BARGAINING, Announcements, Events, and Updates September 15, 2017

***September 15, 2017 — 31 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Table of Contents:

    • GEO Statement on the Repeal of DACA
    • Bargaining Update: Mediation
    • The Illinois Student Government Senate has Open Seats
    • Wear It Wednesday
    • Work-In Wednesday
    • Coffee Cart
    • RA Working Group
    • Solidarity Committee
    • Grievance Committee
    • Stewards’ Council
    • Communications Committee
    • Coordinating Committee
    • Health Care Working Group



GEO Statement on the Repeal of DACA
You can read our full statement on the repeal of DACA over on our Facebook.

Bargaining Update
At our last bargaining session, we signed a Tentative Agreement (TA) that grants us more flexible parental accommodation and states that supervisors and HR must strive to accommodate grad employees who have to miss work due to visa issues. We also got the Administration to agree to bring in a mediator to help move bargaining along. We’ll know when our next bargaining session is once the mediator gives us their schedule.

That said, it is still solely up to all of us to mobilize to get the best contract possible. The only way we will get a good contract is if we work together to demonstrate our power to the Admin and show them that we are committed to doing whatever it takes to get an equitable contract. To show what’s at stake, here’s a comparison of what we have proposed vs. what the admin has proposed on several key issues:

What we want:

Tuition Waivers: Keep our language protecting tuition waivers

Health Care: Admin contributes a higher percentage of our premium, more counseling center visits, summer health care coverage, dependent coverage, guaranteed minimum health care standards as defined by the ACA

Child Care: Monthly subsidy for parents, better access to campus resources

Fee Waiver: All student fees waived

Wages: 8% raise to the minimum salary, 4% yearly raises


What the Admin wants:

Tuition Waiver: Tiered waiver system that could force out-of-state and international grad employees to pay part of their tuition, the right to “modify” our tuition waivers at will

Health Care: Change from covering 80% of our premium to 80% of our premium or $500, whichever is less, none of the other things we’ve proposed

Child Care: No Child Care article

Fee Waiver: No Fee Waiver article

Wages: No proposed wage increases, language that would allow them to cut our pay

The difference between our vision of what graduate employees are worth and deserve and theirs is a stark one, but it’s up to us to make sure we get a contract that is closer to our vision than theirs. We need all hands on deck to win a fair contract–if you’re not already involved with GEO, now is the time! There are all sorts of ways to get involved. You can join one of the committees (see “Committee Updates” below), attend our events, volunteer to flyer, or just help out by talking to your fellow graduate employees about what’s at stake in bargaining and showing up to General Membership Meetings and rallies. You can also attend a Bargaining Team meeting (the next one is on Wednesday, September 20, 5:00-8:00pm, at the GEO Office), and email If you have an idea, or questions about how to get involved, feel free to email us at! And don’t forget to follow us on social media as the best way to stay up-to-date.


The Illinois Student Government (ISG) Senate has Open Seats
Did you know that UIUC has a Student Senate, and that most of the graduate student seats are open? As a member of GEO, you’ve already expressed interest in improving the lives of your fellow Illini — so although the ISG is not associated with GEO, we want to make sure you know about this opportunity! The ISG deals with a broad range issues that affect the lives of students on campus, from sexual assault to diversity, housing to mental health resources. You can find out more about the ISG Senate on their website. The time commitment is two hours each Wednesday evening and an additional one hour per month. Because there are vacant seats, you can still apply even though the normal application window is now closed. If you are interested in applying, we would be happy to help you with the application process, so let us know at!




Wear It Wednesday
Every Wednesday, wear your GEO shirt or pin for “Wear it Wednesday”! Take a photo and post it with the tag #WearItWednesday to share with us on Instagram or Twitter.

Work-In Wednesday
We have a weekly work-in on Wednesdays at the Courtyard Cafe in the Illini Union, 11:00am-1:00pm. Come on out and bring some work or your lunch and spend some time in solidarity with your fellow employees. Work-ins are a great way to increase visibility and demonstrate our solidarity to the entire campus, as well as to ask questions and learn more about bargaining, future work actions, and how you can get involved. All are welcome. And don’t forget — it’s Wear-It Wednesday, so wear some GEO swag if you can!


Coffee Cart

The GEO coffee cart is coming to you! Grab a free cup of coffee, some GEO swag, and chat with GEO members about current issues facing graduate employees as the cart makes its way around the quad and into nearby buildings every week! Follow us on social media to find out where the cart is. If you’d like us to visit your building, please email us at

If you see us, take a photo and post it with the tag #CoffeeWithGEO to share with us on Instagram or Twitter.

Contact with any questions about upcoming events.




RA Working Group:
RAs and Fellows have concerns that overlap with, but are also distinct from, those of TAs and GAs. And although RAs and Fellows are legally excluded from GEO’s bargaining unit, thus not covered by GEO’s contract with the university, they can still be active GEO members and work together to improve conditions across the university. The RA Working Group has formed to research and implement methods of successfully organizing and advocating for these graduate student populations. Please contact Zoë MacDowell Kaswan at for more information or if you are interested in participating.

