Call Your Heather!

Do you have an issue with late appointment letters, inadequate healthcare and childcare, unaddressed microaggressions, workplace safety, lack of resources, or other problems that affect your work on campus? Join GEO as we voice our concerns to Academic Human Resources to let them know they need to work with us at the bargaining table to create systemic fixes for our problems.

WHO? All UIUC graduate employees, both on campus, and elsewhere! This is a great way to get involved and work together with the GEO to let the Administration know our needs.

WHAT? A collective action to show the Administration that the problems graduate employees face are real and difficult. Graduate employees will gather to call or email Heather Horn to inform her about their employment-related problems.

WHY? Heather Horn, the lead negotiator for the Administration’s Bargaining Team, stated in the bargaining room that she doesn’t know there are any problems with graduate employees’ working conditions if she hasn’t heard about them directly. Graduate employees will call or email to inform her, and the Administration, about their employment-related problems. Widespread problems require systemic fixes via a collective bargaining agreement, not individual fixes for those that come forward to Heather.

WHEN? Thursday, July 13, 1:00pm-4:00pm CST. You can also participate remotely by phone or email. Contact us at geo@uigeo.org for info on how to participate from off-campus.

WHERE? GEO’s new office! We’re still in the McKinley Foundation Building (809 S. Fifth St., C.) but now in the Geneva Room. Come warm up our new office with a work action!

ALSO OF NOTE:

    • The GEO’s Grievance Committee will be present to assist members with possible grievances. If you aren’t comfortable sharing your issues with Heather you can still join us and chat with the Grievance Committee.
  • YOU CANNOT BE RETALIATED AGAINST FOR PARTICIPATION IN UNION ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING THIS WORK ACTION OR A GRIEVANCE.

 

CALL OR EMAIL HEATHER HORN:

217-333-0989

hwilson@illinois.edu

IMPORTANT: Haven’t Received Your Fall Appointment Letter Yet? Please Read!

Unless you’re appointed for a Summer 2 session, you are guaranteed by our contract to have gotten your Fall appointment letter by now, as the deadline was June 19th. However, the Administration typically fails to meet their deadline, leaving many graduate employees in the dark about their fall appointment and uncertain about their future employment status.

If you have other current or past workplace issues that you’d like to help us inform Heather about, such as inadequate healthcare and/or childcare, unaddressed microaggressions, workplace safety, or a lack of resources, stop by the event of please contact us at geo@uigeo.org for information on how to help remotely.

GEO at UIUC Solidarity Statement in Response to Gazipur Boiler Explosion

 

July 10, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Urbana-Champaign (July 10, 2017): At least 13 Bangladeshi garments workers died and several have been injured on July 3, 2017 when an expired boiler exploded and the building partially collapsed at the non-unionized Multifabs Ltd. apparel factory in Gazipur, Dhaka. We, the Graduate Employees Organization at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign IFT/AFT Local 6300 AFL-CIO, are extending our condolences to the families of workers who died and our support for the injured and their families.

The boiler explosion makes evident that since the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse, arguably the world’s largest industrial disaster, workplace safety hasn’t been secured for the majority of garments workers in Bangladesh. The exploded boiler at Multifabs Ltd. expired last month on June 24. Disregarding the expiration date, factory authorities asked workers to resume normal operation of the boiler on the day of the explosion. Alongside factory owners, the Bangladeshi government is complicit in boiler-related deaths and injuries. For the over 5,500 approved boilers across the country, the Office of the Chief Inspector of Boiler runs with only 5 inspectors. Boiler-related worker deaths are therefore murders by negligence. In a mockery of accountability procedures, the police are suing three dead boiler operators of Multifabs Ltd. over the boiler explosion.

In solidarity with Bangladeshi garments workers, we echo their demands. We demand that the police drop the charges on workers. We demand that all responsible parties—factory authorities and government officials—are held accountable for Multifabs Ltd. boiler explosion. We demand that all brands manufacturing garments at Multifabs Ltd., factory owners, and the Bangladeshi government ensure that complete medical support is provided without cost to workers, and full and fair compensations are paid based on total loss of earning to the families of the workers who died in the explosion as well as to the injured workers. We demand that holistic steps are taken to improve safety in the Bangladeshi garments industry. We understand that workers’ safety can only be secured if workers have the right to organize and join unions. Therefore, we demand that the right to unionize and form trade unions in all garments factories without any threat or harm be respected and secured.

