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About the Blog

Public higher education is undergoing a transformation.  The idea of the public university as a place of learning and research that is open to a wide audience is being replaced with the idea of the university as a corporation that exists to make a profit and to serve students as though they were customers.  These changes are happening over the protests of faculty, staff, and many students.  As a creation of the University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate Employee Organization, this blog exists to protest this transformation of the university and to educate readers about how the change is taking place at UIC.  To this end, we will answer frequently asked questions, educate our membership about the current contract, inspire members to form desires about the new contract (which we are currently bargaining with the university), function as a virtual meeting-space that fosters discussion among members, support the UIC graduate community, help our members stay informed of current events that affect us as grad employees, and serve as a birthplace for new ideas. UIC grads are a busy, diverse, and geographically scattered group — the goal of this blog is to meet our members’ needs by providing succinct, accurate, relevant information and a forum for communicating with other grads that is accessible no matter where you are.

The Graduate Employees Organization, AFT local 6297, AFL-CIO, is the labor union democratically run by and for its members, the more than 1400 Teaching and Graduate Assistants at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Thoughts on Organizing from Ben Linder, Anthropology Steward

Thoughts on Organizing from Ben Linder, Anthropology Steward

Being a Department Steward for the GEO presents a unique set of tensions and challenges. On the one hand, stewards are tasked with collecting and reporting on the various concerns of colleagues in the department. Simultaneously, however, stewards also impart critical information in the other direction—namely, from the GEO leadership to the general membership in Read More →

Frequently Asked Questions about Tuition Differentials

Frequently Asked Questions about Tuition Differentials

Tuition Differentials: Frequently Asked Questions What is a Tuition Differential (TD)? Tuition differentials are not tuition at all; they are a fee charged to undergraduate and graduate students in addition to the base tuition rate. TDs are implemented according to degree program. TDs are not covered by tuition waivers. Why do only some departments have Read More →

Supporting United Faculty

Supporting United Faculty

At the Board of Trustees retreat on Wednesday, January 22, both President Easter and Trustee Pam Strobel explained that the purpose of their retreats was to ensure that the U of I system fulfilled the promises of the land grant college mission. (For those of you not versed in the history of land grant colleges, Read More →

The Importance of Solidarity

The Importance of Solidarity

The struggle to secure the rights of workers and a fair wage are affecting nearly everyone on the UIC campus. Which is why in a local, concrete, sense there is very good reason for union solidarity. The faculty’s fight to win a fair contract hinges on two key factors. The first is wages. UIC has Read More →

Supporting SEIU in Their Fight For a Fair Contract

Supporting SEIU in Their Fight For a Fair Contract

The University is currently in negotiations with two other campus unions: SEIU, which represents Service and Maintenance, Clerical and Administration, and Technical workers, and UF, which represents tenure and non-tenure faculty. This post will give you a sense of the stakes of SEIU’s contract negotiation; a post to follow soon will cover UF. SEIU members Read More →

What Is a Tuition Differential?

What Is a Tuition Differential?

What is a tuition differential? It’s not tuition. It’s not a fee. It’s an insidious erosion of public education, which is the basis of an informed citizenry and a thriving democracy, not to mention the cornerstone for a viable workforce necessary for a healthy economy. First the basics: tuition differentials (TDs) at UIC are charged Read More →

FAQ: How will a faculty walkout affect GEO members?

FAQ: How will a faculty walkout affect GEO members?

UIC Graduate Employees Organization The possibility of a walkout by UIC United Faculty may create a difficult situation for graduate workers who have professional relationships with faculty who are their advisors, supervisors, and/or committee members, as well as fellow union members. The following FAQ is meant to inform GEO members how they can support United Read More →

Coverage of the Rally For Grad Employee Rights!

Coverage of the Rally For Grad Employee Rights!

Yesterday’s rally was covered by graduate student journalists from Northwestern University! The weather unfortunately prevented them from making it in time to get good footage of the 70+ of us at the snowy rally, but they were able to interview several of our amazing members, including Piere Washington, Michael Muñiz, and Greg Sutliff. Check out Read More →

Video from Show Us Some Love, UIC!

Video from Show Us Some Love, UIC!

Check out our video from the wildly successful “Show Us Some Love, UIC” Valentine’s Day event!  Available on our Facebook page (facebook.com/uicgeo) or YouTube http://youtu.be/311y3KrVExI )!

