On behalf of the GEO Bargaining Committee, I would like to welcome any first time readers to the blog, especially those who are new to UIC this fall. In the coming months it will be vital to have members who are informed and involved as we negotiate our new contract. As you may already know, our previous contract expired on August 16. Working without a contract means that our wages are frozen and the amount of money we pay out for fees, including healthcare costs, is purely at the discretion of the university. The Bargaining Committee has been in almost weekly negotiations with the university’s team since the beginning of summer. To date we have succeeded in coming to a tentative agreement on just over half of the articles in our proposal to the contract. We are close on several other articles but have yet to seriously discuss monetary issues, which we know are very important to our members. So for this reason, we strongly encourage all current and new members to join us as we work through the remainder of our proposal, the bulk of which pertains to bread-and-butter issues like wages, fees, healthcare costs, tuition differentials and tuition waivers.
We had a bargaining session with the university this week on Wednesday, August 22, what follows is a brief summary of what transpired. Marissa Baker, co-president of the GEO served as our spokesperson and did a stellar job, as usual. The university’s team presented our team with a package counter-proposal on six articles they had rejected. Management Rights was one of the first articles to be discussed. We are actually close to a tentative agreement on this one, once we clarify some language that the university interprets in a way that is quite different from our reading. The next article, Hours of Work, generated a lot of discussion, but in the end Marissa seemed to have worn the university down. They verbally stated that the five-day time period an assistant has to file a complaint of overwork could be replaced by language that simply says “as soon as possible.” This would be acceptable to us. Union Rights was another matter that generated a lengthy discussion, but it was a fruitful one. It is really important that the GEO know who is in our bargaining unit, and we were demanding that the university supply us with a monthly report listing names, e-mail addresses, departments, etc., for our members. For two weeks we listened to the university team cast aspersions on their own software system that is apparently so bad that they cannot get us this information until mid-semester. Their lamentations seemed genuine, and we think we can come to an agreement provided that they allow us to get member information from individual departments. This might, at first glance, appear to be something not worth spending two weeks discussing, but knowing who you are means that the union can do a much better job of looking out for your interests.
The three remaining articles within the package will be more difficult to settle, but we will continue to push for acceptance of our original proposed language on Leaves and Holidays, the No Strike clause, and Additional Employment. Within our proposed language changes are moral arguments that would expand the kinds of relationships protected by Leaves and Holidays, allow our members the freedom to fully support striking workers without fear of reprisal, and seek additional employment without opening our members up to undue scrutiny by their departments that would not only jeopardize their UIC employment but their status as students as well. Many of our members are not being paid a living wage. We feel that the university has no right to make our members decide against doing something that is in their financial best interest. Our position has long been that we would be willing to accept the terms of the article as written in the previous contract if our members were paid a wage that at least met cost-of-living rates in Chicago. Although we were unable to accept the university’s package proposal, we continue to make slow but steady progress on our new contract.
As it stands, our members have a reasonably healthy relationship with the university. We want to make sure that it stays that way and feel that our new contract will help to bring about a continuation of fair treatment for our members. Please join us for our next bargaining session, August 29 at 1:00 on the Sixth Floor of Student Center East. We’ll also be having a General Membership Meeting on Tuesday, September 4th at 5:30 pm in the Hull House where you can meet the bargaining team, vote on the GEO budget, and partake in free food and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Then, the next day, meet up for the bargaining session on Wednesday, September 5th at 1 p.m. in room 650 of University Hall.
We strongly urge you to become part of the process. Your union needs you.