Good news, fellow GEO members, the University and the Union came to a tentative agreement on a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement (CBA) last Wednesday, February 10th! We made some important gains and we want to let you know what they are:
- Wages: The minimum wage will be raised $700 in 2015-16 (raising the minimum to $16,765), $700 in 2016-17 ($17,465), and $600 in 2017-18 ($18,065). The previous contract had raises of $500 each year. Back pay at the new minimum will be given to all assistants currently in the bargaining unit. Back pay amounts are based on the duration and percentage of appointment.
- Healthcare: The University contribution towards Campus Care fees will be $200 or 35% in 2015-16, $250 or 40% in 2016-17 (whichever is greater), and $275 or 40% in 2017-18. The previous contract had the following fee coverage: $125, $150 or 33%, and $175 or 33%.
- Leaves and Holidays: The new contract includes one paid personal day per semester, which we did not have in the previous contract.
- Nondiscrimination: We gained increased protections under our nondiscrimination clause by adding “gender identity and gender expression” and “pregnancy” as protected statuses. We were also able to change the language throughout the contract to include gender neutral pronouns to make sure the language of our contract represents all of our members.
- Other workplace issues: We added a way to address consistently late course assignments, and a few tools to address concerns with the University between now and the next bargaining cycle.
Additionally, we limited the effect of the University’s proposals. We were able to get the University to drop their attack on tuition waivers and come to recognize that they are essential to both union members and the University. The University wanted us to take a five year contract, which we rejected in order to maintain a three year contract. The shorter contract cycle means more members can be involved in negotiations, and it gives us more frequent opportunities to push for better working conditions. The University wanted to drop the percentage coverage of our health care fees in favor of just a flat fee, but we got them to agree to cover more of our health care fees and increase the percentage. The University originally wanted us to change our contract to require us to show majority status the day before we even know who is in our bargaining unit, and we pushed back hard to get a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that requires a one-time card showing within three months of ratifying the contract. This MOU will not be incorporated into our official contract language, and it will sunset when this contract expires, which means that it will not be included as an item for renegotiation during the next round of contract negotiations.
None of these gains would be possible without a large, active, and informed membership and tireless efforts by all of the volunteer leaders and our two staff within the GEO. The administration wanted us to take a 5-year wage freeze, but instead we got the biggest raise in our union’s history. They wanted to possibly take away our tuition waivers, but we successfully safeguarded them. They wanted to bust our union, but we fought to protect our union– a fight that we will have to continue in the coming weeks, months, and years. And we managed to accomplish all of this in the context of an unprecedentedly hostile political environment in Illinois, with an ongoing state budget crisis and with an anti-union governor.
Now it is up to you. Come to our polling stations at UH, SPHI and ERF on the dates and times listed below and cast your vote on whether the Union should ratify this agreement. There will be members at every polling station to answer any questions you have about the new contract.
Contract Ratification Vote
Locations of polling stations:
Lobbies of University Hall (at Harrison St and Morgan St), School of Public Health and Psychiatric Institute (Taylor St and Ashland Ave) and Engineering Research Facility (Halsted St and Taylor St)
Monday February 29th, from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM (UH and ERF)
Tuesday March 1st, from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM (UH, ERF, SPHPI)
Wednesday March 2nd, from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM (UH, ERF, SPHPI)
The GEO will hold a training for everyone interested in helping out with the membership drive and ratification vote. This will cover everything you need to know to sign up GAs and TAs as members, as well as information about the proposed contract.
The training will be on Thursday, February 25 from 4-5:30 pm at the GEO office (815 W. Van Buren, Suite 203). Dinner will be provided; please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.