 

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.

 

More information can also be found on GEO’s website at www.uigeo.org.

 

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

 

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BARGAINING, Announcements, Events, and Updates July 3, 2017

Table of Contents:

  • CO-PRESIDENTS’ MESSAGE
  • ANNOUNCEMENTS
    • Seventh Bargaining Session
      • Ways to be Involved with Bargaining
      • Call for Testimonials
    • Call for RAs Interested in Organizing
    • NTFC is Hiring a Part-Time Office Manager
    • GEO is Moving
  • EVENTS
    • Wear It Wednesday
    • Call Your Heather!
    • Healthcare Town Hall
  • COMMITTEE UPDATES
    • Grievance Committee
    • Stewards’ Council
    • Communications Committee
    • Solidarity Committee
    • Coordinating Committee
    • Health Care Working Group
  • CONNECT WITH GEO

 

————–

CO-PRESIDENTS’ MESSAGE

 

Greetings GEO Family,

Thanks to all of your energy, presence, and participation, we continue to have a powerful summer. While your energy and participation pressured the Administration to start bargaining with us, we have successfully moved the GEO office to the Geneva Room in the McKinley Foundation building, which you can read more about further down under announcements.

Bargaining has also been valuable for us members to learn about our experiences as graduate employees. Being together and learning about each other’s cases makes us grow together as a union. We could see this clearly happening in the most-recent bargaining session, as two of our members came out and shared how access to tuition waivers is essential for them being at UIUC. In addition, we can also see how our union grows together in the work of all GEO’s committees and working groups.

The Bargaining Team has been working tirelessly to reach the best contract between GEO and the Administration. At the same time, GEO’s Stewards and members of the Communications Committee, the Coordinating Committee, the Solidarity Committee, the Health Care Working Group, and the International Students Working Group discuss graduate employees’ struggles on a daily basis to think about how we can best defend the interests of the membership. The work and commitment of all the members in our union is what makes us strong! Again, thank you all for your participation. And we hope you can make it to our next bargaining session on July 11. Let’s show the university our unity and strength.

Marília Corrêa and Augustus Wood
Co-Presidents

————–

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Seventh Bargaining Session

GEO’s seventh bargaining session with the UIUC Administration will be on Tuesday, July 11, 9:00am-12:00pm, at the Illinois Fire Service Institute (11 Gerty Dr, Champaign, IL). All members are welcome! Refreshments will be provided.

Come to the bargaining session to help us fight for a contract that protects our rights as workers!

Directions and Travel Information to the Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI):

  • Carpool: the Bargaining Team has organized a carpool for members. If want to attend and need a ride, please fill out the carpool signup form on our website. Carpools will travel between the GEO Office and IFSI. Please let us know a few days in advance if you’d like a ride.
  • Parking: it is free to park in the designated visitor section of the IFSI lot.
  • Bike: there are at least two bike racks available in front of the IFSI main building.
  • Bus: the bus line is 1 South Yellow to Water Survey and the stop is the Water Survey building. Be sure your bus is labeled Water Survey, not Lot E-14 or Savoy Wal-Mart.

Here’s a link to the Facebook event for the seventh 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, participating in the Call Your Heather! event (see below under events), following GEO on social media, and reading GEO emails.

You can also find more information about bargaining on our website.

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

If you have questions about bargaining or the BT’s proposal, attending a BT meeting is the best way to address them. To find out about future meeting times, check the GEO events calendar or contact us at barg@uigeo.org.

 

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 barg@uigeo.org 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’s 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.

 

Call for RAs Interested in Organizing

We are looking to form a group of research assistants (RAs) interested in organizing! Although RAs are legally excluded from GEO’s bargaining unit, and thus are not covered by our contract with the university, they can still be GEO members — and by working together, improve conditions for RAs across the university. If you are an RA interested in researching ways to organize and create change at the university, please contact Zoë MacDowell Kaswan at officer3@uigeo.org.

