February 21, 2011

To Whom It May Concern:

As the many thousands of protesters in Madison, and around Wisconsin, the United States, and the world have been demonstrating for days, the bill currently up for consideration by the Wisconsin State Senate known as the “Budget Repair Bill” is not genuinely directed at repairing the state budget. By its provisions, it would destroy nearly all public sector unions with its provisions that prohibit collective bargaining on even the most basic provisions of their members’ working conditions. The three unions exempted from this assault are the police, firefighter, and state patrol unions that supported Governor Walker during his candidacy, and it is this fact that makes clear the bill’s true intent: destroying the voice of those public workers of Wisconsin who challenge Governor Walker’s neo-liberal policies. If the destruction of unions were necessary to the fiscal health of the state, as Governor Walker seems to believe, surely these three exempted unions ought to be included. The obvious conclusion is that this bill is a euphemistically-named means to an altogether different end that would return Wisconsin to labor policies not seen in the state since the middle of the 1800s. It would mimic the labor policies for teachers in the states which perform among the worst in education on nearly every statistical measure.

For all these reasons, with the goal of protecting the voices of the public workers of Wisconsin, protecting public education and other government services, and preserving the democratic right of all people to speak out against oppression, we, the Graduate Employees Organization at the University of Illinois at Chicago, stand with our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin who will not back down from this fight. We applaud their spirit, their tenacity, their message, and their methods, and we join in their battle because it is also our own. Right now it is the workers of Wisconsin who have been targeted. But those of us who fight for the same causes of justice, equality, and democracy in other locations understand that this is not just an attack on the working people of Wisconsin. An injury to one is an injury to all, and we add our voices with theirs to say that we will not stand for this! Not in Wisconsin, not anywhere. We applaud those union members and activists who led the march to take over the capitol building.  We applaud those Senators who have taken a stand to prevent this bill from being rammed through the legislature. We applaud all those who stand for a democracy in America that has actual meaning behind it, rather merely than a hollow appeal to an empty symbolism.

We call on all who share these goals of justice, equality, and democracy to join with the workers of Wisconsin and their friends in this struggle against oppression.

In solidarity,
Steering Committee
UIC Graduate Employees’ Organization

Use this form to keep track of the number of hours that you work during a semester. Remember to include all of your work duties and to file your completed form for safekeeping. If you think your job requires you to work more hours per week than you are being paid for, please contact us right away!

101111_GEO_Hours_Tracking_PDF

International graduate employees have the right to participate in their union, and have the right to all legal forms of speech and association. The university may not retaliate against international students for participation in union activities, and union participation may not be used as a consideration when reviewing your visa application.

Please see the attached informational flyer to learn more about your right to participate in union activities.

 

International_Grads_Rights

The first pay day of the Fall semester is Thursday, September 16. To make sure that you will be paid on time, please check your NESSIE earnings statement immediately. You can access NESSIE at http://nessie.uihr.uillinois.edu.

If your September 16 paycheck does not appear in NESSIE today, please contact your department payroll administrator IMMEDIATELY to track down the problem.

For those whose September 16 paycheck does not appear in NESSIE today, there is a chance that the university can put through a “payroll adjustment” for you, but you need to contact your departmental payroll administrator TODAY to make that happen.

Last year, as many as 300 graduate employees weren’t paid on the first pay day. Because of the extreme financial hardship that late pay puts on graduate employees, GEO has been working all summer to ensure that GEO members will be paid on time this year. Please check NESSIE as soon as you can, and contact your departmental payroll administrator today if you do not see a paycheck being processed for you for September 16.

NESSIE Instructions

1. Visit https://nessie.uihr.uillinois.edu

2. Click on the COMPENSATION tab.

3. Under “Pay & Taxes” select “Earnings Statement”

4. Follow any additional instructions to gain access.

Response to Chancellor Allen-Meares Statement on Negotiations

By Joe Iosbaker, Chief Steward, UIC Clerical Unit, SEIU Local 73

On August 10th, the Chancellor sent a letter to every employee and student at UIC. While we won’t have the opportunity to get our response to every student and non-union employee, our members and supporters need to hear the truth.

Who’s Greedy?

The Chancellor painted a picture of greedy public employees, asking for 20% raises in a time of economic crisis. She claimed that UIC treats “… all our employees — whether unionized or not — fairly and equitably.”

