July 10, 2001
The University of Illinois administration has recently made plans to pay graduate employees for training as teaching assistants. Paid training has long been a key demand of the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO). Now, a letter sent by the Graduate College to the heads of academic departments states, “all of your teaching assistants will be compensated for their participation in required training.”
“The GEO has insisted on the importance of paid training for all graduate employees for many years,”said GEO Co-President Uma Pimplaskar. “We know that TAs teach one-third of all credits taught at the university, and improving the status of education here has always been a major goal for us. After all, TA working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”
While plans made by the administration are a first step, the GEO hopes to talk with university officials to improve the benefits and training. The Administration currently intends to pay only TAs who receive training before August 21st, ruling out the possibility of mid-year training programs and training for TAs who will begin new assignments during spring semester. Also, the current plan says nothing about what kind of training TAs will receive or how this training will help in the classroom.
“The Administration ought to consult its employees and work with us to create innovative training programs that will meet teachers’ needs,” said GEO Co-President Kate Bullard. “Until we achieve our democratic right to a voice in our working conditions, improvements in training and education can only be minimal.”
In addition, a teaching assistant would receive only $41.11 for a full day’s training, making the proposed rate of pay less than minimum wage. “That just highlights the Administration’s unwillingness to address the real issue,” said GEO Treasurer Jennifer Shaffer. “Our goal of paid training isn’t about pocket money for TAs. It’s about pushing the Administration to value education enough to work with and invest in teachers. The only way we’ll ever get that is through collective bargaining.”
For almost ten years, the GEO has been asking the administration to meet to discuss improvements in job training and other issues of importance to graduate employees. University officials continue to refuse recognition of the GEO, which represents the approximately 5,000 teaching, research, and graduate assistants at the University of Illinois.
July 10, 2001