holders would be exempt from the ban (though they are still being detained at airports and subjected to abusive treatment).

If you are a UIC student with questions about the implications of this Executive Order for your legal status here in the United States, please contact the UIC Office of International Services.

For legal assistance to people who have been or may be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or other agencies, we recommend reaching out to the following organizations:

First Defense Legal Aid (24-hour emergency hotline: 1-800-LAW-REP-4)

National Lawyers Guild-Chicago

If you want to learn more about this issue, get involved, or show solidarity, here are some places to do so:

American Civil Liberties Union

Arab American Action Network

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

American Federation of Teachers

Academics Against Immigration Executive Order

Also, you can call your member of Congress or Senator and tell them to oppose this Executive Order.

University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate Employees Organization (UIC-GEO), IFT/AFT AFL-CIO Local 6297 Statement on the 2016 Election

Dear GEO Members,

Tuesday’s election brought many changes to our government, some we can already fathom and others that will only be revealed in the coming weeks and months. Based on the election results, it is almost certain that higher education and organized labor will face new and continued challenges at multiple levels, from the ongoing Illinois budget crisis to the strong possibility of the Supreme Court and National Labor Relations Board taking away key worker protections.

On another level, many of us at UIC—GEO members, colleagues, and undergraduate students—are fearful of what will happen next simply because of who we are and where we are from. We, as the GEO and as individuals, must do our best to support one another and show students, colleagues, friends, families and communities that we will always have their backs. We also have to advocate in areas where our voices may carry more weight based on who we are and where we are from.

We have to organize. At UIC, we must support one another and enforce our contract year round to maintain our protections and our dignity as graduate student workers. Our next contract campaign will officially begin this spring and we need to be prepared to not only defend, but expand our rights. Crucially, we will have to maintain a high number of voting members, because if the university believes our union does not have the majority of grad employees behind it, we risk losing leverage at the bargaining table and losing tangible benefits.

So we call on everyone to please:

  • Become a departmental steward if you have a few extra hours each month. Stewards help enforce the contract and advocate for members facing unfair and discriminatory labor practices (you can also join the Grievance, Outreach, or Communications committees)
  • Sign up members in your departments so that we have robust membership numbers.  This is absolutely critical to maintaining our right to collectively bargain with the university.
    • Email for a list of people in your department who are not currently signed up as voting members (people who have not yet signed a yellow card)
    • Contact members of the steering committee and our GEO staff if you would like someone to go with you to sign up new members (list of contacts here)
  • If you want to support our membership and communities more broadly, consider getting involved in our Outreach Committee (, where we connect to local movements beyond the union (here are just a few groups we’d like to reach out to going forward; send us information on other groups you are involved with so we can try to connect with them):

Our union is what we make of it – our successes are the result of the committed efforts of all of us as members. And we know we are better off fighting for our rights together, rather than struggling alone.

Please join us for the first general meeting of Fall 2016 at Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria) Wed. Oct. 26th
Food and refreshments at 11:45
Meeting at 12:00
Agenda highlights:
Budget/Dues Increase Vote
Know Your Rights and Contract Review
GEO Goals Discussion

This past spring, we won a hard fought contract campaign to get the largest pay increases we have had in any contract, along with increases to health insurance and leave benefits and important improvements in our nondiscrimination clause. These recent successes just remind us of what we already know: we are stronger together. We are going to keep working to protect our rights, improve our working conditions, and strive to build a more just community at UIC and beyond.

Our first General Membership Meeting this fall will be held on Wednesday, October 26 from 12 to 1:30 pm in the lecture hall of Gallery 400 (400 S. Peoria). We will have a Know Your Rights discussion so we all become more familiar with our contract and our rights in the workplace. We will also have committee and council chairs describe the different ways to get more involved. We are planning to cap off the meeting with a group discussion about important issues we are facing in our jobs, so we can set out priorities and projects for our union.