Neither of these statements is true.

Is Local 73 asking for 20% raises? No. The proposal from the Clerical bargaining committee is for 8.25% over 3 years.

Does UIC treat all employees fairly and equitably? No, unless everyone received a 37% increase like President Hogan, who is now being paid $620,000 – not to mention the $245,000 bonus he’ll receive over five years. Or an 85% increase like his assistant, now being paid $195,000 a year, up from the $105,000 a year salary that President Ikenberry’s assistant was making.

She didn’t mention her own salary: she was hired in 2008 at $375,000 a year, nearly a $50,000 raise over her predecessor. She also didn’t mention the $500,000 spent to rehab and furnish her mansion, provided to her rent free.

The Chancellor’s letter claimed, “Frankly, we cannot afford double digit pay increases, nor are there market or cost-of-living factors which would support such increases.” Apparently she wasn’t referring to the top administrators.

She didn’t mention management estimates that Local 73 members at UIC earn an average of $35,000 a year, and this only after fighting for raises for the past 20 years. At this salary, a 2.75% increase would be $975 a year.

Local 73 members aren’t greedy. We’re just not willing to have the budget crisis balanced on our backs while top administrators get exorbitant salaries, raises and perks.

The Ugly Truth

Local 73 has stated since the first day of negotiations over a year ago that our top priority is job security for our members. Hundreds of Civil Service jobs have been eliminated in recent years, replaced by Academic Professionals (APs). Management has refused to even discuss the issue at the table.

Because of this, Local 73 had to approach legislators in Springfield, and the directors of the State University Civil Service System (SUCSS). On August 11th, six State Senators convened a hearing near campus to hear testimony about UIC, where witnesses included the director of SUCSS, and members and representatives of SEIU Local 73. UIC refused requests from legislators to send administrators to testify.

SUCSS director Tom Morelock explained that they have audited UIC twice in recent years, reviewing AP positions exempted from Civil Service going back to 2004. Of the hundreds of positions created and reviewed, in their two audits they found 61% and 67% should have remained Civil Service. Mr. Morelock explained the frustrating three year long effort to reform UIC’s practice. The co-chair of the hearing, Sen. John Sullivan, a member of the Higher Education committee, asked Mr. Morelock, “Do you see this level of problem with other universities in the state?” Morelock answered, “No.”

Local 73 President Christine Boardman exposed that UIC’s practice is discriminatory at its core. “The University is deliberately pursuing a strategy to take people out of Civil Service.” The unionized Civil Service workers at UIC are over 90% Black and Latino, while it appears the majority of Academic Professionals are white. The exact percentages are not known, as UIC has failed to respond to Freedom of Information requests filed by Local 73. Also, President Boardman showed that the wage disparity has grown in recent years between the predominantly white Civil Service workers in Urbana and the mainly Black and Latino work force in Chicago.

In response to the facts about UIC, Local 73 Vice President Phil Martini proposed that UIC should lose its exemption authority. That is, the Vice Chancellor of HR, John Loya, should no longer be able to exempt a position from Civil Service. Sen. Maggie Crotty, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), declared that she would take that recommendation to JCAR.

Appeal to the Chancellor

Local 73 members work hard. We’ve suffered hundreds of job losses in recent years. As a result, many of us are doing the work of two or three co-workers. The Customer Service Representatives in the Medical Center have almost tripled their work loads over the past six years. There are only half as many Building Service Workers as there used to be. The number of patients seen in the medical center has grown from fewer than 200,000 visits a year to 500,000 visits a year, and our members have shouldered the burden.

Our families are experiencing more unemployment. We come from communities with a growing rate of home foreclosures. We need our modest raises. And we deserve to be treated with respect. HR has engaged in bad faith bargaining. We’re faced with doing something we’ve never had to do: we’ve decided to strike if we can’t get contracts.

It’s up to you, Chancellor.

SEIU Local 73 workers at UIC filed an intent to strike notice on Friday, August 6 after a year of contract negotiation. Below is a letter of support UIC-GEO leadership sent to SEIU workers to show our solidarity with them.

To SEIU Local 73 Workers:

The UIC GEO would like to offer our full support for SEIU workers who are considering a strike after a full year of contract negotiations with no progress.

