GEO and the administration met today for the 31st time since March 1, 2018. After reaching a tentative contract agreement last night, today we reached a settlement to end the strike. The settlement forbids retaliation for participation in the strike, and it allows TAs and GAs the opportunity to make up any work hours they missed during the strike by May 3rd. What this means is nobody will have pay docked in the April paycheck, and everyone will have the right to make up lost hours between now and May 3rd to avoid having pay docked in May. Also, we expect to get our retroactive raise for this year in the May paycheck– which will be $815 added to the campus minimum for a 50% appointment.

The strike is therefore suspended and TAs and GAs should resume working. But the tentative contract agreement needs to be ratified by the members for it to be officially in effect.

We will hold a General Membership Meeting this upcoming Monday evening, 5-6:30pm, in Gallery 400 (400 S Peoria St) to discuss all the details of the tentative contract agreement and the strike settlement, and to begin voting on whether to ratify the contract. Members who can attend can then inform their coworkers who aren’t able to attend.

According to UIC Administration, graduate workers earn more than enough money to lead healthy lives, but the reality couldn’t be more different. Not one graduate worker reported earning more than $40,000 on their 2018 W2 from UIC, and 90% of respondents reported earning less than $25,000–just 200% above the federal poverty line, and far below the $66,000 recommended to live comfortably in Chicago. 9 out of 10 graduate workers report worrying about having enough income to pay their monthly bills, and only about one-third of graduate workers (31%) can afford to pay for an emergency $400 expense in full.

Contract

Many graduate workers don’t know if they will have a job to support themselves more than a few days before the scheduled start of their appointment. The lack of transparency about hiring and rehiring makes it difficult to know if they can keep their job through their time at UIC. 6 in 10 (63%) grad workers did not  know if they would have a job more than the required 45 days in advance. This uncertainty makes it impossible to budget and plan for the future, and adds to graduate workers’ stress and anxiety.

As UIC employees, over half (57%) of graduate workers have had to skip meals because they didn’t have enough money for food. A variety of negative physical and mental health outcomes are associated with food insecurity, including diabetes, obesity, hypertension, poor sleep, decreased nutrient intake, increased mental health problems and depression, and lower self-rated health. Additionally, food insecurity is also associated with decreased academic performance, lower GPAs, and housing insecurity.

Housing insecurity is defined by a number of factors, including the inability to pay rent or utilities, or instability, which includes moving multiple times per year or living in overcrowded environments. 8 out of 10 (81°/4) of graduate workers reported experiencing housing burdens, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing, and a third (31%) have had trouble paying their rent or mortgage in the last 12 months. Over three-quarters (77%) of graduate workers reported having to choose between paying for basic necessities (i.e. choosing between paying for medicine or buying groceries, paying tuition/fees or paying for rent).

Low wages, high fees, and employment precarity have led to 8 out of 10 graduate workers experiencing anxiety, and 7 out of 10 experiencing depression
since being employed by UIC. However, only about one-third (36%) of graduate workers have the resources and support to access the mental health care they need. Less than half (44%) of graduate workers with chronic health conditions have the financial resources to properly manage their care.

If UIC is serious about the health and welfare of grad workers, they would start by improving wages, reducing fees, and making hiring processes more transparent and equitable.

There are a number of major consequences for low wages, high fees, and lack of hiring transparency. Employment precarity as well as food and housing insecurity hurts grad workers’ academic success–it’s hard to focus on your work and studies when you’re concerned about where your next meal is coming from or whether or not you’ll be able to afford rent. When graduate workers suffer, their work suffers as well: worker stress and anxiety are associated with decreased productivity, higher turnover, and both absenteeism (missing work for being sick) and presenteeism (going to work despite being sick).

