The G.E.O. will be holding New Officer Elections beginning April 21.

New GEO Officers will be elected at the next General Membership Meeting on Mon, Apr 21, at 5:30PM at the University YMCA.  Voting will also be open on Tuesday, April 22, between 10AM and 6PM, and on Wednesday, April 23, between 10AM and 6PM.

All members are eligible to run for an officer position, and to join committees!

Officer Positions, and the Committees They Chair:

  • 2 Co-Presidents:  Lead the union, chair the GEO Coordinating Committee, and supervise staff…

  • Treasurer:  Propose a budget to membership and seek input, keep track of daily funds.

  • Communications Officer & Communications Committee:  Send out emails (like this one!), design t-shirts and posters, work with the press, and so on.

  • Grievance Officer and Grievance Committee:  Protect the contract!  Make sure that TAs and GAs get their tuition waivers, wages, etc, and are protected from discrimination, overwork…

  • Solidarity Officer and Solidarity Committee:  If members vote in support of the Solidarity Amendment, a new Solidarity Officer and Committee will become officially part of the union.  Duties would include working in solidarity with social justice and workers rights organizations.

  • Officers at Large:  Work with different committees, plan events, organize meetings, etc.

If you are interested in running for an officer position, please email geo@uigeo.org

Last week, the G.E.O. threw a legendary and amazing dance party at Cafeteria & Co. / Pizza M / Flying Machine Coffee in Urbana.  This is one of many such events to come, so stay tuned, and join us for the next one.

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G.E.O. members tearing up the dance floor to Beyoncé’s Drunk In Love

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G.E.O. Spring Dance Party pizza bar line

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G.E.O. members dancing the night away

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Jess Pretty closing out the night with Beyoncé’s “Countdown.”

Yesterday, the CFA announced broad and widespread support for a faculty union, among both tenure track and non-tenure track faculty. The CFA is moving towards majority support, and hopes that by further publicizing their intentions, they can gain momentum and begin the process of becoming a union. On February 5th at 10:00 AM, University of Illinois faculty will be speaking in favor of unionization, and GEO members will be present to demonstrate their support. For over 40 years, the CFA (formerly the Union of Professional Employees) has been and will continue to be beneficial for the future of the University of Illinois.

GEO Co-President Clayton Alsup adds: “The GEO is excited to work with the CFA as they work to form a union. It sends a clear statement to the University of Illinois administration that we are prepared to stand in solidarity in order to maintain high quality education and working conditions at our university. A unionized faculty will be better able to serve both their own members and their students.”

Susan Davis, Professor of Communications and the press officer for the CFA, stated that the CFA was in part inspired by the GEO’s resolute defense of graduate student tuition waivers. The CFA hopes that by becoming a union, they will be able to defend faculty rights in a similar manner. One of the many facets of their agenda will be improving the working conditions of non-tenure track faculty, for example, by providing a firmer sense of job and wage security. The GEO is highly invested in this cause—the working conditions of the faculty have a direct effect on the working and learning conditions of graduate and undergraduate students.

Chanee Anderson, the chair of the GEO’s Solidarity Committee, explained, “like the graduate employees of UIUC, our faculty devote countless hours, resources, and sacrifices to make this the great institution that it is. Where anyone’s call of duty requires giving of themselves, their rights and voices as laborers must have a respected place.”

The CFA’s organizing affiliates are the American Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and the American Association of University Professors. For more information about the CFA and their mission, visit their website.

Since 2009, GEO labor contract negotiations have protected the tuition waivers of graduate assistants. This fall, three masters programs in Statistics and Computer Science changed their designations to “self-supporting,” in violation of the contract.  As a result of this change in policy, students in these programs were not allowed to apply for assistantships in their own, or any other departments, and thus became ineligible for tuition waivers.

Under pressure from the GEO, the Graduate College has rescinded the policy change, and now states that graduate students in the three affected programs are eligible to receive assistantships and tuition waivers.  The initial modifications to the financial aid policies in these departments (Computer Science MCS, Statistics MS, and Statistics MS Masters with Analytics Concentration) were a clear violation of a contract side letter.  In response to this violation, the GEO Grievance Committee immediately contacted the university administration to protest.

Members of the GEO Grievance Committee met with representatives from Academic Human Resources (AHR), who in turn, met with the Deans of the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.  Following these meetings, representatives from AHR informed the Grievance Committee that the “self-supporting” designation had been reversed. Effective immediately, all graduate students in the three affected masters programs may hold assistantships that provide them with tuition waivers, approximately $1000 a year in health care subsidies, and a minimum wage set by the GEO contract.

Although the changes are effective immediately, final approval has to come from a committee in the administration to ensure that the new designations are permanent.

