Today was our 27th bargaining session, the fifth since the strike began.

At the beginning of the session, the administration still did not have a counter to our proposal on fees or to our proposal on the right of GEO to not be denied access to departmental orientations for new TAs to inform them of their workplace rights. They still demanded that we step down further on our wages proposal, with nothing in return. In an effort to move things forward, we offered to make some movement in exchange for them agreeing to our proposal on access to departmental orientations, since this is a non-economic proposal that wouldn’t cost the university a penny. They rejected this offer.

Then, literally 5 minutes before the session ended, they finally gave us a counter-proposal addressing fees. Their proposal is to create a side letter to the contract saying in academic year 2019-20 only, the planned $50-per-semester increase to the General Fee will be offset with a matching increase to the campus minimum wage. This means that next year only, anyone making the campus minimum would see an extra $50 per semester, presumably in addition to whatever raise we get. The side letter also says that next year only, the university will not increase the cost of the International Student Fee. However, there was already no plan to increase this fee next year that anyone is aware of.

At that same moment we were given this proposal–with 5 minutes left in the session–we were told the admins would be on campus to meet with us tomorrow and expected us to show up, even though these sessions are supposed to be and have always been scheduled by mutual agreement. We’ve held three sessions this week, and only at the last minute today they gave us something on fees and pressured us into coming in on a Saturday to give our counter offer.

After the session ended, the GEO bargaining team put together a package proposal on all the outstanding issues, including fees, wages, and healthcare. On fees, we are still seeking that most of the General Fee and International Student Fee be waived and that any new fees automatically be waived until GEO can negotiate them. On wages, we’re seeking a 24 percent increase by the 2020-2021 academic year, which would still have us making $5,000-$9,000 less than our counterparts at Chicago’s other Research 1 universities. And on healthcare, we’re still seeking a cap on the Campus Care fee and for the university to partially cover the cost of dependent care. For a university that has been throwing around a lot of money on new buildings and huge bonuses for top administrators–a university that claims it wants to be attractive to working-class students, students of color, and international students–we feel this is all very reasonable and doable.

We emailed this proposal to the admins this afternoon, saying they can take a look at it now and we will come in tomorrow to meet for one hour, from 12 to 1, in UH 650, to see if they have any response. We also let them know that in the future we will refuse any sessions proposed in the manner in which this one was proposed. They’ve been playing a game of tag on who hands which proposal last, forcing us to waste our time. But they now have our counter-proposal on all outstanding issues and we will be there for an hour tomorrow in an effort to settle the strike. The ball is in their court.

In solidarity,
GEO Bargaining Team

Today was our 26th bargaining session, the fourth since our strike began.

The administration still did not have a response to the proposal we gave them on Tuesday on waiving and capping fees. We had also given them a proposal on Tuesday on not denying GEO the right to speak at departmental orientations for new TAs to be able to inform new grad workers about their workplace rights and give them an opportunity to join the union, something the administration has previously been opposed to. They did not have a response to this either today.
The federal mediator told us he thinks the administration still has no willingness to have the General Fee or International Student Fee be reduced, capped, or waived in any way. He suggested the admins might only consider offsetting future increases to the General Fee by having a wage raise in the same amount of the increase (which, unlike a waiver, would be taxable because it would be part of our wages), though they have not actually made a proposal to us on this. The members in the bargaining room had a very long caucus discussion about this, trying to think about creative ways to end the stalemate in negotiations, ultimately concluding that we still need meaningful relief on fees.
We will hold another bargaining session tomorrow, 10am to 12pm, in UH 650. By agreeing to so many bargaining sessions but without being willing to change their position, it feels to many of us that the admins are simply trying to waste our time and use up our energy instead of reaching a settlement.
Also, to clarify something mentioned in the last bargaining update: when the police told us on Tuesday we couldn’t bring picket signs into UH, they specifically meant signs on sticks, and we still brought in signs without sticks. There were no police present at today’s session that we could see.
In solidarity,
GEO Bargaining Team

The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) is the union representing over 1500 Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants at UIC. We have been negotiating a new labor contract with University administration since March 1, 2018.

As of Tuesday, March 19th we have gone on strike and will continue to do so until we settle a fair contract. We will be on the picket lines from 8:00am-4:00pm, M-F.

This means that everyone—whether or not they voted for the strike—should stop performing all labor for which they are paid (teaching, grading, office and lab hours, etc.) for the duration of the strike, unless they want to actively undermine the strike and their co-workers. We also ask that everyone come out on the picket lines when they would normally be working (teaching, holding office hours, etc.), at minimum.

We want you to know that your supervisors cannot retaliate against you for participating in the strike—it is illegal for them to do so, and they will want to avoid any semblance of retaliation in order to avoid a lawsuit. Being on the picket lines gives the fullest protection, because other strikers can attest that you participated in the strike, which means GEO will be able to make a case that unfair treatment was an act of retaliation should a supervisor unwisely choose to do something unusual.


Logistics:

  • Picketing will be outside of most buildings where classes are taught. This includes UH, BSB, SEL, SES, Grant/Douglas/Lincoln, Taft/Burnham/Adams, LC A, LC B, LC C, LC D, LC E, LC F, East Campus Library, ERF, Stevenson, ETMSW, Public Health, and MBRB.
  • We will be meeting in the quad at the start of every shift, and from there picketers will be assigned to buildings. For those unfamiliar with the area, there is easy access to the quad through Student Center East at 750 South Halsted. Enter the east side of the building, walk through to the west side, and you’ll be on the quad. There is parking across Halsted in the Taylor Street Garage (access via Taylor and Polk, off Halsted). Student Center East is also 1 block south of the UIC/Halsted Blue Line stop (take the far east exit).
  • West Campus picketers will have Public Health as a center. Go to the SPHPI building at 1603 W. Taylor Street. That’s where you’ll get your signs and further directions, though you might move to MBRB across the street.
  • Strike headquarters and designated warming station will be at Latino Cultural Center (in Lecture Center B) during the day. Water, coffee, and women’s restrooms will be available from 9:00-4:00 at Latino Cultural Center for those taking breaks from picketing. Men’s restrooms will be available in Student Center East. Be sure to use these facilities and not the ones in buildings we are picketing.

Donations and Support:

Online donations can be made to our strike fund at https://bit.ly/2XsaH1m.

Check donations can be sent to the GEO office at 815 W Van Buren, Suite 203, Chicago, IL 60607.

Campus workers who must cross the picket line to work—faculty, staff, and RAs—can make a small paper sign that says “I Support GEO” to show as they are crossing the line.

If you want to write a public statement of support to be published on our website, email it to communications@uic-geo.net.

You can email Chancellor Michael Amiridis at chancellor@uic.edu imploring the administration to end the strike and give us the fair contract that we deserve.

A document for those who want to help make our strike accessible for those with access needs.

Twitter messages of support can be tweeted with the hashtags #WeNeedGEO #WeSeeUIC #FairContractNow #uicUnionPower