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The Elections Committee thanks all GEO members who voted in this week’s Steering Committee Election and congratulations to the newest members of the GEO Steering Committee! All members were voted in unanimously by the membership and the results are as follows:
Marissa Baker and Gina Gemmel
Jessi Holzman and Davis Brecheisen
Edgar Bering and Jen Phillis
NEXT BARGAINING SESSION MONDAY, APRIL 22, SSB CONFERENCE ROOM C
For Immediate Release: UIC GEO Calls for a Strike Authorization Vote
April 18, 2013
Last night at the General Membership Meeting, the GEO voted to begin a Strike Authorization Vote. If passed, the vote would authorize an elected Strike Committee to call for a strike of Teaching and Graduate Assistants at UIC. The vote was called after almost a year of contract negotiations with the University during which the GEO sought to address important issues such as wages, health care, tuition differentials, and fees—issues that have a direct impact on the viability of pursuing graduate education at UIC. We voted to proceed with the Strike Authorization Vote because the University has been unwilling to address our concerns regarding the disparity between the high cost of living in Chicago and the low wages graduate workers earn, and the unchecked tuition differentials that depress those wages even more. The GEO believes that all workers deserve a living wage.
The University has the money to pay its workers a living wage. We reject the disproportionate increases in upper level administrators’ salaries while tuition and class sizes increase and wages and positions for maintenance, office staff, faculty, and graduate workers decrease. We reject the University’s attack on our democracy’s most precious resource—an equitable and accessible public education system. Our fight at UIC is connected to an attempt to halt the continued disinvestment of cities and citizens across the country carried out through an attack on workers and the vital public institutions for which they work. We are rising up in solidarity to demand equitable wages, access to affordable health care, and transparency in the administration of this public institution in order to make education accessible to all. We are proceeding with the Strike Authorization Vote because we believe that UIC can be more than it is—we are fighting for UIC, for what it can be.
We are rising in solidarity with workers everywhere. We are rising in solidarity for graduate workers at UIC and we demand a fair contract now!
UIC Graduate Employees Organization, AFT local 6297, AFL-CIO
The members of UIC United Faculty Local 6456 stand in solidarity with the
members of the UIC Graduate Employees Organization Local 6297 as they
fight for a fair contract. We demand that the University recognizes the
vital work that graduate assistants perform on campus and provide a
reasonable proposal with a living wage.
The University’s financial aid office estimates that the cost of living in
Chicago is $17,958. However, the minimum wage for a graduate
employee is $14,565. TAs and GAs make $3,300 less than a living wage
and, as such, live 124% below the poverty level. The added expense of
rising tuition differentials and fees means that many TAs and GAs live on
even less than the minimum. According to an independent analysis of
University finances by Howard Bunsis, Professor of Accounting at Eastern
Michigan University, UIC has accumulated approximately $300 million in
unrestricted funds. By dedicating less than one percent of those funds to
graduate employees’ wages, the University could pay GAs and TAs a
Providing graduate employees a living wage means not only improving
their quality of life, but also creating working conditions that will allow
the University to thrive. Ultimately, the University claims to be a world
class institution, but its success is dependent on its educators, staff, and
students. If it continues to alienate those who are integral to its mission
through low wages and high fees, how can it claim to reach its goals?
GEO’s fight is about more than simply a living wage; union members are
fighting for their students, their university, and the future of public
We as faculty members recognize the important roles that GAs and TAs
perform at UIC and demand that the University provide them with a fair
contract. We echo the GEO’s theme- UIC works because we do.
UIC United Faculty Executive Board and Representative Assembly
Chicago, IL- On Friday, April 5th, the 1,500 member Graduate Employee’s Organization at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a labor union representing graduate student employees at UIC, filed a notice of intent to strike with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board after ten months of acrimonious, sometimes explosive, bargaining. The nearly unanimous vote authorizing this move came after a packed meeting of the GEO’s general membership, in response to an inflammatory contract proposal by the administration that included provisions inhibiting GEO members from participating in labor demonstrations, and refusing to yield on the university’s practice of charging unlimited tuition differentials against student workers. Currently the graduate student workers at UIC, work for less than 15k dollars, annually, at a school where the average administrator earns a six figure salary.
