IMPORTANT: Bargaining Update, Response to Admin’s Email, and Pre-strike Information

***February 23, 2018 —  193 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Table of Contents:

  • Bargaining Updates
  • GEO Response to Administration message to TAs and GAs
  • Picket Shifts
  • Sunday Pre-Strike Rally

Remember, you have a legal right to strike without retaliation. If your department, supervisor, or any faculty or staff attempt to intimidate, coerce, or otherwise influence your decision to strike, this is a violation of your legal rights under the Illinois Labor Education Relations Act. Please report any such violations to grievance@uigeo.org. We will always have your back.

This is a long one–but it’s important. Read the whole thing!

Bargaining Updates

Thank you everyone for your organizing work this week! Everyone who committed to our strike, signed up for picket shifts, did office visits, and continued to show their support and solidarity have put us in a great position to be prepared for a powerful strike and win a great contract for our membership!

The Administration’s proposal given today, while making some movement in wages and healthcare, does not offer us the tuition waiver protections we need, and would fundamentally redefine the meaning of graduate labor on this campus. The Administration is attempting to limit access to education by restricting who is able to obtain tuition waivers as part of their compensation for graduate work.

The Administration continues to attempt to use the Campus Wage Program to determine graduate employee salaries. The GEO asked for an explanation of the program and documentation on how the Administration puts together its budget. The Administration would not provide any documentation for how its budget is constructed and told the GEO that, under the Campus Wage Program, the President and three Chancellors (one for each campus) have unilateral power to decide the pay rates for employees across the UI system. The Campus Wage Program lacks any transparency and constitutes an illegal failure to bargain wages, a mandatory subject of bargaining, and we filed an unfair labor practice about this over a month ago. Today, we filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all emails and meeting notes between the President and Chancellors related to the Campus Wage Program.

GEO Response to Administration Message to TAs and GAs

Today, just as in 2009 and 2012, the Administration HR sent out an email to TAs and GAs attempting to frighten our members from striking by discussing their self-reporting policy. Some things to keep in mind about this scare tactic:

  1. Regarding the need to self-report: Union members are protected from retaliation for striking. Completing this form means that you have documented evidence that your absence from teaching was due to your protected right to strike and withhold labor, but it also opens the door for the Administration’s HR to withhold your pay. No one can force you to sign this form, but it can help the GEO protect you from retaliatory action.
  2. This form is filled out after the strike is over. This is not something you would need to complete during a strike.
  3. The form is to be submitted to a supervisor or chair, not to the Administration directly. Many colleges, departments, and programs have voiced their support and pledged not to report striking workers. You should speak to your advisor and supportive staff members and let them know about this scare tactic. One potential option is to submit it to your supervisor but ask them not to forward it to HR, so you’re on record as having participated in the strike.
  4. The GEO has prepared for potential payment stoppages, and has a strike fund, an emergency welfare fund, IFT/AFT zero interest loans and food bank locations on and close to campus. We also have a national and international network of thousands of union members and organizations that have pledged to stand with us and are ready to step up in case of emergency. If you are worried about financial concerns, please contact our co-presidents at cc@uigeo.org or your stewards. Your concerns and questions will be kept strictly confidential: we are here to help. If you want additional help budgeting for a strike please feel free to contact our IFT representative Jon Nadler at JNadler@ift-aft.org.
  5. When we finalize the contract, we will work with the Administration’s bargaining team to decide if/how missed work will be made up and how many days of absence will be counted and docked. We as a union will then vote on this resolution, and will do everything in our power to lighten any potential financial blow.
  6. This is an intimidation tactic. This means the university recognizes our strike threat is powerful enough to win.  The best thing we can do to preserve our long term financial stability is to stand together, walk the picket lines, and win a good contract. As long as we stay united, the gains we make will far outweigh any potential lost pay.

Sign Up for Picket Shifts!

Unless we are able to reach a settlement with the administration this weekend, we will be going out on strike Monday, February 26th. In order to win this strike, secure our financial stability and tuition waivers, and make sure that education at UIUC is affordable and accessible for all, we need to do two things: withhold our labor, and demonstrate our strength with strong, packed picket lines.

You can sign up for picket shifts online here. We’re asking members to sign up for at least as many hours as your appointment–since you’re not working, you should consider picketing your full-time job. After you sign up, a picket captain will be in touch to confirm with you and let you know what building to show up to.

Let’s have massive picket lines so that we can fight to make this campus a great place to work and learn. Let’s win this thing.

Sunday Pre-Strike Rally

Our last event before the strike is going to be a rally on Sunday, February 25, at 5pm outside the Fire Services Institute (11 Gerty Dr, Champaign). During the rally, we will have speakers on with up-to-date information on bargaining, picketing logistics and strike support. We have prepared for our Union to go on strike until we win a fair contract, and we need to come together to get it done! More information on our Facebook event.

CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

Sign up for text updates! Text updates are the fastest, best way to get crucial GEO information. Text the word “GEO” to 69238 to receive periodic messages concerning crucial bargaining updates and other urgent information. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to 69238 to stop receiving messages. Text HELP to 69238 for more information. Terms & Conditions.

