GEO Is Moving!

On Friday, July 7th, GEO will be moving to our new, bigger-and-better office space! We’ll remain in the McKinley Foundation (809 S 5th Street, Champaign) ground floor, but will be relocating from the sunroom to the Geneva Room. This new office space will provide GEO with both a larger and more efficient space, but also more opportunities to meet and organize on behalf of graduate employees across the campus.

Join us on the 7th from 1:00-4:00pm for a party to celebrate the move, or come by after to visit the office to see our new space. The Facebook event can be found here.


May Day Rally A Success!

May Day Rally Flag Photo


Thank you to our allies, supporters, and everyone who attended today’s May Day rally for International Workers’ Day and celebrated GEO’s 20th anniversary with us.

May Day Speech 2

GEO member Gus Wood gave a rousing speech about May Day, which you can read here: “Comrade Workers.” The speech from last year’s May Day can be found here.


May Day Speech 1


As we described in our birthday announcement, we plan to carry this collaborative momentum and solidarity forward, and will continue fighting for rights and social justice!

May Day Speech 3













May Day 2017 crowd



Urbana-Champaign (May 1, 2017): The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, AFT/IFT Local 6300, is celebrating its 20th birthday on May 1, 2017. After several years of collective organizing, UIUC graduate employees voted to establish GEO as their official union representative in the spring of 1997. The University of Illinois refused to recognize the results of the election but years of organizing and civil disobedience, alongside a legal battle, culminated in an occupation of Swanlund Administration Building in 2002 and subsequent negotiations with University officials. The first contract was signed in 2003.

Since then, GEO has bargained three additional contracts, secured tuition waiver protections, won improved wages and more affordable healthcare, established a grievance procedure to protect graduate employee rights, and much more. In GEO’s official twenty-year history, it has become famous among labor organizations nationwide for its strength and commitment to democratic principles, and a 2009 strike that brought more than 1,000 people to campus picket lines.

“Regardless of our changing membership, intense repression by the Administration, and federal, state, and local policies that curtail union power, the GEO has always and will continue to sustain a powerful rank-and-file membership through a democratic structure with the material and social interests of our membership as our sole organizing force,” said GEO member Gus Wood.

GEO will celebrate its birthday as a part of the May Day (International Workers’ Day) festivities it is planning for Monday in tandem with other campus and national labor unions and organizations. All community members are invited to a rally at Anniversary Plaza on UIUC’s north quad from 12:00 to 2:00pm, to celebrate workers’ contributions to society and reaffirm their commitment to fighting for labor and immigrant rights. There will be speakers from GEO, NTFC, SEIU, AFSCME, IWW, and a number of other organizations.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2,700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. In November 2009, over 1,000 GEO members successfully went on strike to secure a fair contract and more accessible UIUC. With an active presence in the community, the GEO continues to work for high-quality and accessible public education in Illinois.

For more information, please contact Maria Garth, at More information can also be found on GEO’s website at

Twitter: @geo_uiuc
Facebook: @uigeo
Instagram: @geo_uiuc


May Day, GEO 20th Birthday, Bargaining, Announcements, Updates, and Events

Table of Contents:


Third Bargaining Session
Call for Testimonials

Grievance Committee
Steward’s Council
Communications Committee
Solidarity Committee
Coordinating Committee
Healthcare Working Group

Wear It Wednesday
Physics Grads: GEO Bargaining Updates & Work Actions
Coffee Cart


May Day Email Banner


On May 1, 1886, workers took to the streets in a general strike throughout the entire country to force the ownership class to recognize the eight-hour work day. Over 350,000 workers across the country directly participated in the general strike, with hundreds of thousands of workers joining the marches. On May 3rd in Chicago, the city police opened fire on the unarmed striking workers at the McCormick Reaper Works, killing six workers and wounding countless others in the Haymarket Massacre. On May 4th, workers across the nation quickly rose up, particularly the Chicago anarchists of the IWPA (International Working Peoples’ Association), who organized a rally of several thousand workers at Haymarket Square to protest the continuing police violence against striking workers on the South Side. As the last speaker finished his remarks, 180 armed police marched forward and demanded the workers to disperse. Then, deep within the police ranks, a bomb exploded, killing seven officers. The police opened fire on the unarmed workers. Eight anarchist workers were convicted of murder and inciting a riot. Only one of the eight men accused was present at the protest, and he was attempting to address the crowd when the bomb went off.  No evidence was ever produced to uphold the accusations. Four of the prisoners – Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel and Adolph Fisher – were executed while Louis Lingg committed suicide and the three remaining were pardoned due to immense working class uprisings. On May 1, 1890, in accordance with the decision of the Paris Congress (July 1889) of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket martyrs, workers organized mass demonstrations and strikes across multiple continents. The workers put forward the demands for an 8-hour workday, better health conditions, and further demands set forth by the International Association of Workers. Workers symbolized the red flag as a working-class commemoration for those lost through exploitation and oppression. From that day forward (starting in 1891 in Russia), workers throughout the world began to celebrate the first of May as a day of international worker solidarity, fighting for liberation, celebrating the past, and building our future without the oppression and exploitation of the state.