Importantly, at this meeting we will have a discussion and vote on our budget for 2016-17 and a proposal for a dues increase. In order to continue to build our strength and wage successful contract campaigns, we need to ensure the financial stability of our union. We have not voted to raise our dues since 2010, but our expenses have increased over the years, in part due to increases in the dues we send to our state and national affiliate unions, the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). After reviewing budget projections, the Steering Committee is proposing to increase the dues rate from 2.25% to 2.4%. This will amount to an increase of only $2.91 a month for those of us with 50% appointments at the current minimum. We believe this increase is necessary to make sure we have the resources available to continue our work and to confront any challenges in the years ahead.

Our union is what we make of it – our successes are the result of the committed efforts of all of us as members. And we know we are better off fighting for our rights together, rather than struggling alone.


GEO at UIC statement in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

The University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate Employees Organization (UIC-GEO), IFT/AFT AFL-CIO Local 6297 stands in firm solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and the over 200 other Indigenous Nations, that oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). It is our firmly held belief that the sovereignty and governance of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation land comes from, and can only be decided by, the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

Read More →

The GEO Steering Committee recently signed in support of the Bluest Lie Campaign, a campaign against the potential introduction of the so-called Blue Lives Matter ordinance to the Chicago City Council. This proposed ordinance would categorize offenses committed against police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians as hate crimes. It distorts the purpose of hate crime legislation and we cannot sit idly by as it is discussed in our city government.

Currently, Illinois uses the hate crime designation to prosecute offenses committed on the basis of “actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin.” Attacks against police and other first responders are already classified by Illinois law as aggravated assault and therefore carry stricter penalties than assaults against civilians. Police are also protected by their unions and by city and state officials and enjoy protections far above those of regular citizens.

Bills similar to Chicago’s proposed “Blue Lives Matter” ordinance have recently been introduced in states and cities around the country, even though attacks against police are at record lows. These bills constitute a hostile right-wing reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement and to increasing calls for police accountability and racial justice. Nationally, as well as locally, the bills are opposed by a variety of civil rights and social justice organizations, including: Black Youth Project 100, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Assata’s Daughters, American Civil Liberties Union, Uptown People’s Law Center, and the Anti-Defamation League.  In Chicago, many of these groups have come together to form the Bluest Lie Collaborative.

Read More →

It’s that time of year again, so drop your syllabus for a second and come meet your fellow union members for free drinks and snacks at Dugan’s Pub (128 S. Halsted) Thursday September 1st from 5-7pm.

The GEO Welcome Back Social is a great way to learn about your union, ask questions, and get involved while meeting new people from across campus.

Questions? Please contact

Thank you to all those who signed the petition below.  As a result of your help, GEO’s campaign to uphold the rights of José Herrera was a victory! On August 10, José had a formal meeting with UIC administrators, and all of our demands were met. The University agreed to immediately lift the hold on José’s registration and guarantee his TA assistantship for the Fall semester. José is now officially registered for classes. Also, the University Provost attended the hearing and personally apologized to José for the unjust way he was treated – she agreed to work with the different departments involved to make sure this does not happen again. Our petition– which had over 200 signatures– was delivered to the administration at the meeting. On behalf of the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), thank you for showing UIC admins that an injury to one is an injury to all.


During academic year 2015-16, Sociology Ph.D. student and migrant justice activist, José Guadalupe Herrera Soto, had to take family health crisis leave outside the US. José diligently followed instructions to formally request his leave, but the University erroneously made an electronic transition into his bank account in September 2015.

Returning to UIC this summer, José was ready to work with the University to correct the overpayment mistake. Instead, the University had already penalized him for not being able to address the matter within a two-week deadline given in 2015 while José was on official family health crisis leave. While on official leave, a “hold” was entered into his student account that now prevents him from registering for his courses – this deliberate attack made by the University against José is now jeopardizing Jose’s TA appointment, status as a student, and academic career.José and the GEO demand the following from UIC:

1. Remove the hold on his student account
2. Allow him to register for his courses
3. A confirmation of his TA appointment for Fall 2016
4. Once these conditions are met, José will be happy to resolve the overpayment error made by the University.
5. Hold a formal accountability hearing about what has happened
6. A formal and written apology from all parties involved in placing a financial hold on José’s student account.

