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/