With the mediator in place, we’re on to our second session with the university from 10 am-4 pm in University Hall room 650! This means going over some of the items we’ve previously tabled (such as Additional Employment, Leaves and Holidays, and No Strike clauses) in addition to working our way towards financial issues (slowly but surely). It’s going to be a longer session so even if you’re able to stop by for a little bit, it’s a great idea to have a rotating number of people attending to keep up the visibility. It’s your contract so come on over!
You can RSVP via our Facebook event page here: http://www.facebook.com/events/133815246772544/

Dear members,

On behalf of the GEO Bargaining Committee, I would like to welcome any first time readers to the blog, especially those who are new to UIC this fall.  In the coming months it will be vital to have members who are informed and involved as we negotiate our new contract.  As you may already know, our previous contract expired on August 16.  Working without a contract means that our wages are frozen and the amount of money we pay out for fees, including healthcare costs, is purely at the discretion of the university.  The Bargaining Committee has been in almost weekly negotiations with the university’s team since the beginning of summer.  To date we have succeeded in coming to a tentative agreement on just over half of the articles in our proposal to the contract.  We are close on several other articles but have yet to seriously discuss monetary issues, which we know are very important to our members.  So for this reason, we strongly encourage all current and new members to join us as we work through the remainder of our proposal, the bulk of which pertains to bread-and-butter issues like wages, fees, healthcare costs, tuition differentials and tuition waivers.

We had a bargaining session with the university this week on Wednesday, August 22, what follows is a brief summary of what transpired.  Marissa Baker, co-president of the GEO served as our spokesperson and did a stellar job, as usual.  The university’s team presented our team with a package counter-proposal on six articles they had rejected.  Management Rights was one of the first articles to be discussed. We are actually close to a tentative agreement on this one, once we clarify some language that the university interprets in a way that is quite different from our reading.  The next article, Hours of Work, generated a lot of discussion, but in the end Marissa seemed to have worn the university down. They verbally stated that the five-day time period an assistant has to file a complaint of overwork could be replaced by language that simply says “as soon as possible.”  This would be acceptable to us.   Union Rights was another matter that generated a lengthy discussion, but it was a fruitful one.  It is really important that the GEO know who is in our bargaining unit, and we were demanding that the university supply us with a monthly report listing names, e-mail addresses, departments, etc., for our members.  For two weeks we listened to the university team cast aspersions on their own software system that is apparently so bad that they cannot get us this information until mid-semester.  Their lamentations seemed genuine, and we think we can come to an agreement provided that they allow us to get member information from individual departments. This might, at first glance, appear to be something not worth spending two weeks discussing, but knowing who you are means that the union can do a much better job of looking out for your interests.

The three remaining articles within the package will be more difficult to settle, but we will continue to push for acceptance of our original proposed language on Leaves and Holidays, the No Strike clause, and Additional Employment.  Within our proposed language changes are moral arguments that would expand the kinds of relationships protected by Leaves and Holidays, allow our members the freedom to fully support striking workers without fear of reprisal, and seek additional employment without opening our members up to undue scrutiny by their departments that would not only jeopardize their UIC employment but their status as students as well.  Many of our members are not being paid a living wage. We feel that the university has no right to make our members decide against doing something that is in their financial best interest.  Our position has long been that we would be willing to accept the terms of the article as written in the previous contract if our members were paid a wage that at least met cost-of-living rates in Chicago.   Although we were unable to accept the university’s package proposal, we continue to make slow but steady progress on our new contract.

As it stands, our members have a reasonably healthy relationship with the university.  We want to make sure that it stays that way and feel that our new contract will help to bring about a continuation of fair treatment for our members.  Please join us for our next bargaining session, August 29 at 1:00 on the Sixth Floor of Student Center East.  We’ll also be having a General Membership Meeting on Tuesday, September 4th at 5:30 pm in the Hull House where you can meet the bargaining team, vote on the GEO budget, and partake in free food and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic).  Then, the next day, meet up for the bargaining session on Wednesday, September 5th at 1 p.m. in room 650 of University Hall.

We strongly urge you to become part of the process. Your union needs you.

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