UPDATE:  Bargaining session has been cancelled by the university due to a member of their team having an ongoing family emergency.

It’s the first bargaining session of the spring semester (due to the university cancelling Friday’s session) and after 7 months of bargaining with the university, we finally received an economic proposal from them only to find out they want to decrease the wages of graduate employees. Find out more from co-president Marissa Baker’s blog post: http://uic-geo.net/blog/?p=183 Ready to say “Enough!”? Then head on over to the GEO Bargaining Session this Wednesday, January 23rd, from 8:30 am-5 p.m. in University Hall room 650. We’ll be discussing wages, health care, fees: all major issues! Even if you can only make it for a little while, join us at the table!

You can invite your friends and/or RSVP on our Facebook event page here:  http://www.facebook.com/events/491183524266897/

On December 17, 2012, the University’s representatives finally gave the GEO a comprehensive proposal on economic issues for the next graduate employee contract. As you may know, negotiations with the University began on May 16 when over 50 of us showed up to present a comprehensive proposal to the University. Almost 7 months to the day, the University informed us that it will not be raising the wages of graduate employees, failing to account for inflation and the increased cost of living in Chicago. Since the minimum wage for graduate employees is already well below the University’s own estimate for the cost of living in Chicago, their proposal is effectively a decrease in our already low wages.

As a graduate student and employee of one of Chicago’s best universities, I am disappointed. GEO’s motto has never meant more to me than it does now: UIC works because we do. Graduate employees are an important part of the day-to-day operations of the University. We work hard for this University in the classroom and at our jobs, and in return the University decreases our wages. I have colleagues who have tens of thousands of dollars in debt, who qualify for welfare and Medicaid, because UIC refuses to pay us a living wage.

Why did it take the University so long to give us this pathetic proposal? It is part of their strategy. They are hoping that we are too tired and stressed to bother fighting for our rights as workers. They are waiting for us to quit, to turn back to our studies and our families, and say enough. I say, enough. Enough with austerity for graduate employees and not for administrators. UIC’s Chancellor received an almost 10% raise, earning $375,000 in 2011 and $411,752.11 in 2012. Enough debt. Enough second jobs. Enough stalling! On Friday, we are scheduled to meet with the University for an all day bargaining session with a federal mediator. Now more than ever we need everyone in GEO to show up and let the University know that a decrease in our wages is not acceptable, that their strategy of delay is not going to work. We have the power to put pressure on the University when we stand together. Our union is strong because we are strong together and are ready to stand up for our rights and say ENOUGH!

Join us at the table on Wednesday, January 23rd, University Hall, Room 650 8:30-5:00: come at any time for as long as you can stay.

In solidarity,
Marissa Baker
GEO Co-President

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.