Today, unions like GEO continue to be on the forefront of fighting for workers’ rights and fair working conditions.


GEO Birthday Flyer


This spring, GEO is celebrating its 20th birthday! UIUC graduate employees voted to establish GEO as their official union representative in the spring of 1997, after several years of organizing. Since then, we’ve bargained four contracts, secured tuition waiver protections, won improved wages and more affordable healthcare, established a grievance procedure to protect our rights, eaten a LOT of pizza, and much more. In our twenty-year history, we have become famous among labor organizations nationwide for our strength and commitment to democratic principles. We hope you’ll come out and celebrate with us at the May Day rally on May 1st (details below). Here’s to many more years and victories!


May Day Rally Banner


Join us at the May Day rally to celebrate campus labor and social justice, and GEO’s birthday! Workers from several campus labor unions will speak at the rally on Monday, May 1, 12:00pm, at Anniversary Plaza. Here is the Facebook event link for the May Day Rally.



Third Bargaining Session:
GEO’s third bargaining session with the UIUC administration will be on Tuesday, May 2, 9:00am-12:00pm, at the McKinley Foundation (809 S 5th St, Champaign, IL) on campus. All members are welcome to attend this bargaining session. Refreshments will be provided for members in attendance.

The GEO recognized the Fire Services Institute as unsuitable for member attendance and prioritized securing a more accessible space for bargaining. As a result, the GEO successfully moved the third bargaining session to the member-friendly McKinley Foundation. Securing a negotiated, member-friendly campus space for bargaining not only serves to increase member attendance and participation in bargaining, but also significantly shifts the power dynamics (control of our bargaining) in our favor. With this early victory, members can be assured that the Bargaining Team will stand firm on all contract proposals to advance the material and social condition for all workers!

Here’s a link to the Facebook event for the third bargaining session.

If you can’t make it to the bargaining session, you can still keep up with bargaining updates by attending GEO committee meetings and general membership meetings, following GEO on social media, and reading GEO emails.

Here is a summary of the second bargaining session (April 17), and a summary of the first bargaining session (March 30).

More ways to be involved with bargaining:

  • Talk to your GEO department Steward
  • Attend a Bargaining Team meeting
  • Attend bargaining sessions
  • Talk to your GEO colleagues

Join the Bargaining Team at their next meeting on Thursday, May 4, 3:00-5:00pm, at the GEO Office. All members are welcome!

See the GEO event calendar for future Bargaining Team meetings, bargaining sessions, and other events. Add it to your Google calendar by searching for Bargaining Team meetings and bargaining sessions are open to all members. Please contact the Bargaining Team ( with any questions.


Call for Testimonials:
One powerful tool in bargaining is member stories, and we want to hear from you! If you have a story related to our contract, email to share it with the Bargaining Team.

Our pillars of bargaining are protecting tuition waivers, raising wages and eliminating fees, ensuring quality healthcare, and promoting access and equality, which includes creating childcare support, strengthening our nondiscrimination statement, and expanding parental, bereavement, and visa/immigration leave. If you have an experience to share about these (or other!) issues, please consider coming to the bargaining sessions and voicing it. If you do not feel comfortable speaking in the session, that is OK too. With your permission, someone else can read your written statement without mentioning you as the author. You can indicate to the Bargaining Team how you want your story shared.



Grievance Committee:
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. We meet every Tuesday at 7pm at the GEO Office.


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.

Don’t forget to check out our new online “Submit a Grievance” web form, which is available at Please pass this link along to your colleagues if you hear of someone that might need to speak with the Grievance Committee.


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 who are planning to stay in Champaign-Urbana over the summer. Please contact with any questions.

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, May 9, 5:00-7:00pm, at the GEO office.


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. Please contact Communications Committee at if you are interested in attending. The next meeting is on Thursday, May 11, 2:00-4:00pm, at the GEO Office.