In Solidarity,
Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283

Email: geo@uigeo.org

Preparing for a Strike

***February 19, 2018 —  189 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Table of Contents:

  • Co-President’s Message
  • Announcements
    • Bargaining Update
    • Picket Training
    • Pre-Strike GMM
  • FAQs and Basic Information on Striking and Tuition Waivers
  • Connect with Faculty – Templates
  • Financial Planning Information
  • Breakdown of the Admin’s FAQ
  • Connect with GEO

 

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Co-President’s Message

Greetings GEO members,

In exactly one week, we will exercise our legal right, and last option, and go out on strike to demand a fair contract that promises the following: tuition waiver protection for graduate students that do teaching or graduate assistant work, and financial stability through in an increase in our other economic proposals.  This will be a strike for our very survival as a union and some of our members’ ability to attend this university.  These stakes are not hyperbolic; rather, they portray a dire situation that could transform both the University of Illinois and U.S. higher education as we know it.

For many of our members who have never participated in such a major event, the question is simple: what exactly is a strike and how can we be as effective as possible in winning it? A Strike is 2 Parts: Withholding our labor and disrupting campus operations via picketing.  This means we MUST NOT teach, grade work, submit grades, answer work-related emails, or produce any contributions to the operations of this campus.  Additionally, we must picket classroom buildings throughout the campus to fully disrupt productivity on campus.  Yes, the major act of a strike is to withhold labor; however, to win the proposals we want in our contract, we must demonstrate our organizing power and exercise every tactic as possible.  We must be as strong as ever and picketing ensures that our strike is multifaceted and devastating enough to win benefits for everyone in our wonderful campus community.  If classroom buildings are empty and we are disrupting campus, it will force the administration to bargain a fair contract.  This is how we will win!

We must do whatever necessary to educate both members and non-members of the dangers of crossing the picket line, which means performing your job labor during a strike or walking into picketed buildings.  Crossing the picket line not only undermines and weakens the strike itself, but it hurts our colleagues, friends, students, and departments.  If you know a member or non-member that is unsure about the strike or does not want to support the strike, we must have multiple conversations that emphasize supporting each other and solidarity to win this for all of us!

Thank you all for all of your hard work in preparing for such a difficult, yet rewarding action.  A work stoppage is a righteous move by workers used solely as a final option to protect ourselves, our undergraduates, and the quality of education at this university.  Please stay tuned to all updates, logistics, and advice for the strike and DO NOT HESITATE to contact GEO at any point for any questions, comments, ideas, or volunteering to help.  We have seven days to make sure everyone is on the right page with our plan so we will win!!!

In Solidarity,

Gus Wood and Marilia Correa

Co-Presidents

Graduate Employees Organization Local 6300 IFT/AFT AFL-CIO

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Announcements:

Bargaining Update

At our last session, on Thursday, Feb. 15, over the course of 12 hours, GEO and the Administration sent several proposals back and forth. Because the Administration insists on continuing to threaten tuition waivers and is unwilling to provide a meaningful increase in their financial package, little movement was made toward reaching a compromise. The Administration has never argued that they can’t afford our proposals, but it is clear they simply do not value our labor enough to provide us with fair compensation and financial stability. We will continue to meet to try to avoid a strike, but more than ever we need to make sure we’re continuing to put in the organizing effort to make sure we’re ready to walk off the job on February 26th.

We’ll be back in the bargaining room Friday, Feb. 23rd, hoping to reach a settlement before our strike Monday. All members are invited.

Picket Training

Picket Trainings will be held multiple times throughout the week. Keep an eye out for facebook events or email us at geo@uigeo.org to get the schedule for this week. It is very important that you attend at least one Picket Training, especially if you intend to serve as a Picket Captain.

Pre-Strike GMM

Our next General Membership will be Thursday, February 22, at 6:30pm in the Channing Murray Foundation (1209 W Oregon St, Urbana). We will spend roughly 30-45 minutes on Strike Information and spend another 45 minutes making signs and chants for the picket lines.With our Union under threat, it’s important to come together and prepare for a strike that wins us a contract! Food and childcare provided.

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FAQs and Basic Information on Striking and Tuition Waivers

Strike FAQ: Basic information about striking, retaliation, talking to faculty and students, the Admin’s website, and more.

Strike Manual: Detailed information on striking including legality, financial planning, and the nitty-gritty of how striking works.

Bargaining Movement Document: GEO has shown a willingness to meet the Administration halfway again and again. This document details what movements have been made from our original proposals.

Undergraduate FAQ: Are your undergrads asking questions? This FAQ is a good place for them to start.

On January 29, 2018, after GEO filed Intent to Strike paperwork, the Administration sent a massmail in which they expressed “surprise and disappointment” at the development. Here is our one-page response, which discusses why the paperwork was filed, as well as the importance of graduate employees to the University as a whole.

Tuition Waivers are one of the most contentious issues in this bargaining cycle.

This one-page FAQ on the Administration’s Tuition Waiver proposal covers the basics.  

You can read the current side letter containing tuition waiver protections on the final page of our contract, here. The Admin’s proposed new side letter is on the final page of their latest offer, here.

