UIC Graduate Employees Make Their Voices Heard
Chicago— At noon on Tuesday, February 26th, the Graduate Employees’ Organization, a labor union representing graduate student employees at UIC, called their members to action. Graduate employees, faculty, students and community supporters showed their solidarity- amidst blistering winds and snow blown faces- and demanded that the University present their graduate employees with a fair contract.
At noon, more than seventy supporters gathered to protest the University unfair treatment of their graduate employees. Currently, graduate employees are earning 140% above the federal poverty line, which economically situates them between “very poor” and “poor”.
“We are not doing this for our own selfish motives, we want to improve UIC. That will only happen if the
UIC administration respects us and we respect each other. We deserve better wages and we deserve to be able to afford to pay our tuition. A lot of undergraduates aren’t able to pay their tuition here and we’re not either,” said Piere Washington a teaching assistant in the Sociology Department.
The primary points of contention include high healthcare premiums, low wages, and increasing fees.The health insurance option that the university offers its graduate employees, for a fee, is not a licensed insurance company and thus its policy holders are not afforded the same protections and rights under Illinois law as licensed insurance holders. Karen Cralli, a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies was forced by UIC’s unlicensed insurance company, Campus Care, to make a choice: massive medical debt or death.
“Campus Care does not cover the majority of medically necessary, life-sustaining treatment for my blood disorder. When Campus Care put me in a position to choose between death and debt, I chose debt. No one should ever be forced to make that choice… Graduate employees deserve the same choices as other UIC employees—we should have the option to enroll in an insurance plan that won’t force us to choose between debt and death,” says Cralli.
During the rally speaker Aaron Finley, a teaching assistant in the English Department and steward for the GEO, called his fellow graduate employees to action stating, “ Our union is fifteen hundred members strong and these are numbers the university cannot ignore or do without. UIC works because we do…If you or your colleagues are waiting until the time has come to show the university that you demand a fair contract, that time is right now! We cannot let these negotiations drag on until it is too late. The time has come to show our strength and our unity. The time has come to let the administration know that we stand as one in our demands; that we will neither quietly nor complacently accept this treatment any longer.”
The Graduate Employee Organization will be back at the bargaining table with the University on
Thursday, March 7th for an all-day bargaining session.
For more information on the GEO’s bargaining session and contract negotiations visit https://
www.facebook.com/uicgeo and http://uic-geo.net/mainsite/