Solidarity Committee (Sol Comm):
Sol Comm is committed to working on issues of social justice and supporting them through various means such as financial endorsements, statements of support, and collaborations. To that end, the Solidarity Committee allows the creation of research groups to efficiently strategize around issues of social justice. Groups such as the Environmental Justice Research Group, the Gender Justice Research Group, and the Anti‐Police Brutality Research Group work on these issues and report to the Solidarity Committee. Please contact the Solidarity Committee at solcomm@uigeo.orgThe next meeting is on May 5, 6:00-8:00pm, 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. Please contact the Coordinating Committee at with any questions. Meeting times for the CC can be found on the GEO Calendar.


Healthcare Working Group:
The Healthcare 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. For more information contact The next meeting is on Wednesday, May 10, 3:30-4:30 pm, at the GEO Office.



See a full schedule of GEO meetings and events here, and contact with any questions.

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

Physics Grads: GEO Bargaining Updates & Work Actions
Monday, May 1st, 6:00-7:30pm in Loomis 222. We will start this session with an overview of our contract proposal and updates on bargaining by the Bargaining Team. After this, the Work Action Group will talk about how you can support the GEO during to contract negotiations: one way is taking collective action to get a fair contract.

Food and drinks will be provided. You don’t have to be in the physics department to attend. Facebook event can be found here.

Coffee Cart
The GEO coffee cart is coming to you! Grab a free cup of coffee, some GEO swag, and chat with GEO members as the cart makes its way around the quad and into nearby buildings on Wednesdays from 11am to 1pm.



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.





May Day Rally!

May Day Rally flyer

Monday, May 1st, is International Workers’ Day. Join us at the May Day rally to celebrate campus labor and social justice, and GEO’s birthday! Workers from several campus and community labor unions, including GEO, will speak at the rally on Monday, May 1, 12:00pm, at Anniversary Plaza (near the Main Quad).


Here is the Facebook event link for the May Day Rally.

TBT: Tuition Waivers Under Attack in 2010, Still Are Today

This TBT takes us back to a 2010 GEO struggle for tuition waivers for graduate students in Fine and Applied Arts departments

Watch the video to see how the 2009 contract was violated in 2010.

July 2010: The GEO submitted a complaint to university regarding graduate employees in Fine and Applied Arts (FAA). Instead of providing first year employees the usual full tuition waiver, FAA issued in-state tuition waivers plus scholarships. However, the scholarships fell short of the whole difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition, and FAA grads had to pay the difference ($1,050/yr on a $7,000 – 9,000/acad yr income).

What is more, the College refused to guarantee the scholarships. This means they could disappear after 1 year and depts. could have charged the in-state and out-of-state tuition difference (almost $14,000/yr). This is yet another example of flawed budget priorities; the most vulnerable members of the University community are frequently asked to shoulder the burdens of budget shortfalls.

The GEO filed a grievance to address this violation before first year students even arrived on campus. We’ve worked through the three levels that are internal to the university and a binding arbitration. The arbitration is like a court hearing, except the judge’s decision is final; it cannot be appealed.

July 2011: The GEO won the arbitration, but the University did not abide by it at that time.

November 2012: During bargaining, the administration agreed to GEO’s new tuition waiver language and to abide by the arbitrator’s decision as part of the new contract. GEO accepted smaller wage increases and a 5 year contract, instead of a 3 year contract, in return for the continued waiver protection and the pay out of the arbitration decision.

Spring 2013: 266 FAA grad employees received tuition refunds plus interest
The struggle was long but GEO stood by FAA graduate employees and GEO members helped put pressure on the administration by circulating the facts of the contract violation. GEO is in the middle of another grievance for Masters in Computer Science students. Learn more about this grievance and help pressure the University to honor their contracts and respect their graduate students.

Tuition Wiavers Frontline After a Level 3 Grievance Meeting in December of 2014, MCS students and GEO Grievance Committee members
Tuition Wiavers Frontline
After a Level 3 Grievance Meeting in December of 2014, MCS students and GEO Grievance Committee members


MCS students standing strong
MCS students standing strong

For more information, please contact Becky Schumann, at (703)973-7486 or

TBT to Salaita Protests 1 Year Ago


TBT 1 year ago. Salaita has still not been reinstated.
TBT 1 year ago. Salaita has still not been reinstated.

TBT to 1 year ago when the University of Illinois community was rocked by the Urbana-Champaign administration’s decision to withdraw a tenure-track offer to Dr. Steven Salaita. The administration justified this unprecedented refusal to approve the American Indian Studies’ hire by claiming that Salaita’s private twitter account expressed “uncivil” sentiments regarding the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. Dr. Salaita accepted the position in October of 2013 but was notified of the administration’s decision on August 1st of 2014, the same month in which he was slated to begin teaching.