On February 9, 2018, the Administration sent out a massmail that contained a great deal of misinformation on tuition waivers. Here is our response.

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Connect with Faculty – Templates

Faculty Support Letter Template: A template letter that faculty can use to show their support.

Template Letter for Class Cancellation: A template letter for asking your professors to cancel their classes (including graduate seminars!).

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Financial Planning Information

FAQ for Finances: This document is an FAQ for preparing financially for a strike.

Support Resources for the Strike: This document contains information for any financial emergencies that may arise as a result of withheld pay, including emergency shelter and food resources.

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Breakdown of the Admin’s FAQ

Admin FAQ Breakdown: A breakdown of the inaccuracies and misleading statements found within the Administration’s FAQ as published on their Human Resources page.

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CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

Sign up for text updates! Text updates are the fastest, best way to get crucial GEO information. Text the word “GEO” to 69238 to receive periodic messages concerning crucial bargaining updates and other urgent information. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to 69238 to stop receiving messages. Text HELP to 69238 for more information. Terms & Conditions.

In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283

Email: geo@uigeo.org

This is a newsletter for members about our recent news and events. The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), IFT/AFT local 6300, AFL-CIO, is a member-run labor union and represents Teaching and Graduate Assistants (TAs and GAs) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Response to Admin’s 2/9 Massmaill

On February 9th, the Administration sent out a massmail with information about the impending GEO strike. The message contained several misleading claims, particularly about tuition waivers. Here are some important points of clarification:

  • The GEO has never claimed that the Administration is planning to eliminate tuition waivers entirely, as their massmail implies. What the Administration is doing is attempting to eliminate the contractual protections of our collective bargaining agreement that guarantee tuition waivers for graduate employees doing TA and GA work.
  • The Administration’s massmail states that “graduate students who maintain good academic standing and continue to make appropriate progress towards their degree will continue to remain eligible to receive tuition waiver-generating assistantships.” We are not fighting for “eligibility” for tuition waiver-generating assistantships–eligibility does not provide us with the guarantee that we will continue to have our tuition waived in exchange for the labor we perform. We are fighting so that all graduate employees who perform TA and GA work are guaranteed a full tuition waiver, as our current collective bargaining agreement stipulates.
  • The Administration claims that current employees will not be affected by this language. Even if this were true, they should be ashamed if they think that the GEO does not care about the well-being of incoming and future graduate employees. We are Union members because we care about each other and because we care about the long-term success of our graduate programs, and higher education in general. We would never mortgage the future of our programs to win protections for current GEO members.
  • The GEO has always acknowledged the Administration’s right to create new programs. We maintain, however, that any time someone is employed to do TA or GA work, they are entitled to all the benefits of our contract, including a full tuition waiver. This understanding has been upheld by two, separate, legally-binding arbitration decisions.
  • The Administration’s claims that they want to protect tuition waivers are betrayed by their past practices. In the past, in Fine and Applied Arts and Computer Science, the Administration has acted illegally and in violation of our contract in attempts to prevent graduate employees from receiving the full tuition waiver they were owed. In both instances, the GEO was forced to file grievances and take the Administration to arbitration. In both instances, the independent arbitrator found in favor of the GEO. In particular, in Computer Science, the Administration illegally forced international graduate employees to pay their tuition. The financial burden imposed meant that many of these employees were unable to return to their home countries after graduation; some even had to put their families’ homes up as collateral for loans they were forced to take out. Even after the Arbitrator ruled in favor of GEO, the Administration did everything they could to avoid paying these employees the money they were owed, refusing to return phone calls or meet with our Grievance Committee. Only this past December, almost two years after the arbitrator’s decision, was the GEO able to force the Administration to agree to pay these employees back.

Tuition waivers are essential for ensuring the affordability, accessibility, and quality of education at the University of Illinois. The Administration’s proposals would have disastrous consequences for our University.

The GEO

CONNECT WITH GEO!
Website: www.uigeo.org
Twitter: @geo_uiuc
Facebook: @uigeo @geosolcomm
Instagram: @geo_uiuc

Text Updates: text the word “GEO” to 69238 to receive periodic messages concerning crucial bargaining updates and other urgent information. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to 69238 to stop receiving messages. Text HELP to 69238 for more information. Terms & Conditions.

In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization
809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room
Champaign, IL 61820
Phone: 217-344-8283
Email: geo@uigeo.org

Tuition Waivers Under Attack and Strike Date Announcement

***February 7, 2018 —  176 days since our contract expired on August 15th***
Table of Contents:

  • 23rd Bargaining Session Recap
  • Strike Date Announcement
  • General Membership Meeting

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23rd Bargaining Session Recap

Thank you to the members who turned out this morning AND this evening to demonstrate our power! The morning’s rally was fantastic, and everyone who turned out on short notice to rally again at 7:00pm was inspiring. It truly paints a picture of what we can accomplish when we come together.

At this session, the administration revealed their plans to terminate full tuition waiver protections and bust our Union. The administration argues that our tuition waivers are a permissive subject of bargaining, meaning that we legally cannot strike over it. Our position is that, as compensation, tuition waivers are a mandatory subject of bargaining and legal to strike over, a position also upheld by two legally-binding arbitration decisions.

