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

As we near our strike, our undergraduate students ask us: How can we help?

The most direct way is to tell the university administration that the work of their TAs and GAs is really important to them, and that they support the efforts of GEO to reach agreement on livable working conditions. Below is a sample email, which we encourage all undergraduate students to send to the Chancellor of UIC, Michael Amridis, who holds the highest position in the UIC administration. Clicking this link here will initiate your default email client to compose an email with the same text.

Dear Chancellor Amridis,

I am writing to ask you to settle the contract with the UIC TA and GA union as soon as possible. Their work is invaluable to me as an undergraduate at UIC, and I am surprised and upset that they have been negotiating with you for more than a year, and you refuse to provide them proper living and working conditions. You still have not offered them a living wage or adequate healthcare, you are making them pay thousands in fees to work at the university, and you refuse to provide them clear policies about who gets jobs each semester so they can be free from fear of retaliation. They are the reason why your university works so well – you should treat them better.

If they go on strike, I will only have you to blame for restricting my access to an education.

Feel free to forward this post to undergrads in your classes! The more voices are heard, the higher the chance of a positive outcome.

Today’s Supreme Court Ruling Hurts UIC Grad Workers

The Supreme Court decision today to roll back workers’ rights in Janus vs. AFSCME negatively affects all us who work and study here at UIC. The decision means only the people who sign union membership cards will be paying dues to GEO, even though our union will still be forced to represent non-members.  In this new environment, those who don’t sign membership cards are decreasing all of our collective power to win raises and stronger worker protections.

Big corporations and billionaire-funded anti-worker groups have been pushing for just such a court ruling for a long time. They know that when people aren’t signed up as dues-paying members, unions can’t survive, and then workers lose their rights. It’s an intentional effort to decimate unions by cutting off their financial resources, deceptively called “right to work”—but the more accurate description is “right to work for less.”

Dues are not money our union is “taking” from members. Since our first contract in 2006, we have continuously won raises amounting to a 39 percent increase, while dues have only increased 0.15 percent in the same time period (see attached graph). Dues pay for our indispensable full-time staff, materials for educating and organizing members, events, an office space, and legal services to protect members’ rights. GEO included the cost of dues in the very first raise we won, offsetting the cost of dues forever. But without dues and high membership numbers, we will lose our ability to continue winning higher raises and other benefits going forward.

Janus is modeled after so-called “right to work” private sector laws in 28 states. Because union membership rates have dropped significantly in those states, median household incomes are $8,174 less than in non-right to work states, people under 65 are 46 percent more likely to be uninsured, infant mortality rates are 12 percent higher, and workplace deaths occur 49 percent more often.

Despite these obstacles, those unions in “right to work” states that continue to maintain high membership levels continue to win gains for all of their members.

Make sure you and the other grad workers in your department sign membership cards.  You can email Anne Kirkner: anne.kirkner@gmail.com, Dawn Tefft: uicgeodawn@gmail.com, or your departmental steward to sign a card or otherwise get involved more in the fight to protect our union. You can also get a list of all the grad workers covered by the contract in your department so you know who needs to sign a membership card.