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 consistently, over the past 5 years, suppressed wages, electing to spend money on everything but those upon whom the university relies the most: its educators. The faculty’s efforts are an attempt to address inequality and ensure those who make the university function are compensated for their efforts. Secondly, the efforts of the United Faculty (UF) are aimed at improving the shared governance within the university to ensure those who have the closest contact with students have some control over the direction of their departments.

SEIU Local 73, which represents campus workers including service, maintenance, and clerical staff, is engaged in a similar struggle to protect its members’ wages and rights.

These struggles are the GEO’s struggles.  For instance, UF’s fight is very close to our own. If UF succeeds in lifting NTT(Non-Tenure Track) salaries, it will have a direct impact on how much TAs at UIC can reasonably expect to be paid. We are considered part-time employees, and our wages are often based on either the full-time salaries of NTT employees or their per class pay. A massive wage increase for our fellow instructors lays important groundwork for GEO to demand a living wage for graduate employees. Moreover, the GEO is constantly fighting to have its voice heard in a number of forums, including workplace rights, Campus Care, and tuition and fees.

The reasons for showing solidarity go beyond anything happening exclusively on UIC’s campus. If we look at the issues raised by the UF and the GEO as part of the ongoing crisis in American academia, the stakes are even more significant. Solidarity strengthens the rights of workers and slows the erosion of higher education. Many of us accept our low wages and poor working conditions because we won’t be here forever. But, when we graduate, what kind of work will we find? Nationally, 75% of college-level instructors are non-tenured faculty (part- or full-time). Many of us will not achieve tenure. A faculty union that guarantees living wages, benefits, and job security to faculty will be essential for those of us who decide to stay in academia.

We can think of this problem even more broadly still. Since the earliest days of organized labor in the United States, there are two key things for which labor has fought: Wages and control over labor conditions. In every industry, such as the fast food industry where workers continue to fight for the right to unionize, or state and local administrators and public service workers, individuals continue to face these problems. The economy has done labor no favors recently, making it more important than ever to stand by those whose plight is our own.

What enables to the GEO to strive toward a better workplace environment for its members by (for example) advocating for LGBTQ rights and improving working conditions is your participation, your belief that everyone deserves a living wage and the right to work in safe conditions without fear of discrimination. These are the challenges that have rallied individuals to union causes for over a century and these are the challenges we continue to face today. Showing solidarity empowers laborers everywhere – not just those at UIC and not just those in higher education, but all workers.



Dear Members and Supporters,

Our IFT representative Andrew has reached out to us with a call to action. On December 3rd–no coincidence that the state legislature picked a date that is after their election petitions are due and in the midst of the busy holiday season–they will vote on a bill that will gut pensions for unionized state employees. Although we don’t have all the details yet, reports indicate that the bill will:

Cap pensions for all employees, regardless of years of service;
Reduce cost of living adjustments;
Raise the retirement age;
And reduce benefits employees have already paid for.

While GEO members will not be affected by the bill, every single unionized state employee will be affected, including our brothers and sisters in UF and SEIU, as well as firefighters and police officers. And, if all of isn’t grim enough, these are usually the sorts of bills that get passed right before the legislature goes for a right-to-work bill, as we saw in Wisconsin just a few years before. Let’s make it clear what kind of trouble they’ll be in if they even *think* about union-busting in Illinois.

We recognize that Illinois needs to balance its budget, but they can’t do it on the backs of workers!

So, all of us need to do three things:

Call (888) 412-6570 and follow the prompts to speak with your state Representative and Senator. Tell them you oppose any legislation opposed by IFT, and that you will be paying attention to their vote.
Tell everyone you know about this. The consequences of a bill like this are far-reaching. Not only will many unionized employees at UIC be affected, but, throughout the state, workers will find their ability to retire (or, if they are already retired, their comfort) severely impacted. We need to stand up to the state on this issue.
Mark December 2 on your calendars: the IFT will be calling for a day of action–details will come out as soon as I have them.
I do wish I could provide more details of the bill, but the legislature is (for good reason) keeping it under tight wraps. As soon as I have more definitive information, I’ll send it out.

Please send this (or a condensed version of it) out to your colleagues and friends. Let’s show Springfield what happens when they threaten unions!


November 22, 2013

Will County Board,

The University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate Employees Organization (UIC GEO) is writing on behalf of its 1,500 members to demand that you respect the collective bargaining process and immediately reach an agreement with AFSCME Local 1028.

It is our understanding that Will County Board has engaged in bargaining that refuses to offer fair wages and health benefits package. The Board continues to insist that union members receive only a minor increase in pay while health care costs for the members will double. After four years with no pay increase, the members AFSCME Local 1028 deserve a fair contract that will not functionally lower their standard of living.

Everyone involved in bargaining recognizes the importance of the local employees to the day-to-day operations of the county: AFSCME Local represents more than 1,200 employees throughout the county including the court system, health department, and county sheriff. It is time for the board to recognize the work the employees perform by settling a fair contract.

On behalf of UIC GEO, we strongly urge you to take the necessary steps to negotiate with county employees. The GEO commits its support to AFSCME Local 1028 in their effort to negotiate a fair contract.

In Solidarity,

The Steering Committee of the Graduate Employees Organization