GEO at UIC statement in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

The University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate Employees Organization (UIC-GEO), IFT/AFT AFL-CIO Local 6297 stands in firm solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and the over 200 other Indigenous Nations, that oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). It is our firmly held belief that the sovereignty and governance of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation land comes from, and can only be decided by, the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

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The GEO Steering Committee recently signed in support of the Bluest Lie Campaign, a campaign against the potential introduction of the so-called Blue Lives Matter ordinance to the Chicago City Council. This proposed ordinance would categorize offenses committed against police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians as hate crimes. It distorts the purpose of hate crime legislation and we cannot sit idly by as it is discussed in our city government.

Currently, Illinois uses the hate crime designation to prosecute offenses committed on the basis of “actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin.” Attacks against police and other first responders are already classified by Illinois law as aggravated assault and therefore carry stricter penalties than assaults against civilians. Police are also protected by their unions and by city and state officials and enjoy protections far above those of regular citizens.

Bills similar to Chicago’s proposed “Blue Lives Matter” ordinance have recently been introduced in states and cities around the country, even though attacks against police are at record lows. These bills constitute a hostile right-wing reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement and to increasing calls for police accountability and racial justice. Nationally, as well as locally, the bills are opposed by a variety of civil rights and social justice organizations, including: Black Youth Project 100, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Assata’s Daughters, American Civil Liberties Union, Uptown People’s Law Center, and the Anti-Defamation League.  In Chicago, many of these groups have come together to form the Bluest Lie Collaborative.

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The Graduate Employees Organization (Local 6297, IFT/AFT, AFL-CIO) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC GEO) stands in solidarity with the parents and community members who are now on a hunger strike to protest the closing of Walter H. Dyett High School. We demand that Chicago Public Schools accept the coalition’s proposal to establish the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.

CPS has shuttered too many public, community schools in black and brown neighborhoods in order to pass public funds to private firms. Dyett is the last remaining open enrollment high school in Bronzeville. It is unacceptable that many students on the South and West Sides have to commute long distances outside of their neighborhoods just to attend quality public schools. CPS has disinvested in schools in minority neighborhoods while North Side schools, such as Lincoln and Coonley Elementaries, receive millions in funding. The gross disparity in funding allocations and the mass school closings in 2013 demonstrate that Mayor Emanuel and CPS are committed to continuing a legacy of corrupt and racist decisions about public education. We demand that Chicago invest in every neighborhood and every child.

The need for high quality and accessible neighborhood schools that are open to all is a critical concern for Chicago residents. The Dyett hunger strikers have put their bodies on the line in order to be heard by political leaders in charge of our children’s schools. We respect and admire them for their commitment to making a better future for young Chicagoans. CPS must take action immediately to restore access to education in the Bronzeville neighborhood, and must do so in accord with the thoughtful and equitable proposals generated by this coalition.

The GEO is the union that represents teaching and graduate assistants at UIC. Many of our undergraduate students come from Chicago Public Schools. We understand firsthand the importance of a primary and secondary education that will prepare students to be successful in college. Chicago and Illinois need to invest in public education for the future of our state, but even more importantly, because well-resourced and well-funded schools are the foundation of strong communities and a strong democracy.

End the hunger strike by restoring Dyett High School to the Bronzeville community now!

The UIC Graduate Employees Organization (Local 6297, IFT/AFT, AFL-CIO) calls on the Waukegan Board of Education to negotiate in good faith with the Waukegan Teachers’ Council to come to a quick resolution of their on-going contract negotiations. Waukegan teachers have been without a contract since June and this is the fourth year in a row that teachers have started the school year without a contract. The district has a budget surplus, yet has denied teachers salary increases while demanding that they work more, cut their health care benefits, and eliminated clear procedures for teacher evaluation. How does the Board and Superintendent expect to settle a contract when they refuse to meet the teachers at the bargaining table? As president of the Lake County Federation of Teachers, Mike McGue states, “All these things always boil down to one thing: Respect.”

We are in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters in the Waukegan Teachers’ Council as they stand everyday on the picket line to fight for better working and learning conditions in Waukegan schools. Respect teachers! Respect workers! Fair Contract Now!

The Graduate Employees Organization, Local 6297, AFT-IFT, is deeply dismayed to learn of the horrifying racial discrimination that Chuck Conner, a fellow University of Illinois-Chicago employee, has faced on the job. All workers on campus deserve safe, fair working conditions, and a just and swift grievance process. It is utterly unacceptable that Mr. Conner has continued to face discrimination and bullying on the job in spite of an ongoing UIC investigation. We urge the University to expedite its investigation and bring Mr. Conner’s harassers to justice.

We are also disturbed to learn of the University of Illinois- Urbana-Champaign’s rescinding of a job offer letter to a professor, Steven Salaita, on the basis of his personal politics. Academic freedom is vital to the well-being of the university. In silencing a voice it disagreed with, UIUC compromised the quality of academic discourse and scholarship on its campus.

These are but two of many cases that highlight the dysfunction within the University of Illinois system. For U of I administrators, PR optics take precedence over academic freedom, and the well-being of employees and their workplace safety is hardly a priority.  We are in dismay that the University administration would stand idly by and allow for, and support, this assault on academic freedom.

