Members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization / IFT / AFT (GEO) voted yesterday to adopt unilaterally those provisions of the “Free and Fair Election Agreement” it has proposed to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign administration that are binding upon the union. GEO members also voted to demand that the university administration adopt the provisions of the agreement that are binding upon it.
As a result of a new spirit of cooperation that began last spring, ending nearly a decade of administration intransigence, the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board will oversee an historic union election on the UIUC campus before the end of the academic year. In this election, over 2,000 Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants will have an opportunity to vote in support of the GEO becoming their legally recognized collective bargaining agent. GEO members see both parties signing the “Free and Fair Election Agreement” as ensuring that this spirit of cooperation continues unabated throughout the electoral process.
“Graduate employees are enthusiastic about finally being able to vote for the GEO to be their union after a nearly decade-long campaign. It would be a shame, though, if the university administration decided to backtrack from the relationship that we forged last semester by opting for more confrontation and misinformation,” said Allan Borst, GEO Co-President.
The provisions binding on the university administration will help to ensure that the election is free of intimidation, harassment, and threats of retribution. Under the agreement, graduate employees would enjoy the self-evident “right … to express their opinions freely and openly” and the university administration would not take “any action to discipline, harass, humiliate, or fire any employee for her or his pro-union views or activities.” In light of Co-President Rosemary Braun’s announcement that the university administration continues to refuse to sign the agreement, GEO members also voted to seek the support of the University, Champaign-Urbana, and Illinois communities in pressuring the university administration to commit to a free and fair election.
In addition to local clergy, faculty, and others, over forty U.S. and Illinois State Representatives, Senators, and candidates, including gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich and Representative Rick Winkel, have already expressed in writing their support for the agreement.
“Given the university administration’s concerted and protracted resistance to the GEO over the better part of a decade, and the needless distraction, disruption, and taxpayer expense that this has brought to the university community, we are convinced that it is in the community’s best interest for the two parties involved in the election process to come to an agreement that more clearly defines a code of conduct,” according to Ms. Braun. “We are gratified that so many from the University, Champaign-Urbana, and Illinois communities agree with us. The next step is for the university administration to agree with us.”
“GEO members strongly believe that it is the right of graduate employees alone to choose whether or not to vote for unionization. The administration should agree to refrain from overt or covert efforts to influence the outcome. We will do our part and we want to work with the administration to make sure that they do theirs,” added Braun.