Here we are: it’s the first bargaining session of the spring semester (due to the university cancelling the past two sessions) and after 7 months of bargaining with the university, we finally received an economic proposal from them only to find out they want to decrease the wages of graduate employees. Find out more from co-president Marissa Baker’s blog post

Ready to say “Enough!”? Then head on over to the GEO Bargaining Session this Monday, February 4th from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. in University Hall room 650. We’ll be discussing wages, health care, fees: all major issues! Even if you can only make it for a little while, join us at the table!

Check out our Facebook event page here:  http://www.facebook.com/events/318674734911248/?context=create

It’s the start of the spring semester and the GEO is in the midst of bargaining! So what better way to celebrate than having a GEO social from 5-7 p.m. on this Thursday, January 24th in the GEO office (815 W. Van Buren suite 203, on the corner of Halsted and Van Buren). Food and drinks will be provided, so come on over, chat with your fellow GEO members, and discuss your ideas for settling the best contract possible.

I am 6th year PhD student in the department of English at UIC. I work the equivalent of two full-time
jobs. But I can’t make ends meet.

When I began my PhD work here, I had already obtained a master’s degree – so I was no stranger to the rigors of academic work. It came as no surprise when a colleague of mine calculated that based upon the average reading load per semester and the average number of minutes it takes to read a page of academic prose, just the act of reading in our program was a 40/week job (38.8 hours/week of assigned reading). I would expect no less of graduate school.

In addition to this work, however, as a condition of my enrollment, I was also teaching 2 sections of composition. As comp is required for all UIC undergraduates, these courses usually fill to max capacity – 23 students. The First-Year Writing Program requires that these students complete four writing projects totaling 20 pages of finished work by the end of the semester. Each writing project must go through at least two drafts. Putting my rusty math skills to use: 2 x 23 x 20 x 2 = 1,840 pages of
freshman writing to be read, evaluated, and constructively commented upon per semester, in addition to
my 40 hours a week of assigned reading. I haven’t even factored in yet the time spent in the classroom
(both attending class and teaching it); working on, writing my own research; and applying for grants or
to conferences and publications. I won’t even mention time for pesky things like friends, family, and
exercise.

But again, I didn’t enter academia in order to pursue a life of leisure. Quite the contrary, my teaching
has been a huge source of fulfillment for me, and has informed my scholarship in ways I could never
have predicted. My problem is not that I have to work hard. My problem is that, while it ought to be
clear that I am working the equivalent of two full-time jobs, I still can’t make ends meet.

According to the cost of living calculator on UIC’s Financial Aid webpage, the cost of living in
Chicago for 2012-2013 is $17, 958. (It is worth mentioning that many other independent assessments
set this figure significantly higher.) Currently, I am paid $15, 500. Every year I am forced to choose
between taking on outside work (with the effect of slowing down my progress toward degree, and
extending my indentured servitude), or taking out loans and falling further into debt. Besides the
situation being untenable, it is unconscionable of UIC to tell its graduate students (who, by the way,
teach over one third of all undergraduate students) that despite all the hard work they do, they don’t
deserve a living wage. UIC calls itself a world class university. But, when it comes to employee
compensation, benefits, and working conditions, UIC is anything but world class.

Kevin Carey

UPDATE:  Bargaining session has been cancelled by the university due to a member of their team having an ongoing family emergency.

It’s the first bargaining session of the spring semester (due to the university cancelling Friday’s session) and after 7 months of bargaining with the university, we finally received an economic proposal from them only to find out they want to decrease the wages of graduate employees. Find out more from co-president Marissa Baker’s blog post: http://uic-geo.net/blog/?p=183 Ready to say “Enough!”? Then head on over to the GEO Bargaining Session this Wednesday, January 23rd, from 8:30 am-5 p.m. in University Hall room 650. We’ll be discussing wages, health care, fees: all major issues! Even if you can only make it for a little while, join us at the table!

You can invite your friends and/or RSVP on our Facebook event page here:  http://www.facebook.com/events/491183524266897/

On December 17, 2012, the University’s representatives finally gave the GEO a comprehensive proposal on economic issues for the next graduate employee contract. As you may know, negotiations with the University began on May 16 when over 50 of us showed up to present a comprehensive proposal to the University. Almost 7 months to the day, the University informed us that it will not be raising the wages of graduate employees, failing to account for inflation and the increased cost of living in Chicago. Since the minimum wage for graduate employees is already well below the University’s own estimate for the cost of living in Chicago, their proposal is effectively a decrease in our already low wages.

As a graduate student and employee of one of Chicago’s best universities, I am disappointed. GEO’s motto has never meant more to me than it does now: UIC works because we do. Graduate employees are an important part of the day-to-day operations of the University. We work hard for this University in the classroom and at our jobs, and in return the University decreases our wages. I have colleagues who have tens of thousands of dollars in debt, who qualify for welfare and Medicaid, because UIC refuses to pay us a living wage.

Why did it take the University so long to give us this pathetic proposal? It is part of their strategy. They are hoping that we are too tired and stressed to bother fighting for our rights as workers. They are waiting for us to quit, to turn back to our studies and our families, and say enough. I say, enough. Enough with austerity for graduate employees and not for administrators. UIC’s Chancellor received an almost 10% raise, earning $375,000 in 2011 and $411,752.11 in 2012. Enough debt. Enough second jobs. Enough stalling! On Friday, we are scheduled to meet with the University for an all day bargaining session with a federal mediator. Now more than ever we need everyone in GEO to show up and let the University know that a decrease in our wages is not acceptable, that their strategy of delay is not going to work. We have the power to put pressure on the University when we stand together. Our union is strong because we are strong together and are ready to stand up for our rights and say ENOUGH!

Join us at the table on Wednesday, January 23rd, University Hall, Room 650 8:30-5:00: come at any time for as long as you can stay.

In solidarity,
Marissa Baker
GEO Co-President