These challenges often overlap, and are more likely to be experienced by students of color or first generation graduate students. It is clear that the current wage and fee structure leaves graduate workers with too little
income to support a healthy life, harming their physical and mental health, and making it harder for students to succeed academically and support their students. In order to address the health inequities affecting graduate workers, UIC administration must prioritize ensuring that all of its students have access to the resources they need to be healthy. This means raising wages, reducing fees, and making hiring practices more transparent and fair.
Tell Chancellor Amiridis (chancellor@uic.edu) to give grad workers a healthy contract now.


References:

Benach. J., Vives, A., Amable, M., Vanroelen, C. Tarafa, G., & Muntaner, C. (2014). Precarious employment: understanding an emerging social determinant of health. Annual review of public health, 35, 229-253.

Goldrick-Rab, S., Richardson, J., & Hernandez, A. (2017). Hungry and homeless in college: Results from a national study of basic needs insecurity in higher education. Madison, WI: Wisconsin HOPE Lab

Student hunger on campus: Food insecurity among college students and implications for academic institutions. American Journal of Health Promotion, 32(2), 349-354

The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) is the union representing over 1500 Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants at UIC. We have been negotiating a new labor contract with University administration since March 1, 2018.

As of Tuesday, March 19th we have gone on strike and will continue to do so until we settle a fair contract. We will be on the picket lines from 8:00am-4:00pm, M-F.

This means that everyone—whether or not they voted for the strike—should stop performing all labor for which they are paid (teaching, grading, office and lab hours, etc.) for the duration of the strike, unless they want to actively undermine the strike and their co-workers. We also ask that everyone come out on the picket lines when they would normally be working (teaching, holding office hours, etc.), at minimum.

We want you to know that your supervisors cannot retaliate against you for participating in the strike—it is illegal for them to do so, and they will want to avoid any semblance of retaliation in order to avoid a lawsuit. Being on the picket lines gives the fullest protection, because other strikers can attest that you participated in the strike, which means GEO will be able to make a case that unfair treatment was an act of retaliation should a supervisor unwisely choose to do something unusual.


Logistics:

  • Picketing will be outside of most buildings where classes are taught. This includes UH, BSB, SEL, SES, Grant/Douglas/Lincoln, Taft/Burnham/Adams, LC A, LC B, LC C, LC D, LC E, LC F, East Campus Library, ERF, Stevenson, ETMSW, Public Health, and MBRB.
  • We will be meeting in the quad at the start of every shift, and from there picketers will be assigned to buildings. For those unfamiliar with the area, there is easy access to the quad through Student Center East at 750 South Halsted. Enter the east side of the building, walk through to the west side, and you’ll be on the quad. There is parking across Halsted in the Taylor Street Garage (access via Taylor and Polk, off Halsted). Student Center East is also 1 block south of the UIC/Halsted Blue Line stop (take the far east exit).
  • West Campus picketers will have Public Health as a center. Go to the SPHPI building at 1603 W. Taylor Street. That’s where you’ll get your signs and further directions, though you might move to MBRB across the street.
  • Strike headquarters and designated warming station will be at Latino Cultural Center (in Lecture Center B) during the day. Water, coffee, and women’s restrooms will be available from 9:00-4:00 at Latino Cultural Center for those taking breaks from picketing. Men’s restrooms will be available in Student Center East. Be sure to use these facilities and not the ones in buildings we are picketing.

Donations and Support:

Online donations can be made to our strike fund at https://bit.ly/2XsaH1m.

Check donations can be sent to the GEO office at 815 W Van Buren, Suite 203, Chicago, IL 60607.

Campus workers who must cross the picket line to work—faculty, staff, and RAs—can make a small paper sign that says “I Support GEO” to show as they are crossing the line.

If you want to write a public statement of support to be published on our website, email it to communications@uic-geo.net.

You can email Chancellor Michael Amiridis at chancellor@uic.edu imploring the administration to end the strike and give us the fair contract that we deserve.

A document for those who want to help make our strike accessible for those with access needs.

Twitter messages of support can be tweeted with the hashtags #WeNeedGEO #WeSeeUIC #FairContractNow #uicUnionPower