TBT 1 year ago: GEO distrubuted these buttons to support Salaita
TBT 1 year ago: GEO distrubuted these buttons to support Salaita

We and many others in the UIUC community protested the university’s policing of political speech and complete disregard for the principles of shared governance, academic freedom, and due process. The university now suffers a growing academic boycott and a formal censure of UIUC by the American Association of University Professors. Amidst the recent email scandal and resignation of Chancellor Wise, let’s not forget that the battle for academic freedom, shared governance and due process at UIUC is not over. Dr. Salaita has still not been reinstated and UIUC professors, especially those in the American Indian Studies program, continue to suffer in this chilling environment.

TBT 1 year ago: Our strength is in our collective presence.
TBT 1 year ago: Our strength is in our collective presence.

GEO proudly took part in the protests last year and continues to support efforts that can help right the wrongs of 1 year ago.


TBT to Unfinished Chapter: The 1992 Protest for Student and Faculty Equality and Access

This #TBT is to an important but unfinished chapter in University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s history. We continue to fight for fair distribution of resources and socially conscious policies that increase higher education access for African American and Latina/o students, faculty and employees.

La Casa Cultural Latina was established in 1974 but in 1992 Latina/o representation among students and faculty greatly lagged behind the 11% Latina/o Illinois population. Additionally, the administration was unwilling to set aside any resources for a Latina/o Studies Program. Undergraduate and graduate students appealed repeatedly to the administration to no avail. With no other options, 150 students occupied Henry Administration Building on May 5th, 1992.

Here is a documentary of the 1992 Protest. Short on time? Begin at 14 minute mark.

Students reported police’s “brutal treatment” and use of stun guns, pressure points and billy clubs. The “unnecessary and excessive force” at this entirely peaceful occupation in protest of University policies. The protest was a peaceful assertion that Latina/o concerns could no longer be brushed aside but resulted in 3 student arrests. They were held overnight.

Police carry MariCarmen Moreno from the building
Police carry MariCarmen Moreno from the building

The IMC reported in 2002 that nearly 10 years after the protest, most of the 13 demands had not yet been met.

Some of the demands included:

  1. Increased Recruitment in Latina/o Communities & Retention
  2. Increased Recruitment & Retention of Latina/o Faculty and Administration
  3. Removal of Chief Illiniwek
  4. Establishment of & Resources for Latina/o Studies Program

Today, we know that recruitment and retention of Black and Brown students still lags behind and resources are not being promised to increase efforts.

The “1992 protest” took place prior to the University’s graduate employee’s most recent labor organization (GEO, established and affiliated with AFT, IFT and AFL-CIO by 1995). Yet, this is the history of a struggle GEO is still invested in today. We stand alongside student groups who fight for equitable resources, representation, and access to the university itself. Racist and classist recruitment strategies, as seen at the University of late, further marginalize African American and Latina/o communities, resulting in a student body that is not representative of the Illinois or the nation as a whole.

For more about efforts Latina/o social justice efforts in 2002. & Chicago Tribune on May 6th, 1992

For more about the current student body demographics.

To compare UIUC demographics to US Census Reports. 

When we compare UIUC student body demographics to census data from Illinois and the entire U.S., we must ask ourselves, each other and especially the University whether enough is being done to close the gap. We think not.


TBT to an Inspiring GEO Predecessor

Throw Back Thursday: The GEO has an amazing predecessor at UIUC! The Assistants Union (AU) was founded in fall 1971 and graduate employee Michael Yaphe served as president. The AU published a newsletter “AU Views” with handwritten headers and impressive boldness. Graduate employees committed great energy of scholars and laborers who knew that they needed to organize to better protect themselves and each other.

Solidarity Committee member, Melody Buyukozer Dawkins holds the two earliest newsletters.

Solidarity Committee member Melody Buyukozer Dawkins holds the two earliest newsletters.
Solidarity Committee member Melody Buyukozer Dawkins holds the two earliest newsletters.

Left: Melody holds the first issue from November 1971 which announces the first general meeting at which Professor Archie Green lectured on the “the subject of unionization of white collar and professional employees — promises and difficulties.” It’s important to remember that professors supported these early motions toward graduate employees’ protections through a legally recognized Union.

Right: Melody holds the December issue with an insightful though short article titled “What to DO About Your Grievances.” Without contractual protection and legal support, graduate employees cared about their fellow assistants. A lot has changed! The GEO has so many resources now! But some elements are similar: “present your complaint and we will decide together what to do about it. All alone, you don’t have much chance of making things right. Administrators are usually too pressured from their higher-ups to devote much attention to the problems of a single assistant. But if you let your fellow workers stand with you, together we will have the strength to put things right.”

Our last issue of the AU is May 1974. You are more than welcome to come to our office on the Second floor of the YMCA to look at these amazing and moving early appeals for justice.