The administration wants to make it so that they can redesignate any program to be self-supporting, which means that both current and incoming graduate students could lose access to tuition waiver generating appointments, even if they do the work of a TA or GA. If members don’t have tuition waivers, they won’t be able to attend school here.

As tuition waiver generating appointments disappear from many departments, we will be forced to compete over the limited number of waiver-generating positions in the small number of departments that offer them. Not only will this make graduate education unaffordable, but it means that fewer graduate employees will be legally protected by GEO’s contract. This will decimate individual graduate programs. Departments will only be able to recruit those who can afford to pay tuition rather than seeking out the best students. With fewer graduate students on campus and fewer positions covered by the contract, GEO will go extinct.

The administration is claiming that the GEO is attempting to prevent them from creating new programs. We recognize that the administration has the right to create new programs. However, as long as a graduate employee performs bargaining unit work, then that graduate employee MUST be paid their full compensation under the terms of our contract, including a tuition waiver.

We’re no longer just fighting for fair compensation and working conditions: we’re fighting for the life of our Union, the ability to attend graduate school, the strength of our departments, and the future of higher education.

Here is a link to the university administration’s proposal from the bargaining session today. We are seeking the same tuition waiver side letter language as our last contract, which can be found at uigeo.org.

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GEO Announces Strike Date to the University Administration

In response to these threats, we are announcing our strike date of Monday, February 26, 2018. If they have not made significant movement to protect our tuition waivers, ensure economic stability, and preserve our Union by 8:00 am on that day, picketing will begin.

Our team stayed and bargained with the administration for 15 hours. We will do everything in our power to avoid a strike, but as the administration saw today, we are prepared to strike if we have to.

On our website, we have resources to help inform and answer questions about a strike. Our FAQ includes information on how to talk to faculty and students about the strike, information about retaliation (which is illegal), and a link to our detailed Strike Manual. If you have other questions, talk to your steward or email us at geo@uigeo.org!
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What Comes Next:
Join us in fighting for a fair contract!
General Membership Meeting

Our next GMM will be Thursday, February 8, at 6:30pm in the Channing Murray Foundation (1209 W Oregon St, Urbana). With our Union under threat, it’s important to come together and prepare for a strike that wins us a contract! Food and childcare provided.
Commitment and Accountability is how we win!
CONNECT WITH GEO!

 

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc


Sign up for text updates! Text updates are the fastest, best way to get crucial GEO information. Text the word “GEO” to 69238 to receive periodic messages concerning crucial bargaining updates and other urgent information. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to 69238 to stop receiving messages. Text HELP to 69238 for more information. Terms & Conditions.
In Solidarity,

 

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283

Email: geo@uigeo.org
This is a newsletter for members about our recent news and events. The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), IFT/AFT local 6300, AFL-CIO, is a member-run labor union and represents Teaching and Graduate Assistants (TAs and GAs) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

All GEO Members Needed at Bargaining Session on the 7th, Truth about Tuition Waivers, and More

***February 5, 2018 —  175 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Table of Contents:

  • Co-President’s Message
  • Bargaining Update
  • ISG Resolution
  • Strike FAQ, Resources, Manual
  • Connect with GEO

GEO members,

This past week proves that we continue to grow larger and stronger because we hold two core principles in GEO: transparency and commitment.  Throughout this bargaining cycle, we have been completely transparent in our objectives, motivations, and movements regarding our contract proposals and our willingness to do everything to avoid a strike.  Unfortunately, we are “shocked and disappointed” that the University of Illinois administrative bargaining team, led by Provost Andreas Cangellaris, does not feel they owe transparency and commitment to the graduate workers on this campus, have forced us to work without a contract for over 170 days, and forced us to file an Intent to Strike Notice.  If you or a colleague you know are as disappointed and shocked as we are, then please join us in solidarity on Wednesday morning, Feb. 7th, 8AM, to show the administration how much we care about our financial stability and resolving this contract before a strike occurs.  Think of these stakes when you sign a strike commitment card and ask other members to sign strike commitment cards, because that is what it takes to win this contract and if the administration knows we all care enough to commit to strike, it is possible to resolve this contract fight at the table on the 7th.

We are also shocked and disappointed about the false narrative in the Provost’s massmail and other administrative messaging regarding GEO priorities at the bargaining table.  The truth about tuition waivers on the bargaining table right now is this:

The University administration wants tuition waivers to be an OPTIONAL benefit for graduate students working.  GEO believes, as do TWO separate ARBITRATORS, that tuition waivers are a substantial part of the compensation package guaranteed by our contract.  The University of Illinois administration wants to make tuition waivers optional for people working in any program that they might choose or create in the future.  GEO believes that any graduate student doing graduate employee work is entitled to a full tuition waiver guaranteed by the union contract.  Over nearly the span of a decade, the University administration has taken at least two programs, one in Fine and Applied Arts and one in Masters in Computer Science, and turned them into self-funded programs.   In effect, they forced the graduate students working in those programs to go out and find a tuition waiver from another department.  GEO grieved both of these actions as violations of our contract.  Two separate labor arbitrators upheld these grievances, forcing the admin to pay out over $1 MILLION to grad students.  It is this practice that the admin wants to continue.  To do this, the admin wants to change our current status quo tuition waiver side letter language.  Obviously, the University administration can create whatever program they want to create.  However, as long as there is a graduate student in that program doing graduate employee work, then that graduate student MUST be paid their full compensation, including a tuition waiver, via our contract.  We, as graduate workers will NOT pay to work at this university.  This is part of our priority of securing financial stability for our members in this contract.  If a strike occurs, it will be about preserving our tuition waiver protection and obtaining more money to better our financial conditions as workers and students.