Why is this important?

In an open letter addressed to administrators and payroll [

] José states, “There is a fundamental institutional hypocrisy revealed by this situation. The University pretends to have understanding and to care about students as human beings by creating a mechanism through which we have the right to take emergency leave; but as soon as we leave we become exposed to blackmail from Payroll and Collections. Our so-called “rights” as students are a sham.”

UIC brands itself as a social justice university, an institution that is inclusive of poor students of color and especially those experiencing extreme marginalization. José is one of those students. He was not on some vacation, backpacking through Europe or some other “exotic” destination. He was not somewhere surrounded by computers and convenience. Maybe UIC is out of touch with the realities of people’s lives who do not fit a specific social and economic profile.

This is not about denying that the payment was made in error or wanting to keep the University’s money. This is about whether the University has the right to treat José as though he went into the Payroll office and took out money and now must be coerced to fix that by placing a hold on his registration. It’s about whether the University can deprive him of his status as a student without even giving him a chance to be heard. So far, no one has taken this seriously or tried to work with him to resolve the situation, preferring instead the blackmail approach: pay first, talk later. This is a question of justice, accountability and respect.


Plans for a meeting with administration are underway, please join us on:

Wednesday, August 10.
Time: We will gather at 11am (meeting starts at 11:30am
Where: 809 S. Marshfield

For more information please contact José directly at
or contact GEO at

Hello Family,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today. Early yesterday morning the LGBTQ community suffered a great tragedy when a terrorist invaded one of the few safe spaces for LGBTQ individuals and enacted a mass murder of 50 people. People like me. As a queer individual I have used bars and clubs similar to Pulse to find a safe space and to be with my community. And it was this community that was attacked yesterday.

GEO is a special family in that we are made up of so many unique groups of people from around the country and world; GEO is a global family. We are not isolated when violence is perpetrated in other cities, we are not insulated when violence is enacted against communities different from our own; we are an intersectional family and an attack on one of our communities is an attack on all of us. Not only was the Orlando massacre an act of violence against the LGBTQ community, it was an act of violence against queer people of color. Violence perpetrated against any part of our family is violence perpetrated against all of us.

With this in mind I would like to say that GEO remains committed to the betterment of working and living conditions for all of our members. Sometimes this means acting at the campus level and sometimes it means acting at local, state, and national levels. GEO does not tolerate hate nor discrimination, and we remain dedicated to helping eradicate it one step at a time. The leadership of GEO will continue to examine how we can do so.

In the meantime, if you would like to help out those in the hospital and the victim’s families there is a GoFundMe set up:

In Solidarity,


Nicholas A. Haas, E.I.T.
Co-President, GEO 6297

The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) of the University of Illinois at Chicago stands with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Non-Tenure Faculty who are striking for a fair contract.

The Non-Tenure Faculty at UIUC have been bargaining for almost two school years—since October 2014—for their first contract. These full-time instructors, lecturers, teaching associates, clinical assistant and associate professors, and research assistant and associate professors are essential to UIUC’s success as a world-class educational institution.

As teaching assistants and graduate assistants, we share the Non-Tenure Faculty’s concerns with academic freedom, appointment/reappointment notices, evaluation, and many other issues. When 40 percent of undergraduate classes are taught by non-tenure track professors, ensuring academic freedom and job security for these faculty is key to ensuring a quality educational environment for students.

It is unfortunate that after over 555 days, the Administration is not taking the Faculty’s concerns seriously. GEO recognizes that the decision to strike was not taken lightly by the Non-Tenure Faculty and supports the right of the Non-Tenure Faculty to strike without retaliation. We hope that the Administration will recognize the critical role of non-tenure faculty at UIUC and will act quickly to ensure that non-tenure faculty receive the excellent contract that they deserve.