GEO members: come for a vital discussion of how we can win protection for tuition waivers in our new contract!
RALLY TO SUPPORT THE BARGAINING TEAM’S STRUGGLE TO ENSURE ACCESS TO CONTRACT PROTECTIONS FOR ALL BARGAINING UNIT MEMBERS:
LEVIS FACULTY CENTER, 8:45 AM, THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012: BARGAINING SESSION STARTS AT 9:00
Yesterday, the GEO bargaining team proposed two tentative agreements (TAs): the first on accommodations for nursing mothers (to help bring University units in compliance with state law); the second on improving our grievance procedure by better protecting grad employees who are subject to discrimination or harassment at the hands of their immediate supervisor.
These TA proposals were almost identical to language that the administration proposed just last week.* The admin team has consistently objected to our proposals for basic accommodations and support for working parents, so our bargaining team attempted to achieve movement at the bargaining table by proposing TAs on other issues that both the GEO and the admin basically agree on. But today, the administration team refused to sign mutually agreeable language on nursing mothers and grievances unless the GEO entirely drops our proposal for a Child Care Subsidy to support graduate employee parents.
The administration is stalling negotiations by putting a price tag on basic rights of access and protection for parents, women, and minority employees in the bargaining unit.
At the next bargaining session on August 16, our Bargaining Team will demand the administration respond to our specific proposals and push for historic contract language that would significantly increase recognition and access for LGBTQ persons and relationships, protect international and immigrant graduate employees, and work toward a safe and accessible workplace for queer, graduate students of color, and working parents in our bargaining unit.
The GEO Access and Equality Caucus will be staging a major rally in support of the Bargaining Team on August 16 at 8:45 am outside the Levis Faculty Center. The more of us GEO members that attend the rally, the more we will show the admin bargaining team that our union is serious about demanding a just contract for all members of the bargaining unit.
All GEO members are encouraged to attend the bargaining session immediately following the rally: let’s pack the room!
Our last round of contract negotiations ended in one of only five strikes involving at least 1,000 workers in the United States in 2009 partly because the administration team refused to respond to specific GEO proposals unless our team agreed to blanket “package deals” that would have forced the union to give up major concessions while receiving almost nothing in return.
Let’s demand an end to these 2009 stall tactics on August 16!
*GEO members: see the GEO-L today (8/3) for more information on the bargaining team’s proposed TA language
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: TEACHING ASSISTANTS’ UNION WINS LANDMARK ARBITRATION CASE AGAINST MAJOR PUBLIC UNIVERSITY
Urbana-Champaign, IL (October 3): The Graduate Employees’ Organization at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has won a landmark arbitration ruling in a contract dispute with UIUC administrators over tuition waivers.
An independent arbitrator has ruled that an attempt by University of Illinois officials to reduce tuition waivers for some incoming graduate employees represents a clear violation of the contract between the union and the Illinois Board of Trustees.
Tuition waivers are a benefit of employment, which represent no cost to the University. Preventing reduction of tuition waivers will preserve quality of education at Illinois, organizers say, while protecting vital labor standards.
In November 2009, over 1,000 Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) members went on strike to prevent the reduction or elimination of tuition waivers for graduate employees. This was the fifth largest work stoppage in the United States in 2009. They GEO won contract language protecting tuition waivers for current and future Teaching and Graduate Assistants at UIUC.
In the Summer of 2010, the GEO learned of a policy change affecting tuition waivers for incoming graduate employees in several departments in the College of Fine and Applied Arts (FAA). Effective Fall of 2010, incoming graduate employees in these departments were no longer granted waivers for out-of-state tuition. Even with temporary scholarships, many Fine and Applied Arts graduate employees, earning between $7,000.00 and $9,000.00 per academic year, were left with additional fees totaling up to $1,000.00.
This change in tuition waiver policy was a clear violation of the GEO’s contract with the Illinois Board of Trustees. In 2010, the GEO filed a grievance alleging a contract violation, while GEO members launched a public awareness campaign that included email and letter drives, communication with elected officials, testimony to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, and other events.
By attempting to charge incoming graduate employees tuition in clear violation of its contract with teaching and graduate assistants, administrators have cost the University of Illinois as much as $100,000.00. This is yet another example of flawed budget priorities at UIUC, where the most vulnerable members of the University community are frequently asked to shoulder the burdens of budget shortfalls.
After an arbitration hearing in mid-July, an independent arbitrator on September 20 declared the University’s tuition waiver policy in violation of its contract with the GEO. The arbitrator ordered the U of I administration to make whole any harm done to graduate employees.
The arbitration victory marks a significant achievement for GEO members. According to GEO communications officer Rodrigo Pacheco-McEvoy, “not only does the ruling secure tuition waivers as a benefit of employment for graduate employees, which is absolutely necessary to maintain accessibility to public higher education at UIUC; it also helps protect the arts from budgetary cutbacks.”
While the GEO has much cause to celebrate, the story of tuition waivers and the arts at UIUC is not over. The GEO is entering another bargaining year. According to GEO Co- President Miriam Larsen, “our members are fully committed to protecting the tuition waivers that make a high quality graduate education accessible to a diverse student body.”
For more information, please contact Rodrigo Pacheco-McEvoy, Communications Officer, at 858-382-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can also be found on the website at uigeo.org.
Our current Grievance Officer, Michelle Owen, has had to resign due to scheduling conflicts. Michelle has done a great job and we are sorry to see her go!
As per the GEO Constitution, we must hold a special election for another Grievance Officer. This person’s term would begin as soon as the election results are determined, and end at the next full election, which will happen some time in late April.
The Grievance Officer chairs the Grievance Committee, and assists with the handling of grievances between the employer and employees in any bargaining unit represented by the union. Grievances are a crucial part of enforcing the new contract and preparing the union to make gains during the next round of negotiations. Grievances prevent graduate employees from being overworked, underpaid, or otherwise mistreated. This is why the GEO t-shirts read ‘Who’s got your back?’
Questions? Interested? Please email our Co-Presidents, Caroline Nappo (email@example.com) and Ingbert Floyd (firstname.lastname@example.org), ASAP. We hope to hold the special election in early February.