In Solidarity,

The UIC Graduate Employees Organization Steering Committee

Yesterday, April 11th, our union brothers and sisters in Service Employees International United (SEIU) Local 73 at UIC officially filed a notice of their Intent to Strike. They have been working without a contract for almost two years yet the University has constantly stalled negotiations and have bargained unprofessionally. We are calling on all GEO members to stand in solidarity with SEIU as they fight for a fair contract.

SEIU represents the most underpaid workers on campus yet the University is offering them no raises after the top 28 University of Illinois administrators received an average 5.86 percent wage increase over the last two years on top of their already six figure salaries. The work of the clerical, technical, and maintenance workers is vital to the day-to-day operations of the University and its hospital. Without them, there would be no clean classrooms or facilities for faculty and teaching assistants to teach in, less support for patient care in the hospitals, and far less efficiency in the administrative offices across campus. UIC will not be a “World Class University” as long as it continues to depress the wages of the workers who are integral to the University’s basic functions while bloating the salaries of redundant administrators at the top.

Recently, the University of Illinois has adopted a more aggressive stance towards unions on campuses, spending increasing amounts on anti-union lawyers. Workers and unions across the country are standing up–from the University of California grad employee strike to the research assistants organizing in Michigan and the hospital workers now on strike at John Hopkins University–and fighting corporatization and austerity measures in higher education that only serve to undermine the strength of the university. But we are strong when we stand together, when we stand up for public higher education. UIC works because we—the students, faculty, and workers—do!

In solidarity,

Steering Committee
Graduate Employees’ Organization
University of Illinois at Chicago
Local 6297 IFT-AFT, AFL-CIO

Marissa Baker, Co-President
Gina Gemmel, Co-President
Lydia Hou, Secretary
Daniel Ingebretson, Treasurer
Davis Smith-Brecheisen, Co-Communications Chair
Jesse Holzman, Co-Communications Chair
Alyssa Greenberg, Grievance Chair
Jes Cook, Outreach Chair
Jen Phillis, Co-Chief Steward
Edgar Bering, Co-Chief Steward

GEO stands in support of the 3000 members of SEIU Local 73 who have gone without a contract or raise for over a year and are currently bargaining with the University. According to Fight Back News, the members will take a strike vote next week. You can read more here:

Fellow Graduate Employees,

The United Faculty strike is here. After months of negotiations the administration continues its stand against better wages and working conditions for its faculty. While GEO employees cannot legally sympathy strike, we do encourage everyone to join the faculty and show support in whatever way they can. Here is some useful information about the labor action and ways you can get involved:
UF website has a wealth of information about picketing times and actions, including the location of warming stations, etc:
Wear blue to show solidarity with UF on Tuesday and Wednesday.
For those who have to cross the picket line to complete their duties, they can get blue armbands at Hull House, SEO 776, and UH 1827. Armbands are a way of displaying solidarity even if you have no choice but to cross the picket line.
UF is trending on twitter, use #UICstrike. A list of ideas for tweets and other social media support is available on the GEO website:
Take “strike selfies” in your empty classrooms to show how strong undergrad support is for the strike.
Here’s a set of strike graphics you can share on your Facebook wall.
Here is an FAQ that will help clarify the GEOs responsibilities during the work stoppage:
Here is an article in the Jacobin about the strike that succinctly explains the position of UF:

The United Faculty fight is our fight. Turn out and let the administration know that we are serious when we say UIC works because we do.



On February 18, the tenure track and non-tenure track faculty who make up the University of Illinois-Chicago faculty union UICUF Local 6456 will walk out of the classroom and onto the picket line for a two-day strike. Barring a dramatic change-of-heart by university administrators at the bargaining table the weekend, it will be the first faculty strike at a major research university in a very long time.

There are a number of ways to support them over social media.

Here’s a set of strike graphics you can share on your Facebook wall.

We’re holding a Twitter Storm using the hashtag #UICStrike on the evening of Tuesday, February 18th between 7-9PM (Central Time). During that window, send out tweets and Facebook messages using that hashtag to get it trending.

Here are some sample tweets. Feel free to write your own tweets, modify these, or simply copy and paste them. If you have any original content from the strike (photos, videos, etc) it would be great to post during this window. Retweet and share other people’s #UICStrike posts. By no means must you wait until the 18th to start your social media support. You can show solidarity today!

Sample Tweets:

“Administrators at UIC have increased by 10%, while tenured faculty positions have decreased by 1%.” #UICStrike

Tuition has increased by 25% since 2007, while student enrollment is up by more than 10%. #UICStrike

Small class sizes, individualized instruction, support for research, well equipped classrooms and labs #UICStrike

The point of #UICStrike is to help fulfill UIC’s mission — providing quality education for working class students.

UIC United Faculty President Joe Persky explains #UICStrike to Chicago Tonight on @WTTW

Professor Lenny Davis explains why he’s striking and in Jacobin Magazine #UICStrike

Looking for ways to show solidarity with #UICStrike? We have details here.

UIC Professor Dick Simpson is striking for the future of teaching! #UICStrike Here’s his video —>

“We’re losing faculty to universities willing to pay a fair salary; it’s our students who pay the price.” #UICStrike

UIC Professor Gerry Gorman on union voice and #UICStrike Video —>

Professor Bill Watkins Explains Why He’s Going on Strike #UICStrike

Here are some links to news stories on the strike:

Chicago Tonight featuring UIC Faculty Union President Joe Persky

Jacobin Magazine


The News-Gazette

UICUF Press Release:

@IFTAFT (Illinois Federation of Teachers)
@UICUF (UIC local twitter)

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