Dear Colleagues,

As many of you may know, our most recent bargaining session was on Tuesday, August 14. Greg Sutliff from the Philosophy Dept. represented the GEO. I am pleased to say the session went well, and that we were able to continue to make incremental progress toward a new contract.

Most significantly, we reached a tentative agreement with the university concerning those articles of our contract that govern employee discipline and the employee-grievance procedure. While, with respect to employee discipline, the parties agreed only to some minor changes for the sake of clarity and readability, we were able to implement some important improvements in the section of the contract that governs grievances. For example, we persuaded the university to accept a longer timetable (30 business days instead of 30 calendar days) for the initial filing of a grievance. This will give our members no less than twelve additional days to initiate a grievance through the Union if they cannot resolve a work-related issue informally with their supervisor, ensuring that grievances do not go unheard because of an excessively short deadline to file.

Reaching an agreement on the above issues has freed us up us to tackle other matters. For instance, the GEO and the university have exchanged counterproposals on several other contract provisions, including those that provide for employees’ sick leave, bereavement leave, and parental leave (provisions which we are seeking to expand), and those that restrict GEO members from taking part in labor-actions such as strikes. On Tuesday, Greg also discussed with the university’s representatives objections that the GEO has raised to certain language in our contract, which places restrictions on those grad employees who seek additional employment outside the university. Grad employees have a right to support themselves with outside employment, but rather than affirming this right, our current contract singles these employees out for special scrutiny from their supervisor(s) and from within their academic program. Consequently, we will continue to push for language that protects the rights of grad employees with outside jobs.

To date, we’ve made significant progress toward a new, fairer contract, but with so much still on the table the bargaining process is only beginning. Many of the issues that GEO members are most concerned about, including bread-and-butter financial issues, have yet to be discussed. Although we are seeing some signs that the university will be ready to begin tackling these financial matters in the near future, we will continue to press them until we see an actual reply to the GEO’s financial proposals, which have been on the table—and awaiting a response—since May of this year.

The involvement of GEO members will make a huge impact in the coming weeks. It is vital that the university see how invested our members are in seeing negotiations on the remaining portions of the contract concluded on a timely basis. Keep in mind that the term of our existing contract has already expired as of this week. Our next bargaining session is on Wednesday, August 22. This is your chance to show the university that a fair and prompt resolution to the bargaining process is important to you. We’ll be meeting with the university’s representatives in the Monarch Room of Student Center East, from 1 to 5 PM. I hope you’ll be there.

In solidarity,

Caleb Hardner

GEO Bargaining Chair

Dear colleagues,

Thanks for tuning in to this, our first weblog entry for the 2012 GEO contract campaign. As you know, the GEO is currently negotiating a new labor agreement for GAs and TAs at UIC.

To kick off the campaign blog, I want to take some time to detail the platform from which the GEO bargaining committee worked as we crafted our contract proposal. The platform reflects the input of GEO members who participated in a survey circulated by the GEO earlier this year in order to assess what GEO members would most like to see addressed in the new contract.

Our bargaining platform is supported by four broad pillars: Access & Equality, Fair Compensation, Affordable Health Care, and Transparency & Accountability. Not only do these four pillars represent the bargaining interests of graduate employees on the UIC campus, but they also embody principles that will enable the UIC community to live up to the highest promise of public education. In short, we believe that our bargaining platform is good for graduate employees, and good for the university as a whole.

To further elaborate, I will say a few brief words about each of the four pillars of the platform:

Access and Equality: Because public education should be accessible to everyone, and because all university employees have a right to equal treatment, the contract prosed by the GEO would expand protections against discrimination for members of historically marginalized groups and help to eliminate barriers to higher education (financial and otherwise) for persons from a variety of backgrounds.

Fair Compensation: Because all workers deserve a living wage, the GEO proposal would increase the minimum wage for Grad Employees to better reflect the costs associated with living and working in Chicago.

Affordable Health Care: Getting sick shouldn’t break the bank. Because Graduate Employees depend on health care that is both comprehensive and affordable, the GEO contract proposal would expand the quality of health coverage offered to GEO members while reducing the amount of health care costs passed on to graduate employees.

Transparency & Accountability: Like any workplace, a healthy university community requires open, honest communication between employer and employees. That’s why our proposal seeks to clarify contract language governing employment policies wherever possible and to strengthen mechanisms for communication and collaborative decision-making between the university and the GEO.

Over the course of the summer, grad workers who are active in the contract campaign will be using this blog to post updates and information on the bargaining process. In the mean time, on behalf of the GEO bargaining committee, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all the GEO members who have attended the first two bargaining sessions.

Our next meeting with the university representatives will be on Wednesday, June 20 at 2PM, on the 6th floor of Student Center East. Those of us on the bargaining team are looking forward to another great turnout of our GEO colleagues. As always, members in attendance will have the opportunity to discuss and vote on any actions undertaken by the bargaining team. Hope to see you there!

In Solidarity,

Caleb Hardner
TA for the Dept. of History and GEO Bargaining Chair