Wednesday, February 7th will be a defining moment for the Graduate Employees Organization.  We need every single GEO member and ally to be at the Fire Services Institute at 8AM to win this contract next week.  Our bargaining team is willing to negotiate at anytime and anyplace to avoid a strike.  That is the type of transparency and commitment it takes to fight for and win financial stability and better working conditions for graduate workers at UIUC.  Thank you all!

Gus Wood & Marilia Correa

Co-Presidents,

Graduate Employees Organization Local 6300 UIUC

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Bargaining Update

At our last bargaining session on January 30th, our membership turned out in force to line the hallways of the Fire Services Institute to show the Administration our commitment to winning this contract fight. Because of our actions, we were able to reach an agreement in principle with the Administration on Appointment Terms, which would provide any employee who received a late appointment letter $50 in compensation. Full recap of the session is available here.

Our next session, on Wednesday, Feb. 7th, is going to be crucial, as it is the last session scheduled before we can legally strike. We’re asking all members that are able to turn out for the beginning of the session again to show the Administration we mean business. You can check out a Facebook event for this work action here. Be sure to invite all your friends and colleagues!

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ISG Resolution

At their meeting on Wednesday, January 31, the Illinois Student Government (ISG) passed a resolution supporting the GEO’s fight for a fair contract. The resolution recognizes that our proposals reflect the needs of our membership, calls upon the University administration to bargain fairly with us, and notes that movement on behalf of the University will help avoid a strike. The resolution passed with an overwhelming majority, with 24 in favor, 3 opposed, and one abstention. Various student senators voiced their support for graduate workers on campus, citing their positive experience with us as teachers, mentors, and colleagues, and the importance of our work for the prestige of the University.

The UIUC ISG is one of the few student senates that represents undergraduate as well as graduate students. There are currently multiple open graduate student seats in the senate; if you’re interested in getting involved, we encourage you to learn more at https://isg.illinois.edu/view/7038/396488

 

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Strike FAQ, Resources, and Manual

On our website, we have resources to help inform and answer questions about a strike. Our FAQ includes information on how to talk to faculty and students about the strike, information about retaliation (which is illegal), and a link to our detailed Strike Manual. If you have other questions, talk to your steward or email us at geo@uigeo.org!

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CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc


Sign up for text updates! Text updates are the fastest, best way to get crucial GEO information. Text the word “GEO” to 69238 to receive periodic messages concerning crucial bargaining updates and other urgent information. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to 69238 to stop receiving messages. Text HELP to 69238 for more information. Terms & Conditions.

In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283

Email: geo@uigeo.org

This is a newsletter for members about our recent news and events. The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), IFT/AFT local 6300, AFL-CIO, is a member-run labor union and represents Teaching and Graduate Assistants (TAs and GAs) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Bargaining: 22nd Session Summary

***Jan 30th, 2018 — 169 days since our contract expired on August 15!***

Thank you to all the GEO members and supporters who arrived early this morning to line the halls of the Fire Services Institute before the bargaining session began. Over 100 people showed up, including people who brought their children, to look the Administration in the eye before administration sent their comprehensive proposal response. Chanting from GEO members and supporters echoed in the halls for a few minutes. The Administration’s bargaining team called the police to report us as a noise nuisance, stating they could not focus on their discussion. Apparently the Administration did not do their homework in preparing a proposal for us to start today’s session, so they needed almost 45 minutes to give us a response to our proposal from the last session.

The Administration’s initial proposal included:

  • a wage increase that does not keep up with the cost of living or provide our members with the economic stability they need (1.5%-2% for the first year, 1% for the second, and 1.5% for the third, nothing for the final two contract years).
  • an article on appointment terms which provided no remedy for late appointment letters while shortening the definition of ‘late.’
  • no fee waivers
  • a cap on their own expenses for healthcare while leaving us on the hook for the rest, even as our healthcare costs continue to increase.
  • the same child care informational link that they have proposed before
  • a horrendous Tuition Waiver Side Letter that undermines our access to tuition waivers

Together this proposal makes education unaffordable and inaccessible for graduate employees!!

We waited for weeks for the administration to respond to our information request about fee waivers, and today the administration finally gave us information about where our fee money goes. With this information, we were able to start discussions through the mediator about moving toward a new agreement. In a substantial show of movement on our part, we even signaled a willingness to pay certain fees that cover services that directly benefit graduate employees: the transportation fee and the student initiated fees. The Administration did not respond.