If the GEO had failed to notice this change, and AHR and the Graduate College had not reversed their decision, graduate students in the affected departments would only be eligible to hold hourly appointments, and would have been denied the safeguards on minimum standards of living wage and benefits guaranteed them by the 2009 collective bargaining agreement.

As you may already know, next week is Student Debt Awareness week, endorsed by the GEO. We will be running phonebanking to encourage turnout, particularly for our rally on Friday at noon on the quad. Great turnout at the rally will help us put pressure on representatives at both the state and national level to engage in actual reform to help curtail the student loan debt crisis.

How You Can Help:

1) Flyer your departmental grad mailboxes: If you are willing/able to flyer your departmental mailboxes this week, please reply to this email so we know which departments are covered.

2) Phonebank on Monday or Wednesday: I will be running phonebanking at the GEO office from 4-6pm on Monday and Wednesday. Please stop by and help if you can, even if it’s only for 30 mins. There will be pizza!

3) Share the Facebook event and group pages:
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4) Join us for one or all three of our awesome events!!

The Events:

Tuesday, Nov. 12th at 7:00pm in the Lincoln Hall auditorium:
Panel Discussion with Alan Collinge, student debt reform activist.

Thursday, Nov. 14th at 7:00pm in the Illini Union Pine Lounge:
Screening of the film Default

Friday, Nov. 15th at noon on the Main Quad (Illini Union side):
Rally for student loan justice as we hear from Illinois student speakers.

We are pleased to announce that the GEO is hosting this year’s AGEL (Association of Graduate Employee Locals) Conference here in Champaign-Urbana! It will run from Thursday, October 24 through Saturday, October 26. Members of grad locals from across the country will be getting together to strategize, share experiences, network, and participate in workshops and panel discussions.

We will have about 30 grad employees traveling here from other universities. We are working to find hosts for them in order to keep costs down. If you would be interested in housing a visitor, please contact Brook. This would be an amazing way to help with the conference, and a nice opportunity to meet active union members from other universities.

All GEO members are encouraged to participate in all or part of the conference, including meals and the nighttime social activities.

A very warm welcome to all incoming graduate students this year! Today was the first day of the CTE Grad Academy (see pictures of the event below), and many GEO members had the pleasure to speak with hundreds of new teaching assistants. We will also be hosting numerous department meetings throughout the week, so we look forward to speaking with many incoming and current graduate employees about the GEO.

If you are a new member (or an old member who needs a refresher) please be sure to check out this website for information about the organization of the GEO, how to get more involved, and the details of our newest contract.

Several things are going on with the GEO over the next several weeks, including a Welcome Back Party for all GEO members. This party is August 30th at 7pm at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. Directions to IMC can be found here. The Welcome Back Party is open to all members. If you haven’t signed a card but are a graduate employee (TA, GA, RA, etc.) at the University of Illinois you are absolutely still welcome. We will have cards on site to sign. Free childcare is provided, and partners are welcome. Food and drinks will also be provided.

Other things to be aware of include an upcoming Stewards’ Council Meeting on August 26th and a General Membership Meeting on September 18th. Keep an eye out for emails regarding these events.

Best of luck to all of you in the upcoming year. The GEO looks forward to a productive and rewarding year. Solidarity!

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The membership of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has voted to strike. This means as of midnight tonight the Building Service Workers (BSWs) and Food Service Workers (FSWs) are on strike.

GEO will be picketing in solidarity with SEIU at the Illini Union. Starting at 9 am tomorrow morning, you can join the picket line at the Illini Union–we will have signs ready for you!

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is voting this weekend on whether to go on strike, and a possible strike could occur as soon as Monday. These are the workers who clean the buildings on campus, prepare and serve food to students, and provide essential services such as snow removal on campus steps and sidewalks.

Why is SEIU Considering a Strike?

The SEIU bargaining team has been negotiating for a new contract since last spring. Despite reasonable proposals and significant concessions by the union regarding wages, the administration’s most recent proposal would continue to set wages well-below inflation. This is a particular hardship, since many of these workers are amongst the lowest-paid workers on this campus. In addition, many of the food-service employees annually undergo long layoffs, making it necessary for them to find second jobs to make ends meet. The top 28 University of Illinois administrators received an average 5.86 percent wage increase over the past year–that’s over 5 percent added on to their six figure salaries. Yet they cannot find the money to provide basic cost-of-living raises for some of the most vulnerable workers on this campus.

What does a strike mean for TAs, GAs, and RAs, on campus?

SEIU wants GEO members to continue to hold their classes and use the buildings and facilities on campus. By using the buildings, and not having anyone to clean them, empty the trash, and take care of the restroom facilities, it will help to demonstrate to the campus how absolutely essential the labor of these workers is to the functioning of our University. If you are asked to participate in cleaning your building during these days, please do not do so.