 

NTFC is Hiring a Part-Time Office Manager

The Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition (NTFC) Local 6546 is looking for a part-time office manager to assist with the daily functions of a non-tenure track faculty union. Preferred applicants would have experience working with academics and/or labor unions. For more information and how to apply, see their job listing.

 

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.

 

————–

 

EVENTS:

 

See a full schedule of GEO meetings and events here, and contact geo@uigeo.org 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.

 

Call Your Heather!

Do you have an issue with late appointment letters, inadequate healthcare and childcare, unaddressed microaggressions, workplace safety, lack of resources, or other problems that affect your work on campus? Join GEO as we voice our concerns to Academic Human Resources to let them know they need to work with us at the bargaining table to create systemic fixes for our problems.

WHO? All UIUC graduate employees, both on campus, and elsewhere! This is a great way to get involved and work together with the GEO to let the Administration know our needs.

WHAT? A collective action to show the Administration that the problems graduate employees face are real and difficult. Graduate employees will gather to call or email Heather Horn to inform her about their employment-related problems.

WHY? Heather Horn, the lead negotiator for the Administration’s Bargaining Team, stated in the bargaining room that she doesn’t know there are any problems with graduate employees’ working conditions if she hasn’t heard about them directly. Graduate employees will call or email to inform her, and the Administration, about their employment-related problems. Widespread problems require systemic fixes via a collective bargaining agreement, not individual fixes for those that come forward to Heather.

WHEN? Thursday, July 13, 1:00pm-4:00pm CST. You can also participate remotely by phone or email. Contact us at geo@uigeo.org for info on how to participate from off-campus.

WHERE? GEO’s new office! We’re still in the McKinley Foundation Building (809 S. Fifth St., C.) but now in the Geneva Room. Come warm up our new office with a work action!

ALSO OF NOTE:

    • The GEO’s Grievance Committee will be present to assist members with possible grievances. If you aren’t comfortable sharing your issues with Heather you can still join us and chat with the Grievance Committee.

 

  • YOU CANNOT BE RETALIATED AGAINST FOR PARTICIPATION IN UNION ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING THIS WORK ACTION OR A GRIEVANCE.

 

CALL OR EMAIL HEATHER HORN:

217-333-0989

hwilson@illinois.edu

 

 

Healthcare Town Hall

Do you have questions about healthcare? GEO is ready to answer them! Come to our town hall meeting on University health care coverage for graduate students, Wednesday, July 19, 4:00-6:00pm, at the Asian American Cultural Center Lounge (1210 W Nevada St., Urbana, IL 61801). Free food will be provided! Here is the link to the Facebook event for the Healthcare Town Hall.

 

————–

 

COMMITTEE UPDATES:

 

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. The next meeting is on Thursday July 6, 3:00-5:00pm, at the GEO office.

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.

Don’t forget to check out our new online “Submit a Grievance” web form, which is available at http://www.uigeo.org/grievances/grievance-report/. 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 want to help educate their departments about what’s happening at the bargaining table. Please contact the Stewards’ Council Chair at sc@uigeo.org 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 Thursday July 6, 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. This summer we are working on developing a new media campaign around bargaining and ordering and designing new t-shirts and other swag for GEO, as well as updating GEO’s Chambana Guide in preparation for the fall orientation for new grad employees. Please contact the Communications Officer at commcomm@uigeo.org if you are interested in joining the Communications Committee. All members are welcome! The next meeting is on Thursday, July 13, 6:00-8:00pm, 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. For information on the next meeting, contact solcomm@uigeo.org.

 

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 Co-Presidents at cc@uigeo.org with any questions about the next meeting. The next CC meeting is on Thursday July 6, 5:00-7:00pm, at the GEO office.

 

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 next meeting is Wednesday, July 5, 12:00-1:00 pm at the GEO Office. For more information, please contact geo@uigeo.org.

 

————–

 

CONNECT WITH GEO!