We also discussed appointment terms today, specifically, what remedy we could agree on for the many graduate employees whose appointment letters are late. Almost a year ago, we proposed financial compensation for the stress caused by late appointment letters. The Administration claimed that would be too burdensome for them, but consistently refused to suggest any ideas of their own. We maintained that we needed a financial remedy. Finally, today the Administration returned with a compromise we think benefits our members: the timeline for receiving appointment letters will be shorter, but employees who receive their appointment letters late can be awarded financial compensation. GEO agrees to this in principle and we are looking forward to including this in our future economic proposals.

We were only able to get this movement from the Administration because of our member actions. After essentially ending our session early last time, they stayed for almost twelve hours today–a direct testament to our member mobilization. By filing our Intent to Strike paperwork and then having so many members show up for the bargaining session, we showed the Administration that we are serious about winning a better contract for GEO, and are prepared to do whatever it takes.

What Comes Next:

Join us in fighting for a fair contract!

Strike Committee Meeting

The Strike Committee will be meeting on Saturday, 2/3, at 2pm in the GEO office to prepare for a possible strike. All members are welcome and encouraged to attend.

General Membership Meeting

Our next GMM will be Thursday, February 1, at 6:30pm in the Channing Murray Foundation (1209 W Oregon St, Urbana)

NEXT BARGAINING SESSION:

The date of the next session has not yet been announced, but we will publish that information once a date has been set. All members are welcome to attend for part or all of the session. You can also find more information about bargaining on our website.

If you have questions about bargaining or the BT’s proposal, attending a meeting is the best way to address them. You can reach us at barg@uigeo.org.

Are you a member?

Our members are why we succeed at the bargaining table! If you haven’t signed a membership card yet, don’t delay! Contact us at geo@uigeo.org to sign a membership card. If you’re not sure of your membership status, please ask!

See the GEO event calendar for future BT meetings, bargaining sessions, and other events. Add it to your Google calendar by searching for geo@uigeo.org.

Follow GEO Online:

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: GRADUATE EMPLOYEES’ ORGANIZATION UIUC FILES OFFICIAL NOTICE OF INTENT TO STRIKE WITH ILLINOIS EDUCATION LABOR RELATIONS BOARD AND UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN ADMINISTRATION

GRADUATE EMPLOYEES’ ORGANIZATION UIUC LOCAL 6300

Urbana-Champaign (January 29, 2018) – The Graduate Employees Organization Local 6300 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (the GEO) filed an official Intent to Strike Notice with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board today, after the University Administration failed to respond to substantial movement in the GEO’s latest comprehensive proposal, refusing to even provide a counter-offer in the bargaining session. The Intent to Strike Notice gives the GEO the legal protection to engage in a work stoppage if necessary in the future. The GEO has attempted to utilize all possible avenues towards resolving this contract at the table, including mediation, filing two Unfair Labor Practice charges against the University Administration, and making substantial movement from its original contract proposals. The Administration, however, has consistently stalled and held austere proposals that would negatively impact the economic stability of graduate employees. “We firmly hold the position that we want to resolve this contract negotiation at the bargaining table,” said co-President Gus Wood. “We do not want to strike because we love our undergraduates and our work.  However, if the University Administration continues in their pattern of neglect and disrespect for our working conditions, economic stability, and value to the success of this institution, we will declare a strike to protect our membership, our union, our undergraduates, and the integrity and quality of education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.”  

After the last three mediated bargaining sessions, the GEO’s Bargaining Team and Strike Committee determined that it is highly unlikely that contract negotiations can be resolved at the table without abandoning many union protections and the chance to secure financial stability for its membership. “The Administration’s proposals would drastically undermine the accessibility and affordability of higher education here at Illinois,” said Patrick Kimutis, a Bargaining Team Member and graduate employee in the Department of English.  “The Administration’s proposal would raise our healthcare cost and burden many graduate employees with over $1,000 worth of annual fees. And even though most graduate employees make well below the University’s published cost of living, the Administration has refused to guarantee annual raises, making our education costs unaffordable and blocking access to this University for many disadvantaged people. The Administration is waging an assault on our our economic stability.” Graduate employees at UIUC have reported having difficulties with paying monthly bills and buying food, and some members, like PhD candidate and co-President Gus Wood, feel that they are only one emergency away from significant financial disaster. Wood, whose car was repossessed in Fall 2015 while he was a TA making $17,000 a year, says that this bargaining cycle is an opportunity to make education affordable and secure financial stability for graduate workers across campus.  “Losing my car and not being able to afford bare necessities solely because I did not make enough money as a TA at UIUC was devastating and embarrassing.  I was forced to work four jobs to get my car back and maintain my bills.  I fight for a fair contract because everyone deserves financial stability,” said Wood.  “Graduate workers should not have to seek extra work outside the university like I did to avoid major financial loss because they cannot afford a car payment, a healthcare bill, child care, or any other financial hardship.  This university only operates because we provide teaching, research, clerical work, mentorship, and committee work.  Thus, our value to the success, integrity, and quality of undergraduate education here must correlate with how we are compensated.  Otherwise, more and more graduate workers will suffer hardship and be forced to make difficult choices between paying bills and eating. We must win this contract to make education affordable and accessible here.  These are the stakes of this contract struggle,” he said.  

