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/

 

Aaron Finley SnowPiere WashingtonWinter RallyWinter Rally 2

 

Momentum has been building with the “Quit Playing Games With Our Hearts, UIC” Valentine’s Day Action, the Rally for Grad Employee Rights, and the Solidarity Letters to the Chancellor and Board of Trustees President. But now isn’t the time to lay down at the bargaining table. We’ve still got fees, wages, and health care to settle!
We’ll be there from 9 am to 5 pm in UH 650.

At 11 a.m. we’ll be congregating in the UH lobby because we have a GIGANTIC letter Solidarity Letter for the Chancellor and Board President that everyone–members, allies, undergrads, faculty, staff–are invited and encouraged to come sign. We’ll sign and then all bring the letter up together. We want the foot traffic to show that people support a fair contract for grad employees!!

If you can’t make it right at 11, no worries; we still want to see you there. Plus, we’ll be live tweeting and Facebooking the events happening in the room so you’ll know when the University is in the room (always a good time to visit!) or if we’re in caucus (great to visit as well because we’ll be discussing proposals which YOU the members vote on). You can follow us on Twitter @uicgeo.

 

Quit Playing Games

Yesterday’s rally was covered by graduate student journalists from Northwestern University! The weather unfortunately prevented them from making it in time to get good footage of the 70+ of us at the snowy rally, but they were able to interview several of our amazing members, including Piere Washington, Michael Muñiz, and Greg Sutliff. Check out their report!:  http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=216787

GRAD_small

UIC Graduate Employees Show Their Strength

Chicago— At noon on Tuesday, February 26th, the Graduate Employees’ Organization, a labor union representing graduate student employees at UIC, will be rallying in the UIC Quad urging the administration to be more reasonable at the bargaining table.

Graduate employees have been without a contract for the past six months and this has resulted in a wage freeze for their approximately 1,500 members. The primary points of contention include high healthcare premiums, low wages, and increasing fees. Graduate employees have demanded that their compensation match UIC’s own figure of the annual cost of living, $17,958, and the administration’s proposals have thus far fallen more than three thousand dollars below this figure.

“Rally for Graduate Employee Rights” will continue the momentum from the graduate employees’ previous event, “Show Us Some Love UIC” where graduate employees delivered hundreds of Valentine’s Day messages to the chancellor in the effort to get the Administration to be more reasonable at the bargaining table.

“UIC calls itself a world class university. But when it comes to employee compensation, benefits, and working conditions, UIC is anything but world class,” says Kevin Carey, a PhD candidate in the department of English. Grad employees find it particularly egregious that UIC has dramatically increased the salaries of many administrators already receiving very high salaries. UIC’s chancellor, for example, received a 10% raise this year, bringing her salary to $411,752.11 while grad employees receive wages well below the cost of living for Chicago and often pay thousands of dollars in fees each semester.

“UIC is a public university, and education should be its primary aim. This does not square well with the fact that those working in classrooms are receiving less than a living wage while administrative staff are drawing exorbitant salaries. UIC’s priorities are backwards,” says Greg Sutliff, a teaching assistant in the Philosophy department.

Throughout the course of negotiations, members of the union have emphasized that their work is essential to the functioning of the university. “Teaching assistants are responsible for a large amount of the undergraduate teaching at UIC, and other graduate assistants perform vital administrative duties,” says Jes Cook, a teaching assistant in the Sociology department. “UIC works because we do.”

For more information on the GEO’s “Rally for Graduate Employee Rights” and contract negotiations visit https://www.facebook.com/uicgeo and http://uic-geo.net/mainsite/

At 12pm on Tuesday, February 26th, there will be a rally for graduate employee rights in the UIC Quad. We will be showing our strength to encourage the administration to be more reasonable at the bargaining table.

Graduate employees are an essential part of UIC’s workforce. We spend countless hours teaching, grading, planning, and performing important administrative tasks. Despite this, many grad employees live below the poverty line, and many more earn much less than the $17,958 per year that UIC’s own financial aid office claims is the cost of living in Chicago. We deserve better.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, the union representing all TA’s and GA’s at UIC, has been negotiating a new contract for the past 9 months. The administration has thus far refused to offer a financial proposal that even comes close to a living wage.

Are you a friend of the UIC GEO?  Want to see them receive a fair contract settled quickly?  Then send a letter of solidarity to the Chancellor and Board of Trustees!  You can use the letter below by signing it and mailing it on either via email or snail mail.

In Solidarity with the University of Illinois Graduate Students and the Graduate Employee’s Organization           

The Graduate Employees’ Organization sent the following letter to Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares on Valentine’s Day:

February 14, 2013

Dear Chancellor Allen-Meares:

We, the members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization representing 1500 Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants  at the University of Illinois-Chicago, are here at your office today to wish you a “Happy Valentine’s Day” and demand a fair contract.  As you are most likely aware, we’ve been bargaining since May of last year and while we presented your administration with a comprehensive proposal on the first day, we never received a fully comprehensive counterproposal and had to wait until this past December to receive a financial counter.