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.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

 

BARGAINING: Fourth Session Summary May 23, 2017

 

May 23, 2017

Today, the GEO Bargaining Team (BT) and the UIUC Administration held their fourth bargaining session. Thank you to all members who attended! It was standing room only–making a strong statement to the Administration about your commitment. Please read below for more information on what happened today and what comes next.

NEXT BARGAINING SESSION: Tuesday, June 6, 2017, 9:00am-12:00pm, Illinois Fire Service Institute (11 Gerty Drive, Champaign).

 

Key takeaways from today’s session:

  1. The Administration stated an intent to change our tuition waiver protections, but will not say what kind of change they want to make or when they want to make it. We asked them several times to elaborate or explain, and they refused. We told them how alarming this was to us, and they still declined to explain further.

  2. The Administration presented a counter-proposal on non-economic provisions. They are calling this “comprehensive,” but it isn’t. We reiterated the need to see their truly comprehensive proposal, including all economic provisions.

  3. We formally rejected their previous piecemeal proposals for individual articles. These proposals did not meet our needs, nor are we willing to sign them without seeing their full proposal. How could we agree to anything not knowing what’s out there–especially if tuition waivers are under threat?!

  4. We asked questions about their counter-proposal on non-economic provisions and requested more information.

  5. We elaborated on our rationale for our expanded non-discrimination language proposal.  They think the minimum protections under state and federal law are enough. We don’t. We think our members deserve better.


What Comes Next:

Please attend the next bargaining session: we need you!

The Bargaining Team represents you at the table. We look to you for input when we go to break out sessions. The more people in the room, the better informed our decisions at the table.

Attending bargaining sessions is the best way to actively engage in the negotiation of your wages, healthcare, and other protections. It is perfectly acceptable to come late or leave early from a bargaining session if you can’t stay the entire time. Just being present demonstrates our unity and strength to the Administration. You can even bring your work if you want. Coffee and food will be provided.

The BT and the Administration agreed to meet for our next bargaining session on Tuesday, June 6, 2017, from 9:00am to 12:00pm at the Illinois Fire Service Institute (11 Gerty Drive, Champaign). We will have a carpool to make sure all members who want to attend can do so. Email barg@uigeo.org if you need a ride.

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.

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

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. 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 geo@uigeo.org. Bargaining Team meetings and bargaining sessions are open to all members. Please contact the Bargaining Team (barg@uigeo.org) 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 barg@uigeo.org 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.

 

Follow GEO Online:

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.

 

 

GEO at UIUC Solidarity Statement in Response to UISUF Strike

cropped-banner-for-website.png

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

04 May 2017

GEO at UIUC Solidarity Statement in Response to UISUF Strike

Urbana-Champaign (May 4, 2017): The Graduate Employees’ Organization Local 6300 IFT/AFT at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign stands firmly in solidarity with our comrades in University of Illinois Springfield United Faculty (UISUF) as they go on strike for a fair labor contract that ensures reappointment, tenure, and promotion language. Like many labor organizations over the years, UISUF union members reached their breaking point over their employer’s lack of fairness and integrity throughout the bargaining process. Therefore, UISUF will continue the historical trend of advancing their working conditions outside of the bargaining room by organizing members, withholding their labor, and promoting solidarity across the local, state, and federal sector. GEO UIUC recognizes the special significance of UISUF’s disruption of campus production given the current anti-labor federal and state structure we live in. UISUF members’ brave actions this week mark the third major work stoppage across three University of Illinois campuses in four years, not by coincidence, but by an intentional assault on working people in one of the strongest labor states in the nation. Our solidarity and willingness to engage in militant action not only shifts the balance of power at the bargaining table, but also sends a strong message to all owners, employers, and administrations that workers will not tolerate bad-faith bargaining or negligence towards our material and social conditions. GEO UIUC calls on all labor unions and community organizations to send support and resources to our UISUF comrades as they strike for their fair contract and strengthen worker solidarity! Our liberation is at stake.

We encourage everyone to please take a moment to sign this petition supporting the striking faculty at UISUF: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/fair-contract-for-the-2?source=c.tw&r_by=11048372

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, GEO Communications Officer, at commcomm@uigeo.org.