The GEO hopes that the Intent to Strike Notice will serve to pressure the University administration at the parties’ next mediation session on January 30th. “We simply want a better campus and better graduate school experience for everyone across the Champaign County communities,” said GEO co-President Marília Corrêa. “If the UIUC administration forces us into a work stoppage, they will put campus operations at risk, jeopardize this Spring semester, and force classes to cancel, wasting the tuition money undergraduates pay to go here.  This Intent to Strike puts the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign County, and the state of Illinois on notice that the GEO is ready, if necessary, to utilize all means, including worker power and solidarity, to secure affordable education and working conditions, protect graduate workers, and fight for the integrity and quality of higher education.  We demand the University of Illinois Administrative bargaining team accept our reasonable comprehensive proposal on January 30th.  We, as graduate workers, deserve it.”  

For more information, contact GEO Co-Presidents Gus Wood and Marilia Correa at cc@uigeo.org or (404)213-8355

Website: uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

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Important Strike Updates

***January 26, 2017 —  164 days since our contract expired on August 15th***

Table of Contents:

  • Bargaining/Strike Timeline Update
  • Strike FAQ, Resources, and Manual
  • Connect with GEO

Bargaining/Strike Timeline Update

At our General Membership Meeting last night, it was decided that the GEO would file Intent to Strike paperwork on Monday, Jan. 29, the day before our next bargaining session. This step does not mean we have to strike, but it gives us legal permission to do so. This comes in the wake of our November strike vote, in which 93% of ballots voted in favor of authorizing the Strike Committee to file the Intent to Strike paperwork whenever it deemed it necessary. That time is now.

In our last bargaining session, the Admin refused to even respond to a comprehensive proposal we provided them that included every item left on the table, and in which we had made concessions from our original proposals on wages, healthcare, child care, appointment terms, and duration. We gave them the proposal before 11:30 a.m., and despite the fact that we were scheduled to bargain until 4:00 p.m. they didn’t even grant us a response. They also have not responded to an information request given to them almost two weeks ago, asking how the money we pay in fees is spent. It’s clear that the Admin has no intention of working with us to create a contract that is fair for both sides.

While we will continue to bargain in good faith, it is becoming more and more evident that we will likely have no choice but to strike if we are to win a contract that secures our economic stability. We have worked tirelessly both at the table and in public to do everything we can to avoid this outcome, with marches, rallies, sit-ins, op-eds, and an overnight occupation/tutor-in that was attended by an estimated 300 members. At this point, however, it seems that we have no other options but to strike, and we are preparing for a possible strike in the middle to end of February.

If we go out on strike, we go out to win. That means we need all members to commit to withholding their labor and picketing for as long as it is necessary.

Strike FAQ, Resources, and Manual

On our website, we have resources to help inform and answer questions about a strike. Our FAQ includes information on how to talk to faculty and students about the strike, information about retaliation (which is illegal), and a link to our detailed Strike Manual. If you have other questions, talk to your steward or email us at geo@uigeo.org

Bargaining Action

For the bargaining session on Tuesday, the 30th, we would like as many members to show up for the beginning of the session as possible, so that the Admin will see us all as they arrive. Please join us at around 8:30 a.m. at the Fire Services Institute, 11 Gerty Dr, Champaign, IL 61820. As always, all members are welcome to attend any part of any session, but showing up for the beginning will have the biggest impact. Email geo@uigeo.org if you need a ride.

CONNECT WITH GEO!

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

Sign up for text updates! Text updates are the fastest, best way to get crucial GEO information. Text the word “GEO” to 69238 to receive periodic messages concerning crucial bargaining updates and other urgent information. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to 69238 to stop receiving messages. Text HELP to 69238 for more information. Terms & Conditions.

In Solidarity,

 

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283

Email: geo@uigeo.org

 

This is a newsletter for members about our recent news and events. The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), IFT/AFT local 6300, AFL-CIO, is a member-run labor union and represents Teaching and Graduate Assistants (TAs and GAs) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: GRADUATE EMPLOYEES ORGANIZATION (GEO) OF UIUC RALLIES AT ALMA MATER AFTER FILING UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE CHARGE AGAINST UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS ADMINISTRATION FOR FAILURE TO BARGAIN WAGES

Urbana-Champaign (January 17, 2018): The Graduate Employees Organization Local 6300 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign calls on members, allies, and community supporters to join us on campus at the Alma Mater on Thursday, January 18th, 12PM to protest against the University administrative bargaining team’s failure to bargain wages during this contract negotiation cycle, by proposing the Campus Wage Program.  This violation of Illinois labor law represents only one instance in a pattern of disrespect, betrayal, and outright negligence towards the economic stability of teaching and graduate assistants, which undermines  the quality and integrity of both graduate and undergraduate education at UIUC.

