Yesterday, the GEO met with the university administration for our eighth bargaining session. Much of our time was spent discussing matters pertaining to our grievance procedure (Article XXII) and the procedures for discipline and dismissal (Article XXI). Though we did not reach any formal agreements during the session, we will likely formally agree on the language for these two articles in the first few minutes of our next session (8/14 at 12:00, room TBA). The most significant change that we will almost certainly agree upon is that the deadline for filing a grievance will be extended from 30 calendar days to 30 business days, giving our members more time to take notice of work-related problems and to determine whether or not they wish to file a formal grievance.

Though a significant amount of progress has been made with regard to several portions of our contract, a large amount remains to be negotiated. In particular, we have yet to discuss any of the monetary issues addressed in our contract. This includes wages, tuition waivers, and fees (including tuition differentials), the issues that were revealed to be of most importance to you in the membership survey. We made proposals on all of these matters in our first session, but the administration has thus far resisted discussing them. We have at every session urged the administration to begin discussing these items with us, and will continue to do so, but the university will move faster if they feel the pressure from more of our members.

Our next bargaining session will be next Tuesday from 12:00-3:30, and we will likely come to an agreement with regard to the grievance procedure and discipline and dismissal articles, and then discuss matters relating to management rights, hours, class sizes, additional employment, union rights, and our ability to strike.

Next week’s session is particularly significant because it is the last session before our current contract expires on August 16th. We will likely be working without a contract as we enter into the fall semester, and it will be necessary to pressure the university so that we can come to agreement on our new contract as soon as possible.  So what can you do?  Come to the bargaining session next Tuesday, August 14th, at 12 pm to have your voice heard.

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

With such a successful showing at our first bargaining session with the university, let’s keep the momentum going for our second session! Come see and be a part of the bargaining process, and all members have a right to vote in the caucus! Join us and invite your friends!
When: Wednesday, June 6th at 1:00 p.m.
Where: Rooms 603 and 610, Student Center East

Plus, be sure to check out our event on Facebook and “like” us if you haven’t already!