The remaining articles are predominantly financial.  Wages, health care, and fees are of the greatest concern because currently, our minimum wage is $14,565, well below your administration’s own calculation of $17,958 for the cost of living in Chicago[1].  Considering the fact that our members teach a disproportionately large number of the undergraduates and perform a wide range of the administrative duties for your university, our wage seems especially inadequate.  Add to that the exorbitant cost of tuition differentials that many of us have to pay on a semester-to-semester basis simply to go to school at UIC as well as the rest of the fees which can run in excess of $500 per semester and you can see why it’s immensely difficult for us to make ends meet.

That’s why it’s frustrating and baffling when we offer a wage proposal that’s below the cost of living in Chicago and your administration maintains it’s “too high,” especially when considering the almost 10% raise that you received, bumping your salary from $375,000 in 2011 to $411,752.11 in 2012[2].  We know that your university isn’t broke, so please, keep your raise, but give us our fair share as well.  We love this university which is why we continue to study and work here, but if you expect your university to continue to run smoothly, we need to see some love in return from your administration in the form of fair wages and increased fee and health care waivers.

Ultimately we want to remind you that UIC works because we do.

Sincerely,

The Members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization

My (electronic) signature on this document indicates that I stand in solidarity with the 1500 UIC graduate students who have worked without a contract in six months (from the date this petition was created; 16Feb13).

UIC WORKS BECAUSE WE DO. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

NAME: _______________________________ DATE: _________________________

 

INSTITUTION: ________________________

 

EMAIL: ________________________

 

PLEASE EMAIL OR SNAIL MAIL TO THE INDIVIDUALS AT THE FOLLOWING ADDRESSES:

Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares
 2833 University Hall MC 102
, 601 S. Morgan, Chicago, IL 60607-7128 
Email: pameares@uic.edu

Christopher Kennedy, President of Board of Trustees 
352 Henry Administration Building, MC-350, 
506 S. Wright St.,
 Urbana, IL 61801

Email: UIBOT@uillinois.edu

 

Chicago—The Graduate Employees’ Organization, a labor union representing graduate student employees at UIC, has been without a contract for the past six months. This has resulted in a wage freeze for their approximately 1,500 members. The primary points of contention include high healthcare premiums, low wages, and increasing fees. Graduate employees have demanded that their compensation match UIC’s own figure of the annual cost of living, $17,958, and the administration’s proposals have thus far fallen more than three thousand dollars below this figure.

At noon on Valentine’s Day, graduate employees will be urging the administration to not break their hearts, as they deliver hundreds of Valentine’s Day messages to the chancellor in the effort to get the Administration to be more reasonable at the bargaining table.

“UIC calls itself a world class university. But when it comes to employee compensation, benefits, and working conditions, UIC is anything but world class,” says Kevin Carey, a PhD candidate in the department of English. Grad employees find it particularly egregious that UIC has dramatically increased the salaries of many administrators already receiving very high salaries. UIC’s chancellor, for example, received a 10% raise this year, bringing her salary to $411,752.11 while grad employees receive wages well below the cost of living for Chicago and often pay thousands of dollars in fees each semester.

“UIC is a public university, and education should be its primary aim. This does not square well with the fact that those working in classrooms are receiving less than a living wage while administrative staff are drawing exorbitant salaries. UIC’s priorities are backwards,” says Greg Sutliff, a teaching assistant in the Philosophy department.

Throughout the course of negotiations, members of the union have emphasized that their work is essential to the functioning of the university. “Teaching assistants are responsible for a large amount of the undergraduate teaching at UIC, and other graduate assistants perform vital administrative duties,” says Jes Cook, a teaching assistant in the Sociology department. “UIC works because we do.”

For more information on the GEO’s “Show Us Some Love, UIC” campaign and contract negotiations visit https://www.facebook.com/uicgeo and http://uic-geo.net/mainsite/

Show us some love 2

With a bargaining session coming up that deals directly with the remaining issues, including economics like wages, fees, and health care, it’s more important than ever that GEO members fill out the Strike Survey, located here:http://bit.ly/Ylf4Kj

Your input is invaluable because it will help the bargaining team prioritize these very important remaining issues. Ultimately it’s your contract, so you have the say!

Once you’ve filled out the Strike Survey, join your colleagues for the General Membership Meeting on Wednesday, February 6th from 5:30 pm-7:30 pm in the Hull House Dining Hall (800 S. Halsted St.). There will be a bargaining report back from Monday’s session, a discussion of survey results, and an open discussion of what next steps you the members want to take. Food will be provided, so see you there!

RSVP on Facebook!  http://www.facebook.com/events/458333187554553/