Long Live the Power to the Worker,

Graduate Employees’ Organization
Local 6300 IFT/AFT, AFL-CIO
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Website: www.uigeo.org
Twitter: @geo_uiuc
Facebook: @uigeo
@geosolcomm
Instagram: @geo_uiuc

###

Call and email the following campus and University administrators and tell them:

“I support UIS United Faculty Professors. I want them to have a fair contract. Please return to the bargaining table and bargain in good faith.”

UIS Chancellor, Susan Koch

Phone: (217) 206-6634
Email: Koch@uis.edu
Twitter: @ChancellorKoch

UIS Interim Provost, Jim Ermatinger

Phone: (217) 206-6614

Email: jerma2@uis.edu

U of I President, Timothy Killeen

Phone: (217) 333-3070

Email: PresidentKilleen@uillinois.edu

In addition, you can support by in the following ways:

  • Post messages of support on Facebook and Twitter. Use the hashtag #UISContractNow.
  • If you can join the picket lines, it would be appreciated! UIS is located at One University Plaza, Springfield, IL 62703. (Parking is free on campus lots in visitor spaces.) Picketing will begin each day at 9 a.m. in the center of campus at the Colonnade. A daily rally will be held at the Colonnade at 4:30 p.m.

UIUC GEO COMMEMORATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST UNION ELECTION WITH NOON MAY DAY RALLY ON CAMPUS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: UIUC GEO COMMEMORATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST UNION ELECTION WITH NOON MAY DAY RALLY ON CAMPUS

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 commcomm@uigeo.org. More information can also be found on GEO’s website at www.uigeo.org.

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

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Congratulations to the Chicago Teachers Union on their Victory!

GEO Local 6300 sends our congratulations to the Chicago Teachers Union on their tentative contract agreement!  Faced with a contract that would have devastated public education in Chicago, Chicago’s public school teachers walked out of the classroom and onto the picket lines.  The House of Delegates has voted to adopt a tentative agreement, and CTU members will now vote on whether to ratify the contract.

The tentative agreement is a resounding victory for education justice in Chicago’s public schools.

The Chicago Teachers Union strike means that more students in more neighborhoods have better access to the education they need.

Because of the strike, working class and poor students in Chicago’s public schools will see: more expert health and other support staff, textbooks available to all students on the first day of classes, fewer great teachers pushed out of public education because of racist and classist standardized testing policies, and fair compensation for the teachers that work hard each and every day for their students.

Check out the full list of contract gains in the tentative agreement here–in this easy to read side by side comparison.   And, here are English and Spanish language versions of a flyer explaining what the strike has meant for Chicago’s students.

The GEO knows what a feat it is for teachers to successfully withhold their labor in defense of fundamental necessities for just and accessible public education–necessities like basic support for neighborhood schools; and tuition waivers for graduate employees working in public universities.

We join the Chicago Teachers Union in declaring:

Until We Win!  Fair Contract Now!

Members of GEO Local 6300 at a Chicago Teachers Union solidarity rally

Chicago Teachers Union Continues Strike

The GEO stands with the Chicago Teachers Union as they continue to strike for public education.

In 2009, the GEO Strike Committee waited to suspend our strike until members were heard through their voices and their votes at a General Membership Meeting.  The Strike Committee took this action because we are a democratic organization wherein members make the decisions.  But some in the UIUC administration falsely accused the GEO of unfairly preventing its members from going back to work.

The CTU Board of Directors has made our 2009 Strike Committee’s decision on a much larger scale: given the impact the Chicago Teachers’ new contract will have on the people of Chicago and the future of public education in this country, the Board refused to suspend a strike until all CTU members were heard.  Sure enough, Mayor Emanuel’s response is to falsely accuse CTU leadership of preventing its members from returning to work.

Our solidarity is our power: the bosses will always try to undermine workers’ rights to form a union.  The University of Illinois Board of Trustees has spent thousands of dollars fighting the recognition of the democratically elected Faculty Association at UI Chicago.  Our labor is our power: The bosses will always try to undermine the unions’ right to strike.  Mayor Emanuel has so far failed in his dishonest bid to force teachers off the picket lines through the courts.