We stand in solidarity with our fellow workers at UIC, who do the important work of keeping UIC running on a day-to-day basis. Last academic year, the university argued that they hadn’t been paid what they were owed by the state, which put them in a financial crisis and necessitated salary freezes and other draconian measures. As skeptical as we were last year about these excuses, we are even less willing to accept such a narrative this year, when the university has received all of the money they were owed for the prior fiscal year, as well as 80% of the money they are owed for this year. We refuse to accept the excuse that the university has no money for some of its most essential workers when the new president will earn $170,000 more this year than the president did last year.

There is no reason why the university can’t support SEIU workers by giving them a fair contract that offers financial security. We implore the university to treat SEIU workers with the respect they deserve by offering them a fair contract during one of their upcoming mediation sessions. Should the university fail to do so, we will support SEIU workers in their right to strike.

In Solidarity,

The Leadership of UIC-GEO

After a marathon thirteen hour mediation session with the university’s bargaining team yesterday, the GEO bargaining team emerged with an agreement that will protect tuition waivers, increase job security, and made important gains on minimum stipends and the university contribution to health insurance.

Because of your organizing, emails, letters of support, and attendance at Monday’s successful  rally, the bargaining team was able to walk away from the table with a contract that makes important gains, and protects the benefits we currently have. Because of your hard work, the UIC administration got our message that we could not agree to a contract that put our tuition waivers at risk.

Next week, GEO members will vote on whether to ratify the agreement (time and place to be announced soon) which includes

* Tuition waiver security

* 2% increase to the minimum stipend in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years.

* Increased university contribution to health insurance from $100 per year to $250 per year.

* Greater job security through strengthened language about appointment and re-appointment criteria

* Guaranteed on time pay, even at the beginning of the school year

* Grads must receive appointment letters 45 days in advance of appointments, except in the case of late appointments

* Academic-year (9-month) pay guaranteed for those currently paid that way.

* Grads may enroll children in the UIC childcare center, and pay according to an income-based sliding scale

* Increased transparency in tuition differentials and fees.

At the ratification meeting, full copies of the new agreement will be available.

In solidarity,GEO Strategic Contract Campaign Committee

1. GEO Calendar

2. I’m in a hurry. What do I need to know?

3. RESULTS OF BARGAINING SIDE-BAR

4. YOUR RIGHT TO STRIKE

 

1. Calendar

TODAY, April 1, 5:00 PM: GEO EMERGENCY STRIKE MEETING, room 302 SCE.TODAY AND TOMORROW, April 1-2: Online Voting. Details forthcoming.MONDAY, April 5, 8:00 AM: GEO TUITION WAIVER AND DIFFERENTIAL RALLY, campus side SCE

2. Summary

Teaching and Graduate Assistants represented by the Graduate Employees Organization have the right to strike under Illinois and Federal laws. The GEO asks that members withhold their labor and not cross picket lines, that undergraduates and faculty join us in solidarity, and that faculty move their classes off-campus or cancel them. Help keep GEO members off the picket lines and in the classroom by joining our email campaign: http://xrl.us/bg28yt. Read below for more detailed information.

 

3. MEDIATION SIDE-BAR

At last Friday’s mediation session, the university’s Chief Negotiator, Tom Riley, agreed to call us on Wednesday to present us with counter-offers to some of the proposals we had not yet agreed on. Unfortunately, the university brought nothing new to the table concerning guaranteeing tuition waivers or giving graduate employees a say in tuition differentials.

We communicated to the university’s Chief Negotiator that we were concerned that their proposal on tuition waivers allowed for a variety of practices that would reduce or eliminate waivers for graduate employees. If we agree to their proposed tuition waiver and differential language, our waivers would be less secure, and we still wouldn’t have any say in tuition differentials.

4. YOUR RIGHT TO STRIKE

Because the university did not indicate a willingness to guarantee our tuition waivers or give us a say in tuition differentials, we must now seriously consider a strike as a way to communicate how much we care about these issues to the administration. The GEO has been receiving many questions about how a strike would work, and we plan to fully inform our members at today’s EMERGENCY STRIKE MEETING at 5 pm in room 302 of SCE (note room change). In the meantime, here is some information that will help explain what your rights are as a worker and how a strike would work.

Q: Is it legal for graduate employees to strike?

