University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate Employees Organization (UIC-GEO), IFT/AFT AFL-CIO Local 6297 Statement on the 2016 Election

Dear GEO Members,

Tuesday’s election brought many changes to our government, some we can already fathom and others that will only be revealed in the coming weeks and months. Based on the election results, it is almost certain that higher education and organized labor will face new and continued challenges at multiple levels, from the ongoing Illinois budget crisis to the strong possibility of the Supreme Court and National Labor Relations Board taking away key worker protections.

On another level, many of us at UIC—GEO members, colleagues, and undergraduate students—are fearful of what will happen next simply because of who we are and where we are from. We, as the GEO and as individuals, must do our best to support one another and show students, colleagues, friends, families and communities that we will always have their backs. We also have to advocate in areas where our voices may carry more weight based on who we are and where we are from.

We have to organize. At UIC, we must support one another and enforce our contract year round to maintain our protections and our dignity as graduate student workers. Our next contract campaign will officially begin this spring and we need to be prepared to not only defend, but expand our rights. Crucially, we will have to maintain a high number of voting members, because if the university believes our union does not have the majority of grad employees behind it, we risk losing leverage at the bargaining table and losing tangible benefits.

So we call on everyone to please:

  • Become a departmental steward if you have a few extra hours each month. Stewards help enforce the contract and advocate for members facing unfair and discriminatory labor practices (you can also join the Grievance, Outreach, or Communications committees)
  • Sign up members in your departments so that we have robust membership numbers.  This is absolutely critical to maintaining our right to collectively bargain with the university.
    • Email staff@uic-geo.net for a list of people in your department who are not currently signed up as voting members (people who have not yet signed a yellow card)
    • Contact members of the steering committee and our GEO staff if you would like someone to go with you to sign up new members (list of contacts here)
  • If you want to support our membership and communities more broadly, consider getting involved in our Outreach Committee (eahallgren@gmail.com), where we connect to local movements beyond the union (here are just a few groups we’d like to reach out to going forward; send us information on other groups you are involved with so we can try to connect with them):

Our union is what we make of it – our successes are the result of the committed efforts of all of us as members. And we know we are better off fighting for our rights together, rather than struggling alone.