Since March of last year, the GEO has repeatedly attempted to discuss a fair wage proposal that would move graduate workers closer to the University’s published cost of living standard by raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing yearly raises.  However, the University administrative bargaining team, under the direction of former Provost John Wilkin, thwarted each attempt by proclaiming their desire to force the Campus Wage Program on graduate workers.  By proposing the Campus Wage Program, the UIUC administration is stating that it will decide and state at a later date, without the union’s input, any salary changes for the bargaining unit.  Thus, the administrative bargaining team seeks to retain sole authority to determine graduate employee wages, rather than bargaining them with the Union as required by law. The Campus Wage Program proposal does not only offer no guarantee that wages will go up during the years it is in effect, but also opens the door for the Administration to reduce graduate employee wages whenever they see fit. Currently, the minimum wage for graduate employees is $16,360, thousands of dollars less than the University’s own published cost of living, which is an estimated $22,314. This refusal to bargain wages in good faith not only interferes with the power of graduate employees to exercise their rights as guaranteed by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, it also forces the Graduate Employees Organization closer to a possible work stoppage in the near future.  “We must not allow the UIUC administration to remove our voices and power in determining our working conditions and pay,” said GEO Co-President Gus Wood. “If they succeed in dictating a regressive contract to us, other unions, workers, and historically disadvantaged groups and peoples will be subject to similar losses of agency and protections.  It must stop here and now.”

This rally at the Alma Mater and subsequent march to the Swanlund Administration Building represents the GEO’s stark warning to the UIUC administration that we will no longer tolerate unfair labor practices, regressive proposals at the bargaining table, and 156 days without a contract. The UIUC administration’s lackadaisical approach to graduate worker protections is an outright betrayal and danger to our economic stability and productivity as workers and scholars.  Join us Thursday as we build power and collective solidarity with one another, and each day after until we secure a fair contract for graduate workers at UIUC.  Our fight for economic stability will reverberate across labor sectors in Champaign County, the state of Illinois, and the United States of America.

Workers Unite! Power to the People!

Graduate Employees’ Organization UIUC

Local 6300 IFT/AFT, AFL-CIO

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Bargaining: 20th Session Summary

***Jan 7, 2017 — 145 days since our contract expired on August 15!***

On January 5th the GEO Bargaining Team (BT) and the UIUC Administration held their twentieth bargaining session / eighth mediation session, which lasted 8 hours. GEO would have stayed longer, but Administration notified us during the session that they were only available until 5 pm.

The Bargaining Team began the session by providing feedback on and raising concerns with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) proposed by the Administration at the very end of the previous session. The MOU is designed to begin to fix the Administration’s difficulty with sending appointment letters on time, and would establish a committee comprised of GEO and Administration members who would work to remedy the issue. Currently, over 95% of appointment letters are sent late in violation of our contract. This causes serious problems for GEO members who require timely notification of employment to secure housing and get visas.

After hearing our concerns, the Admin asked us to craft a counter-proposal, which we sent to them at 1:00. The Admin sent us back a counter at 4:45, meaning that we wouldn’t have time to respond before the session ended at 5:00. Regrettably, the Admin’s counter proposal was actually worse than the previous one they had sent us, despite the fact that we believed we were making progress towards reaching a mutually agreeable memorandum. The fact that the Admin would move further away from our position at this point shows that we need everyone to come together to continue to build on the awesome momentum we generated last semester–it’s going to take mass action outside the room to get a fair contract. We’ve already spent over 18 hours in mediated bargaining sessions working on this MOU, and it doesn’t even cost the Administration any money!!!

What Comes Next:

Join us in fighting for a fair contract!

New TA Orientation

Join GEO as we introduce our union to new graduate teachers at New TA Orientation on January 10th from 7:45am–4:45pm and January 11th from 7:45am–1:00pm at Wohlers Hall. GEO’s strength is its members, and you are all the best people to encourage new TAs to join the fight for a fair contract. If you can help out, please add your name to the sign-up sheet. Don’t feel like you need to be a GEO expert to participate. The Stewards’ Council will be facilitating a training on organizing conversations on January 9th at 4:30pm in the GEO office, and we will also have written talking points prepared. We hope you’ll be able to join us!

NEXT BARGAINING SESSION:

The session is tentatively scheduled for Jan 30th, but we’re trying to schedule an additional meeting before then.  All members are welcome to attend for part or all of the session. You can also find more information about bargaining on our website.

If you have questions about bargaining or the BT’s proposal, attending a meeting is the best way to address them. You can reach us at barg@uigeo.org.

Are you a member?

Our members are why we succeed at the bargaining table! If you haven’t signed a membership card yet, don’t delay! Contact us at geo@uigeo.org to sign a membership card. If you’re not sure of your membership status, please ask!

See the GEO event calendar for future BT meetings, bargaining sessions, and other events. Add it to your Google calendar by searching for geo@uigeo.org.

Follow GEO Online:

Website: www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

Text the word “GEO” to 69238 to receive periodic messages concerning crucial bargaining updates and other urgent information. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to 69238 to stop receiving messages. Text HELP to 69238 for more information. Terms & Conditions.

 

In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th Street

McKinley Foundation, Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Email: geo@uigeo.org