Yes. If we go on strike, it will be a legal strike. All Teaching and Graduate Assistants whose appointments are between .25 and .67 FTE may legally withhold their labor when the GEO leadership calls a strike.

Q: Who can strike?

Anyone who is currently a Teaching Assistant or a Graduate Assistant between 0.25 and 0.67 FTE may legally withhold their labor. Research Assistants MAY NOT withhold labor, but we ask that RAs walk the picket lines in solidarity with us before and after their work hours.

If you have a question about whether you are legally able to withhold your labor, don’t guess — please call the GEO office or email GEO organizing staff at staff@uic-geo.net to confirm that you are legally allowed to strike if you have any questions.

Q: Do I teach or assist classes or perform my GA duties in the event of a strike?

No. Strike participants should not do any work associated with their jobs as Teaching or Graduate Assistants. We will be withholding our labor in these capacities as a tactic to show the university how valuable we are to the UIC community, and how UIC can’t work unless we do. Our goal during a strike would be to shut down as many classes, offices, and other workplaces as possible so that we can have a strategic, targeted effect on university operations. The more grads who participate in a strike, the shorter it will be.

Q: Should I continue to attend and do work for my own classes?

Yes. We will only be withholding labor related to our status as GAs or TAs. You should still do all of work associated with your own graduate courses.

We hope that faculty members will agree to cancel classes or move them off campus in solidarity with the GEO to prevent people from crossing picket lines. Talk to your professors about the possibility of a strike to let them know that if they continue to hold classes as normal, they will be crossing a picket line, and asking their students to cross a picket line. Ask if they are willing to consider moving their classes to an off-campus location if they are not willing to cancel them.

Q: Can I go inside picketed buildings to get things from my office during a strike?

No. Striking graduate employees should get everything they think they might need from their offices before the strike begins to avoid crossing picket lines. Keep faculty in your department informed about strike plans as well so they can also avoid crossing picket lines to retrieve items or for any other reasons.

Q: Can the university dock my pay? How much?

Yes. The university may only dock the pay of graduate employees who withhold their labor. For example, if you withhold your labor and walk the picket lines during one hour that you were scheduled to teach a class, the university may dock you for one hour of pay.

The burden of proof is on the university to show that you missed work because you were on strike. The administration may ask faculty and students to report their TAs and GAs. Please talk with your students and faculty, and ask them not to report you for any missed work, and to explain to them the reasons that we are on strike. Ask them to walk the picket lines in solidarity with us, and that they honor picket lines by not crossing them.

Q: What can the GEO do to help me if the university docks my pay?

The university has the legal right to dock the pay of employees who withhold their labor, but they can only dock pay for the hours the employee would have been working. In order to do this, the university would have to determine which grad employees withheld their labor, which will be difficult for them to do. Graduate employees have no obligation to self-report whether they withheld labor, even if the university asks.

In the event that the university does dock anyone’s pay, the GEO has set aside a $50,000 Strike Fund to assist employees who experience hardship as a result of their lost pay. In addition, in the event that a strike would continue beyond five days, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) provides interest-free loans to striking employees.

Q: Can the university retaliate against me for participating in a strike?

No. Retaliation against striking employees is illegal under Illinois and federal laws. GEO will aggressively pursue each reported case of retaliation. If, for example you don’t get an assistantship next fall and you expected to get one, please contact the union immediately to discuss your case. Even if you are not sure whether you are retaliated against for going on strike, you should contact the union.

Union activity is protected under Illinois and federal laws. The more visible you are as a union activist and supporter, the more protected you are against retaliation. The more visibly active you are in participating in the strike, the more protected you are against retaliation.

Q: How can I sign up to walk picket lines?

Please sign up for picket shifts. To do so, talk to your departmental steward to fill out a picket signup form. If you don’t know your steward or don’t have one, contact the GEO Strike Committee at strike@uic-geo.net to sign up, or call the GEO office any time at 312-491-1808.

Please sign up for as many picket shifts as possible. To win a strike, we need hundreds of GEO members on the lines all day.

Q: Where can I get more information?

The GEO website is an excellent resource, and we encourage you to direct your students and faculty members there for more information. You can also ask your departmental steward, email us at geo@uic-geo.net, or call the GEO office at 312-491-1808.