The GEO says that unless the administration resumes negotiations in earnest the 1,500 teaching and graduate assistants will strike, interrupting undergraduate classes across the campus. The GEO contract technically expired in August and since then the administration’s bargaining team has persistently cancelled meetings with the GEO, even after the GEO brought in a mediator to help facilitate good faith bargaining. Despite the higher costs of living in Chicago, most UIC graduate workers earn less in comparable pay than their counterparts at the Urbana Champaign campus, and significantly less than the 17k dollars that the UIC department of financial aid estimates is the minimum cost of living for graduate students in Chicago.
For more information on the GEO’s contract negotiations and current events visit: http://uic-geo.net/mainsite/
The Intent to Strike vote passed almost unanimously at tonight’s general membership meeting. This means that GEO will file a notice of intent to strike with the state labor board tomorrow. The membership also elected a strike committee, who will present one or more strike plans at the next GMM.
Meanwhile, organizing for a possible strike continues tomorrow at an emergency Stewards’ Council meeting at 1:30pm at the GEO office (815 W. Van Buren, Suite 203; use the Halsted entrance). All Stewards are strongly encouraged to attend and all GEO members are welcome.
The members of GEO received a major message of support yesterday from none other than Dr. Cornel West, well-known social justice activist, author, and professor. He says:
“I wholeheartedly support my brothers and sisters of the UIC GEO! Stay strong and stand tall!
Thanks, Dr. West, for the message of solidarity!
During the last mediation session, the University implied they are getting close to their last, best, and final offer. Unfortunately, the University has been making very little movement in their proposals: they’ve proposed a minimum wage of $15,190 (the current minimum is $14,565), a four-year contract, and no additional fees waived other than what is currently waived.
It’s incredibly important to have member input as we’re getting to the very final sessions since we may be tentatively agreeing to the final proposals or, if their last offer is unacceptable to the membership, we will need to enact contingency plans and may hold an emergency General Membership Meeting the day after the session.
Check back to the Facebook page (facebook.com/uicgeo) and Twitter (@uicgeo) for updates from the bargaining room!
You can also RSVP to the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/373462962768797/
March 12, 2013
Dear Chancellor Wise and the Board of Trustees,
The University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate Employees Organization (UIC GEO) is writing on behalf of its 1500 members to demand that you respect the collective bargaining process and immediately reach an agreement with Service Employees International United Local 73 (SEIU).
It is our understanding that the UIUC administration has engaged in bargaining that has been slow and unprofessional. Considering that SEIU has been without a contract since July 2012, we are very skeptical of your arguments that fair wages are simply unacceptable and unreasonable. While your administration typically argues that UIUC has no money, there have been Board of Trustees reports saying that the university has a $3 million reserve fund and, as such, we do not see any insurmountable hurdles to overcome for a fair contract. Ultimately, it is your role as an employer to provide job and economic security for your employees, and you can provide that by settling a contract now with SEIU. They are an integral part of the university’s function and deserve your respect both in the process of negotiations and their working conditions.
Everyone involved shares an interest in the quality of education and employment at UIUC, and you have the power to demonstrate that you value the contributing members of your institution by prioritizing their needs at these basic levels of providing them with fair wages at your institution.
On behalf of UIC GEO, we strongly urge you to return to the bargaining table and take the necessary steps to negotiate a proper contract.
The Member of UIC Graduate Employees Organization
The Steering Committee voted unanimously to endorse Ponnu Padiyara for Student Trustee. With her experience on the Undergraduate Student Council as well as the Student Fee Advisory Committee, she has dealt with a wide variety of issues that are important to GEO members, including Campus Care and increased health care coverage for members. As Student Trustee, she will work to have GEO voices heard at trustee meetings, increase the clarity of Tuition Differential proposals, and work to improve Campus Care as well. The election for Student Trustee is March 12th and 13th, so please consider voting for Ponnu Padiyara. You can vote online at: https://uicvote.uic.edu