What is Bargaining? 

The GEO is the sole bargaining agent for graduate employees at UIC.  This means that members of the GEO negotiate a contract with representatives of the university, and that this contract governs our employment here.  Because the GEO has legal standing as the bargaining agent for graduate employees, the agreements we reach during contract negotiations with the university are binding.  This means that involvement with the GEO provides a unique opportunity to compel the university to make decisions that will ensure our fair treatment.

What can Bargaining Accomplish? 

Through collective bargaining based on the input of hundreds of members, GEO has secured improved working conditions, more open communication with administration, and guaranteed salary increases and protections against unfair labor practices.

Who is representing GEO on the bargaining team and how were they selected?

The bargaining team is comprised of members of the bargaining unit. The members were elected by the GEO membership during the spring election. The team has been meeting for months to put together a contract proposal based on concerns from the member survey. The bargaining team has also been working closely with members of the research team who have compiled important information in support of the contract proposal. The members of the bargaining and research teams come from various departments including History, Biopharmaceutical Sciences, Sociology, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Art History. The bargaining team is also advised by an Illinois Federation of Teachers representative, Andrew Cantrell.

Who is representing the University?

The University is primarily represented by the Human Resources Labor Relations Marilyn LaBlaiks from the Labor Relations department of Human Resources, as well as other administrators from the Grad College.

Who should attend the bargaining sessions?

All GEO members are encouraged to attend bargaining sessions with the University. The more members attending, the better, because the university will see that everyone is engaged and interested in having the contract settled quickly and efficiently. When you come to the bargaining session, try to arrive a little early so that we can have everyone there by the start of the meeting. If you have to leave before the meeting is over, that’s okay.

What can I expect when I attend?

During the session, GEO members from the bargaining committee will negotiate the new contract with the University’s representatives. The University will make counterproposals, and it will be up to the members in attendance to decide if they are acceptable or if we should present a counterproposal of our own. If there is a major decision, we will take it to a general membership meeting for a vote.

Why does GEO bargaining team only have one spokesperson?

To facilitate the smoothest negotiations possible, the union and university teams each designate one member to serve as a lead negotiator. Because the GEO is an egalitarian organization committed to enacting democracy in every facet of its operations, various members of the bargaining committee will take on this role. The lead negotiator presents the arguments for our proposed contract that has been prepared in advance by the bargaining and research team. Any member of the bargaining team can pass a note to the lead negotiator during the session. Also, the lead negotiator may call on a member of the bargaining team to address a specific point.

How do we decide whether or not to accept the University’s counterproposals?

All decisions are made during a caucus. When we caucus, the University’s team leaves the room and we have a discussion about their proposal. Decisions are made by a vote of all members in attendance.

Why does it take multiple sessions to finish the bargaining process?

Our contract covers a wide range of issues related to our employment at UIC—wages, health insurance, non-discrimination protections, hours of work, grievance and dismissal policies, even parking fees—and these issues are complicated because they have financial and administrative implications for us and the University. For this reason, the process of negotiating our contract takes a great deal of time. Additionally, the University has consistently come to sessions unprepared either to negotiate or present counterproposals. We should not tolerate tactics that would delay settling a fair contract for our members. It is the University’s responsibility to come prepared to negotiate a contract in an efficient manner.

What is progressive bargaining?

Progressive bargaining is a legal principle that restricts parties to a contract negotiation such as ours from making certain kinds of proposals. While in practice, it may be difficult to determine precisely what is and is not allowed according to the principle of progressive bargaining, in general, it restricts both sides from retracting a concession once it has already been offered. A concession is a “step down” from the original proposal put forth. For example, if you originally asked for a pay raise of a specified amount, a concession would be asking for a slightly lower pay raise. Concessions are an integral part of the bargaining process because, by conceding one point, it can allow for you to gain something else. Ultimately, it’s up to the membership to decide what points they might want to concede and what they are not willing to budge on. It also prevents us, at a later stage of the bargaining process, from demanding more concessions from the University than what we demanded in our initial proposal. The bargaining committee has worked long and hard to craft the strongest initial proposal possible for this reason.

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