The GEO stands with the CTU because we know that unions win through solidarity and the powerful incentive of our labor.  We stand with the CTU because we know what will happen to U.S. worker’s children if those who seek to profit from public education succeed in their goal of denying the chance for a good education to most working class and students of color.  We stand with the CTU in Chicago because we know that if we choose to follow their example, and withhold our labor in defense of our jobs and of our students, working teachers throughout the midwest will stand with us in Champaign.
Members of UIC and UIUC Graduate Employees Organizations march with the Chicago Teachers Union

GEO Tuition Waiver Victory in Landmark Arbitration Ruling!

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.”

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For more information, please contact Rodrigo Pacheco-McEvoy, Communications Officer, at 858-382-2271 or rodrigo.pacheco.mcevoy@gmail.com. More information can also be found on the website at uigeo.org.

GEO Solidarity With Tacoma Education Association

The members of the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 6300, AFL-CIO, stand in solidarity with the members of the Tacoma Education Association (TEA) and their courageous decision to strike for a fair contract.

Members of the GEO understand that withholding labor is vitally important as a tool in collective bargaining.  It was only by first authorizing and then carrying out one of the five largest work stoppages in the United States in 2009 that the GEO was able to secure any reasonable concessions from the University of Illinois Board of Trustees in our current 2009-2012 contract.

The GEO commends the TEA’s decision to withhold education labor as a necessary tool for protecting conditions necessary for a quality public education, including the support and retention of experienced teachers, protecting teachers against discrimination, and contractual protections against excessive class sizes.

The Tacoma Public School officials said that TEA members acted unreasonably, claiming the strike hurt their student’s education.  Nothing can be farther from the truth: it was the Tacoma Public Schools’ refusal to bargain fairly with the TEA that hurt students.  We know that the decision to strike is never easy, but when other options have been exhausted, striking to protect the future of public education in Tacoma is in the best interest of students, families, teachers, and other Tacoma Public School employees.

According to the Tacoma News Tribune, “TEA President Andy Coons…said teachers are modeling for their students how to be active citizens.”  The members of the GEO could not agree more, and we congratulate the TEA on their new contract.

We stand with the TEA in affirming that without a work action demonstrating the resolve and solidarity of TEA members and their allies in the community, it unlikely that the TEA could have successfully resisted district efforts to increase class sizes and denigrate the vital role that experienced teachers play in educating Tacoma’s children.

The News Tribune and other local sources argue that the manner in which the strike was resolved–with mediation overseen by Governor Christine Gregoire–demonstrates that the work action was unnecessary in the first place.  The TNT and others further suggest that the strike was just a power play by the Washington Education Association.

Let us be clear: it is obvious even from the News Tribune’s coverage that this was a strike driven by membership.  Nearly 90% of the TEA bargaining unit voted to strike, and an overwhelming majority of those voted to continue the strike in defiance of an anti-union court order.  And for elected officials to become involved in this manner, unions must first demonstrate the value of their labor through work actions and other demonstrations of solidarity.

If the TEA strike was a Washington Education Association power play, it is a wonderful example of the power of democratic decision making among working teachers to protect their rights and the interests of their students.  We at the GEO hope that other WEA locals will follow the Tacoma Education Association’s courageous example.

As university employees and members of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, we know that labor solidarity in education is necessary to protect the future of accessible and high quality public education at all levels.  We particularly urge the students, staff, faculty, administration, and alumni of Tacoma’s colleges and universities (including Tacoma Community College, the University of Washington, Tacoma, the University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran University, and the Evergreen State University, Tacoma) to support the TEA in any way that they can.

In solidarity,

The members of the UIUC Graduate Employees Organization

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 for graduate employees and a more accessible UIUC. The GEO continues to work for high quality and accessible public education in Illinois.  For more information, please contact GEO Communications Officer Rodrigo Pacheco-McEvoy at rodrigo.pacheco.mcevoy@gmail.com or geo@uigeo.org.

Read our related solidarity statement with the CMU Faculty Association after the jump.

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