Champaign, IL – At a general membership meeting on Thursday, October 11, 2012, nearly two hundred members of the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) of the University of Illinois, UrbanaChampaign overwhelmingly approved filing Intent to Strike paperwork with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB).
This signals that members are frustrated with the current state of negotiations in the bargaining room. The GEO has met with representatives from the University administration 19 times since April without reaching agreement on any of their major contract proposals including tuition waiver protection, wages, or health care. The GEO contract expired on August 16.
This vote sends a clear signal to the administration that members are behind the bargaining team and fully support the demand for tuition waiver protection. The Intent to Strike vote does not authorize a strike, it simply puts that option on the table for the union. GEO membership will have the opportunity to vote to approve a work action if that option becomes necessary.
“Tuition waivers are essential for graduate student employees on this campus,” said Kristen Ehrenberger, a teaching assistant from the history department who attended the meeting. “I went out on strike in 2009, and I came here tonight because I want the administration know that we take this issue seriously and expect the University to negotiate tuition waivers.”
At the meeting union members also learned that the University administration has agreed the GEO’s request to submit a joint request for a federal mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). The administration had previously refused the GEO’s request for mediation, but today changed their minds after the union had contacted the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) to ask them for mediation assistance last week. The GEO is committed to negotiation in the bargaining room and hopes that a mediator will help facilitate communication during bargaining negotiations going forward.
In 2009, approximately 1,000 GEO members went on strike and successfully won tuition waiver protection in their contract. They are a fundamental part of graduate education at every major university. Waivers are how universities, like Illinois, are able to hire graduate student labor so cheaply and compete for high quality and diverse students.
The GEO is a member of the IFT-AFT, AFL-CIO, and represents more than 2,400 Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants on campus, that teach more than 20% of all course hours offered at the University of Illinois, and more than 36% of all Freshman classes.
For more information, please contact Stephanie Seawell, at 217-722-7544 or email@example.com.