After a marathon thirteen hour mediation session with the university’s bargaining team yesterday, the GEO bargaining team emerged with an agreement that will protect tuition waivers, increase job security, and made important gains on minimum stipends and the university contribution to health insurance.

Because of your organizing, emails, letters of support, and attendance at Monday’s successful  rally, the bargaining team was able to walk away from the table with a contract that makes important gains, and protects the benefits we currently have. Because of your hard work, the UIC administration got our message that we could not agree to a contract that put our tuition waivers at risk.

Next week, GEO members will vote on whether to ratify the agreement (time and place to be announced soon) which includes

* Tuition waiver security

* 2% increase to the minimum stipend in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years.

* Increased university contribution to health insurance from $100 per year to $250 per year.

* Greater job security through strengthened language about appointment and re-appointment criteria

* Guaranteed on time pay, even at the beginning of the school year

* Grads must receive appointment letters 45 days in advance of appointments, except in the case of late appointments

* Academic-year (9-month) pay guaranteed for those currently paid that way.

* Grads may enroll children in the UIC childcare center, and pay according to an income-based sliding scale

* Increased transparency in tuition differentials and fees.

At the ratification meeting, full copies of the new agreement will be available.

In solidarity,GEO Strategic Contract Campaign Committee

1. GEO Calendar

2. I’m in a hurry. What do I need to know?

3. RESULTS OF BARGAINING SIDE-BAR

4. YOUR RIGHT TO STRIKE

 

1. Calendar

TODAY, April 1, 5:00 PM: GEO EMERGENCY STRIKE MEETING, room 302 SCE.TODAY AND TOMORROW, April 1-2: Online Voting. Details forthcoming.MONDAY, April 5, 8:00 AM: GEO TUITION WAIVER AND DIFFERENTIAL RALLY, campus side SCE

2. Summary

Teaching and Graduate Assistants represented by the Graduate Employees Organization have the right to strike under Illinois and Federal laws. The GEO asks that members withhold their labor and not cross picket lines, that undergraduates and faculty join us in solidarity, and that faculty move their classes off-campus or cancel them. Help keep GEO members off the picket lines and in the classroom by joining our email campaign: http://xrl.us/bg28yt. Read below for more detailed information.

 

3. MEDIATION SIDE-BAR

At last Friday’s mediation session, the university’s Chief Negotiator, Tom Riley, agreed to call us on Wednesday to present us with counter-offers to some of the proposals we had not yet agreed on. Unfortunately, the university brought nothing new to the table concerning guaranteeing tuition waivers or giving graduate employees a say in tuition differentials.

We communicated to the university’s Chief Negotiator that we were concerned that their proposal on tuition waivers allowed for a variety of practices that would reduce or eliminate waivers for graduate employees. If we agree to their proposed tuition waiver and differential language, our waivers would be less secure, and we still wouldn’t have any say in tuition differentials.

4. YOUR RIGHT TO STRIKE

Because the university did not indicate a willingness to guarantee our tuition waivers or give us a say in tuition differentials, we must now seriously consider a strike as a way to communicate how much we care about these issues to the administration. The GEO has been receiving many questions about how a strike would work, and we plan to fully inform our members at today’s EMERGENCY STRIKE MEETING at 5 pm in room 302 of SCE (note room change). In the meantime, here is some information that will help explain what your rights are as a worker and how a strike would work.

Q: Is it legal for graduate employees to strike?

Yes. If we go on strike, it will be a legal strike. All Teaching and Graduate Assistants whose appointments are between .25 and .67 FTE may legally withhold their labor when the GEO leadership calls a strike.

Q: Who can strike?

Anyone who is currently a Teaching Assistant or a Graduate Assistant between 0.25 and 0.67 FTE may legally withhold their labor. Research Assistants MAY NOT withhold labor, but we ask that RAs walk the picket lines in solidarity with us before and after their work hours.

If you have a question about whether you are legally able to withhold your labor, don’t guess — please call the GEO office or email GEO organizing staff at staff@uic-geo.net to confirm that you are legally allowed to strike if you have any questions.

Q: Do I teach or assist classes or perform my GA duties in the event of a strike?

No. Strike participants should not do any work associated with their jobs as Teaching or Graduate Assistants. We will be withholding our labor in these capacities as a tactic to show the university how valuable we are to the UIC community, and how UIC can’t work unless we do. Our goal during a strike would be to shut down as many classes, offices, and other workplaces as possible so that we can have a strategic, targeted effect on university operations. The more grads who participate in a strike, the shorter it will be.

Q: Should I continue to attend and do work for my own classes?

Yes. We will only be withholding labor related to our status as GAs or TAs. You should still do all of work associated with your own graduate courses.

We hope that faculty members will agree to cancel classes or move them off campus in solidarity with the GEO to prevent people from crossing picket lines. Talk to your professors about the possibility of a strike to let them know that if they continue to hold classes as normal, they will be crossing a picket line, and asking their students to cross a picket line. Ask if they are willing to consider moving their classes to an off-campus location if they are not willing to cancel them.