What is the timing of a SEIU strike, how long will it last?

SEIU is voting about a potential strike this weekend. If they go on strike, it could start as early as this Monday. We will not know anything for sure until Sunday evening, and we will send out a follow-up update as soon as we know. As is the case with all strikes, the duration will be decided as events unfold–so check the GEO Facebook and website for updates.

How can we support SEIU?

1) The number one thing you can do to support SEIU is to sign up to picket with them this Monday and Tuesday (during times when you are not in class or at work on campus). Email stephseawell@gmail.com to sign up for time(s) during these two days. You will be assigned a building to picket, and as much as possible you will be with other GEO members so there will be familiar faces while you walk the lines. SEIU has stood with GEO when we went on strike in 2009, often picketing with us after they had worked long shifts at their own jobs. Now is our chance to stand with them.

2) On Tuesday, starting at Noon, GEO will be sponsoring a ‘bike picket’ in support of SEIU. Bring your bike to the campus YMCA, where we will decorate our bikes (and ourselves) in SEIU’s colors of purple and yellow. We will then bike around campus to the various picket sites, making noise with kazoos and generally drawing attention of students to the strike. This is your chance to support SEIU and be a little bit zany in the process. You can also sign up for this event by emailing stephseawell@gmail.com.

3) The Campus Faculty Association is holding a food drive in support of SEIU. If the union goes on strike, the loss of wages will have signifiant impact on these workers, and this food drive will help them meet the basic needs of their families. You can bring dry and canned goods to a drop off box located at the first floor of the campus YMCA.

4) You can also express your support by posting SEIU posters on doors and bulletin-boards, and wearing yellow and purple clothes and ribbons while you are on campus. Starting Monday at 10 am, you can stop by the GEO office at the YMCA to pick up posters and ribbons. While there pick up some for your friends too!

The strength of labor on this campus rests in our solidarity with one another.

Members of the GEO Solidarity Committee, currently an Ad Hoc Committee, are proposing a Solidarity Amendment to the GEO constitution.  The proposed amendment would amplify the mission of the GEO to stand in solidarity with social justice and workers’ rights issues, and create a constitutionally-mandated Solidarity Committee, as well as a Solidarity Officer position who would be elected by the membership, chair the newly-created committee, and have voting rights on the GEO Coordinating Committee.

According to the GEO Constitution, any proposed amendment needs to be voted on at a General Membership Meeting, and if it passes that first step, it also needs to be added to a ballot.  A vote will take place at the Feb 25 GMM for members to vote in favor or against the proposed amendment.  To read the current GEO Constitution, go to http://www.uigeo.org/constitution/
Below is the proposed amendment:
Amendment 1:

Amend Article IX, “Committees,” as follows:

a. add

“F. Solidarity Committee

The General Membership and Constitution of the GEO recognize that active cooperation between the GEO, other unions, and groups engaged in the struggle for social justice is vital to the organizing mission of the Union and the welfare of its community.

1.  The primary responsibilities of the Solidarity Committee are to: engage in activities and seek out opportunities to promote the social justice mission of the GEO; determine the allocation of “solidarity” funds as approved by the General Membership in GEO fiscal year budgets and in accordance with the constitutional objectives of the GEO; work with the Coordinating Committee, the Stewards Council, and the general membership on endorsements; work with the Steward’s Council and Coordinating Committee to ensure that the GEO maintains active and mutually supportive relationships with local, state, national and international labor organizations; and to generally engage in activities to promote the social justice mission of the GEO in cooperation with and support of local, state, national, and international struggles for social justice, including but not limited to economic, racial, gender, and sexual justice.

2.  The Solidarity Officer shall chair the Solidarity Committee.

3.  The other members shall be appointed by the Coordinating Committee, subject to approval by the Steward’s Council. Terms of appointment shall be as determined by the Stewards Council.

4.   A quorum of four Solidarity Committee members who are also members of the GEO is necessary to: allocate “solidarity” funds as approved by the General Membership in GEO fiscal year budgets; write Solidarity Committee by-laws.

5.  The Solidarity Committee may write its own bylaws to govern its internal operations.

b.  change current sections “F”, “G”, and “H” to sections “G”, “H”, and add section “I”

Amendment 2:

Amend Article VII: Officers, as follows: change “the officers of the GEO shall consist of two Co-Presidents, a Treasurer, a Communications Officer, a Grievance Officer and three Officers-at-Large”to

“the officers of the GEO shall consist of two Co-Presidents, a Treasurer, a Communications Officer, a Grievance Officer, a Solidarity Officer, and up to three Officers-at-Large.”