Making Ends Meet

I am 6th year PhD student in the department of English at UIC. I work the equivalent of two full-time jobs. But I can’t make ends meet. When I began my PhD work here, I had already obtained a master’s degree – so I was no stranger to the rigors of academic work. It came as Read More →

Infants and Children Last: World-Class Failure on Child Care

Should the university provide affordable infant and child care for students and faculty? This is precisely the question the Office of the Provost asked in 2007 when it commissioned a study to determine the child care needs of UIC students and faculty. At first glance, it may not seem so obvious that a lack of Read More →

Keeping Grad School Open to All

By Colin Smalley One of the first things I had to do when I got my admission letter to a graduate program at UIC was to figure out if my wife and I could afford for me to go to grad school.  I’m sure almost all of my colleagues have been in this situation. For Read More →

Campus Care Gave Me A Choice: Death or Medical Debt.

By: Karen Cralli, Teaching Assistant (Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies) For my 26th birthday, Campus Care gave me a choice: death or medical debt. I suffer from a rare, life-threatening blood disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). Left untreated, TTP claims a 95% mortality rate. With treatment, the survival rate is roughly 80%, though a Read More →

UIC Financial Presentation by Dr. Howard Bunsis

What to Expect in Bargaining

What to Expect in Bargaining! All GEO members are welcome and encouraged to attend bargaining sessions with the university. Not only is it great to learn about how exactly bargaining functions, but it’s also helpful to know what we as a union are asking for and how the university will respond. So come and join Read More →

Governor Quinn’s Pension Plan and What to Do About It

While currently most GEO members do not pay into the state pension plan, it’s certainly possible that at some point in the near future members may find themselves part of the state system and will be adversely affected by Governor Quinn’s plan if it goes into effect.  With this plan, an increase in employee contribution, Read More →

Grad Employee Parents and Our Current Contract

By: Aleks Zarnitsyn Editor’s Note: This week’s post is by guest blogger Aleks Zarnitsyn of UIC’s Philosophy program. Aleks examines our current contract to discover what guarantees it secures for grad employees who are also parents, and assesses some of our options for improving working conditions for grad employee moms and dads. This post is Read More →

What It’s Like to be a Mom in Grad School

By: Molly McGown Editor’s Note: This week’s post is by guest blogger Molly McGown of UIC’s Anthropology program. Molly’s post is the first in a “What It’s Like” series we will be running in which members describe their experiences. Molly identifies some of the ways that graduate programs fail to adequately accommodate parents in our Read More →

What is a Union? Part 4

By: Gina Gemmel This is part four of a series explaining what a union is. For the first post,click here. For the second post, click here. For the third post, click here.  Lately, it seems that people are talking about “choice” a lot. Choice, some claim, is the basis of capitalism, and it’s what protects people Read More →

What is a Union? Part 3

By Gina Gemmel This is part three of a series explaining what a union is.  For the first post, click here For the second post, click here. Sometimes people feel suspicious about the decision unions make. They’re not sure how unions come to their decisions, and they worry that the union will negotiate working conditions for Read More →

What is a Union? Part 2

By Gina Gemmel Part 2 of a multi-part series This is part two of a series explaining what a union is.  For the first post, click here.  With all the talk of austerity going around these days, there are a lot of people who feel uncomfortable making demands of their employers.  We may think that Read More →

What is a Union? Part 1

By Gina Gemmel The history of the labor movement is not something that is typically taught in history courses in the US anymore, at least not those general courses that most of us are required to take.  As a result, there is a lot of misinformation about what unions are and what they do.  In Read More →

Students or Workers?

By: Gina Gemmel In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing a series of posts on what exactly a union is and how a healthy, active union can benefit workers.  But today I want to start by discussing the concept of a “worker.” Is a graduate employee a worker?  Most graduate students who hold assistantships, whether they work Read More →

Flame Covers GA Tax Issue

The front page story in today’s Chicago Flame is about Graduate Assistants being taxed on their tuition waivers!

International Graduate Employee Rights

International graduate employees have the right to participate in their union, and have the right to all legal forms of speech and association. The university may not retaliate against international students for participation in union activities, and union participation may not be used as a consideration when reviewing your visa application. Please see the attached Read More →

Get Paid on Time–Check NESSIE Today

The first pay day of the Fall semester is Thursday, September 16. To make sure that you will be paid on time, please check your NESSIE earnings statement immediately. You can access NESSIE at http://nessie.uihr.uillinois.edu. If your September 16 paycheck does not appear in NESSIE today, please contact your department payroll administrator IMMEDIATELY to track Read More →

Video of GEO mediation rally

Courtesy of www.laborbeat.org: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrY9AtXLsqI

Why Are We Considering Striking Over Tuition Waivers and Differentials?

We’ve been asked a lot why it is so important to secure tuition waivers and put an end to increasing tuition differentials in our contract now. The reason is simple: if we don’t secure these things in the contract now, we will not have the ability to protect GEO members from any attempts to cut Read More →

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