Q: Can I go inside picketed buildings to get things from my office during a strike?

No. Striking graduate employees should get everything they think they might need from their offices before the strike begins to avoid crossing picket lines. Keep faculty in your department informed about strike plans as well so they can also avoid crossing picket lines to retrieve items or for any other reasons.

Q: Can the university dock my pay? How much?

Yes. The university may only dock the pay of graduate employees who withhold their labor. For example, if you withhold your labor and walk the picket lines during one hour that you were scheduled to teach a class, the university may dock you for one hour of pay.

The burden of proof is on the university to show that you missed work because you were on strike. The administration may ask faculty and students to report their TAs and GAs. Please talk with your students and faculty, and ask them not to report you for any missed work, and to explain to them the reasons that we are on strike. Ask them to walk the picket lines in solidarity with us, and that they honor picket lines by not crossing them.

Q: What can the GEO do to help me if the university docks my pay?

The university has the legal right to dock the pay of employees who withhold their labor, but they can only dock pay for the hours the employee would have been working. In order to do this, the university would have to determine which grad employees withheld their labor, which will be difficult for them to do. Graduate employees have no obligation to self-report whether they withheld labor, even if the university asks.

In the event that the university does dock anyone’s pay, the GEO has set aside a $50,000 Strike Fund to assist employees who experience hardship as a result of their lost pay. In addition, in the event that a strike would continue beyond five days, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) provides interest-free loans to striking employees.

Q: Can the university retaliate against me for participating in a strike?

No. Retaliation against striking employees is illegal under Illinois and federal laws. GEO will aggressively pursue each reported case of retaliation. If, for example you don’t get an assistantship next fall and you expected to get one, please contact the union immediately to discuss your case. Even if you are not sure whether you are retaliated against for going on strike, you should contact the union.

Union activity is protected under Illinois and federal laws. The more visible you are as a union activist and supporter, the more protected you are against retaliation. The more visibly active you are in participating in the strike, the more protected you are against retaliation.

Q: How can I sign up to walk picket lines?

Please sign up for picket shifts. To do so, talk to your departmental steward to fill out a picket signup form. If you don’t know your steward or don’t have one, contact the GEO Strike Committee at strike@uic-geo.net to sign up, or call the GEO office any time at 312-491-1808.

Please sign up for as many picket shifts as possible. To win a strike, we need hundreds of GEO members on the lines all day.

Q: Where can I get more information?

The GEO website is an excellent resource, and we encourage you to direct your students and faculty members there for more information. You can also ask your departmental steward, email us at geo@uic-geo.net, or call the GEO office at 312-491-1808.

You may have seen the email this morning from John Loya, Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and R. Michael Tanner, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, regarding contract negotiations between the GEO and the UIC administration. We are writing to clarify some of their points.

Through the use of federal mediation, the union and the university have come to agreement on several important provisions, including clearer and more timely appointment letters, improvements in class size contract language, and more transparency in departmental appointment and re-appointment criteria. We’re happy that we have come closer to agreement on many of these outstanding issues. The university’s recent offer of greater subsidies for health care is also step in the right direction, but we are well aware that these subsidies cannot provide greater economic security if the administration retains the right to offset them by diminishing our tuition waivers and increasing tuition differentials.

Given that reality, we wondered why Loya and Tanner’s email mentioned nothing about the key outstanding issues that the GEO is negotiating for: tuition waiver security, and a say in tuition differentials. After a year of negotiations, the UIC administration must know that these are the major issues for GEO members, and that waivers and differentials remain the issues that GEO members are considering striking over.

Given that securing tuition waivers would cost the university nothing, their appeals to the University’s financial hardship are disingenuous at best. In fact, we are well aware of the university’s hardship, and this is the reason that it is so important for us to protect what we have now.

The university’s most recent proposal on waivers and differentials would be a step backward, and would make our waivers less secure than they are, and do nothing to give us a say in tuition differentials. If we accepted their proposed contract language on waivers and differentials, departments would be able to grant partial waivers, limit waivers to certain classes of students (such as only granting waivers to PhD students), or otherwise restrict waivers in ways that would threaten our future here at UIC.

The GEO bargaining team remains committed to reaching an agreement with the university which includes tuition waiver protection and gives us a say in tuition differentials on Monday.

Remember that we will deliver this message at our RALLY on Monday at 8:00 AM on the campus side of Student Center East. We know 8:00 is an early time for a rally, but this is our last opportunity to keep grads at UIC off the picket lines and in the classroom, so please come ready to chant and cheer in support of a contract for grad employees which includes tuition waiver protection and gives us a say in tuition differentials. Invite your undergraduates and faculty members to rally with us.

Also come to the EMERGENCY STRIKE MEETING today at 5:00 PM in SCE room 302 to cast your vote on whether GEO members will go on strike next week. Online voting will be available this afternoon, with instructions forthcoming.