General Information About Bargaining


Some common terms:

Contract: A legally binding document setting the terms and conditions of employment.

Bargaining Unit: Workers who are covered by the union’s contract, whether or not they have signed a membership card. In our case, Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants at UIUC.

Member: Someone who has signed a membership card. Members of GEO must be graduate students at UIUC, but do not have to be in the bargaining unit. Members have voting rights in the union.

Caucus: A break in the bargaining session during which the two groups adjourn to separate rooms to privately discuss matters that have come up at the bargaining table.


What is Bargaining?

Collective bargaining, or just bargaining for short, is the process by which a union (such as GEO) negotiates with employers (like the UIUC Administration) for the terms and conditions of employment that will apply to the workers it represents (the bargaining unit). Many aspects of the bargaining process are regulated by law. The result of bargaining negotiations will be a legally-enforceable collective bargaining agreement (a contract) which will bind the union, its bargaining unit, and the employer.

What is GEO’s philosophy towards bargaining?

GEO’s approach to bargaining is based on democratic decision-making principles, consistent with GEO’s constitution, and seeks to be as transparent as possible. Our bargaining pillars–the issues around which we have framed our new contract proposals–were derived from a survey sent out to members. Members then voted to approve these pillars at a General Membership Meeting before bargaining began. Bargaining team meetings and bargaining sessions are open for all members to attend, and members are given regular updates through our online newsletter (the GEO-L) and at General Membership Meetings.

Who takes part in bargaining?

GEO and the UIUC Administration each have a bargaining team who research, assemble, plan, and make decisions about bargaining documents and agendas. However, in the bargaining sessions, usually only the lead negotiators from each bargaining team engage in dialogue with the other side, though others may be invited to give a testimonial during the bargaining session.

What is the bargaining process?

The bargaining process begins when a union submits an Intent to Bargain. Bargaining sessions–blocks of time where the union and employers agree to meet to discuss the contract–are then scheduled. Bargaining can sometimes take months or even over a year, with bargaining sessions happening on a regular (often biweekly) basis, depending on how difficult it is for the union and employer to agree on the terms of the contract. The union presents a proposal for a comprehensive contract at the first bargaining session. The employer then has the opportunity to request more information and either accept the union’s proposed contract or offer a counter-proposal. The union and employer will continue modify their proposals while discussing the rational, the feasibility, and other issues until they reach an agreement. At this point the tentative contract is returned to union membership for review and ratification. Once the union membership approves the contract by a vote, it is signed and becomes legally binding.

What happens in a bargaining session?

During the bargaining session, the two bargaining teams sit facing one another, with any member in attendance sitting behind the union bargaining team. The lead negotiators take turns asking and answering questions, presenting proposals, and engaging in any other discussion that needs to take place. A caucus can be called during the session by either side for the bargaining teams to discuss matters in private before proceeding.