The republican gubernatorial candidate, Bruce Rauner, delivered the keynote address at the Champaign County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Celebration on May 10th.  Outside, the GEO, along with a number of other unions and community groups, protested his strongly anti-union policies.

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Rauner, a private equity manager who is personally contributing large sums of money to his campaign,  has frequently spoken in support of “Right to Work” labor policies, and has pointed to Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, as a role model.  He is strongly against public sector unions, and strives to erode labor rights in Illinois.

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!