Solidarity Committee (Sol Comm):
The Solidarity Committee (SolComm) serves to build ties of solidarity between the GEO and other people’s movements in the campus/community around it. It does this by supporting social justice-oriented projects through various means such as financial endorsements, statements of support, and collaborations. The SolComm has supported several organizations and movements locally and beyond with work towards economic, racial, gender, disability, prison, and environmental justice. For example, over the past summer, we tabled at the community event CU Days as part of our effort to increase GEO visibility in the community and provided free school supplies for children. We took a solidarity picture in support of the Mississippi Nissan workers’ historic union vote. We also wrote a solidarity statement, in direct conversation with the Garments Workers Trade Union (Bangladesh), when a boiler explosion killed at least 13 workers in Multifabs Ltd factory in Gazipur, Dhaka.

In addition to graduate employees, we welcome undergraduate students and CU community members to participate in the SolComm. If you have any questions/suggestions or would like to get involved, please contact the Solidarity Chair at We meet every other Friday (please check the calendar on our website) — our next meeting is on September 15 at 6:00 pm at the GEO Office. All members are welcome to attend!

Grievance Committee (GC):
A contract is only as good as our ability to enforce it. The Grievance Committee is responsible for advocating for fair labor practices at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and protecting graduate employees from abuse, and we need your help! Join the Grievance Committee for an opportunity to have a lasting impact on the lives of your peers all across campus. For information on the next meeting, contact

Did you know?

Our Collective Bargaining Agreement protects members of the Bargaining Unit from being overworked? You can refer to your appointment letter for information on the maximum number of hours you can be asked to work per week. If you are consistently being asked to work more than your appointment letter specifies, remain calm! Complete the work you were asked to perform, but take detailed notes and contact the Grievance Committee for advice about how to raise the issue to your employment supervisor. See Article VII in the GEO’s Collective Bargaining Agreement for more information.

Updates on Tuition Waiver Protection:

The Grievance Committee plays a key role in protecting tuition waivers for members. For example, on 26 January 2016, an independent arbitrator ruled in the GEO’s favor citing that a Masters in Computer Science (MCS) program policy violated the side letter of our contract; this MCS policy did not permit graduate students to receive tuition waiver-generating appointments from Computer Sciences and required any external department hiring MCS students to pay their tuition in cash to the CS department in addition to the graduate employees’ compensation. In effect, this policy blacklisted MCS students from waiver-generating positions because employing units were unwilling to pay tuition in cash to the CS Department. The GEO has identified 14 affected graduate students—all of whom are international students—and although the Union won the arbitration, the Administration has not only not paid these students back, but has stonewalled the GEO. The Union is continuing to work hard to pressure the Administration to meet with us and reach a settlement and relieve the financial burden this policy placed on MCS students.


Stewards’ Council (SC):
The Stewards Council is always looking for new members who want to help organize their departments! We are especially looking for grad workers who would like to be Stewards. Stewards help organize GEO membership by planning events such as the Welcome Back Party, Fair Contract Now Rally, Coffee Cart, and Office Visits–and we need your help!

Stewards are a visible representative of the GEO in their departments, and representatives of their department to the GEO. They are the go-to people for fielding questions about the contract, or other issues that GEO members might be facing, and are essential for communicating problems in their department to the GEO. They also help keep membership in their departments informed and up-to-date about GEO activities. The SC plans a variety of events every year, such as happy hours, general membership meetings, and informational sessions for departments. By being a steward for your department, you can work with GEO to make events tailored to your department’s students’ needs and interests.

Our meetings are open to all GEO members. While each department has its own method for appointing stewards, any GEO member may serve as a steward. Some department have co-stewards. The next meeting is on Tuesday, September 26, 5:00-7:00pm, at the GEO office. We also have a Stewards’ Council Retreat on Sunday, September 17, 5:00-7:00pm, at the GEO office where representatives from various GEO committees will get together, plan actions, and share the labor of securing a fair contract. Light refreshments will be provided. Please contact the Stewards’ Council Chair at to get involved or with any questions.

Communications Committee (Comm Comm):
We’re looking for new members to join our committee! Our meetings are open to all GEO members and no prior experience with communications is necessary. This fall we are working on messaging to members about bargaining, both in print and online via the GEO website and social media accounts. Please contact the Communications Officer at if you are interested in joining the Communications Committee or working on designing fliers and posters. All members are welcome! The next meeting is on Thursday, September 28, 5:00-7:00pm, at the GEO Office.


Coordinating Committee (CC):
The Coordinating Committee (CC) is made up of elected officers from all committees, though any member may attend meetings. The CC makes decisions about large‐scale projects, some financial decisions, and the GEO’s long‐term vision. Our meetings are open to all GEO members. The next meeting is on Thursday, September 21, 5:00-7:00pm, at the GEO Office. Please contact the Co-Presidents at with any questions about the next meeting.


Health Care Working Group (HCWG):
The Health Care Working Group works to educate graduate employees on their healthcare rights and benefits, as well as facilitating conversations about healthcare on campus between different stakeholder groups. The HCWG is happy to do small, department-level Healthcare 101 meetings. If you think the grads in your department would benefit from one of these events, please get in touch via your department steward or by contacting the HCWG directly. The Health Care Working Group is also planning a large healthcare town hall in early October, so keep an eye out for further information! HCWG meetings are open to all members. For more information about the next meeting, please contact





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