GEO Joins Other Unions, Parents to Demand Improved Child Care

November 19, 1999
At 12 Noon, about 150 mostly babies and their parents along with their supporters gathered on the steps of Swanlund Administration Building to demand better child care for employees and students of the University of Illinois. The rally was organized by the Graduate Employees’ Organization; Union of Professional Employees; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31; and the Association of Academic Professionals.
We heard speeches from members of the sponsoring organizations, many of whom are balancing school, work, and raising a family at the same time. We sang a rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” reworked as “Twinkle, Twinkle Chancellor, We Need Day Care Where We Are.” Then nearly all the parents proceeded into the lobby of the building, went up to the 3rd floor and crowded into the office of Provost Herman to deliver him a letter outlining their demands.
The letter said that over 30 years of university-sponsored studies have indicated that child care is a pressing need on this campus, yet nothing has been done to correct the situation. “This problem affects recruitment, retention, community life, and academic leadership; it sours morale, reduces productivity, and runs families ragged. It is a burden to workers and students, an embarrassment to the University.”
The four demands were:
? Release a statement on the current plans for campus child care.
? Establish a broadly representative advisory council of parents, chosen in the main from nominees put forward by the Child Care Task Force (which will in turn canvass such organizations as the UPE, GEO, AAP, AFSCME, the UIUC Coalition of Labor and Trade Unions, CCSW, the UIUC Senate, and other constituents groups to provide representation for staff, grauate assistants, academic professionals, faculty, and students).
? By December 15, assign a staff member whose main task will be to coordinate efforts to formulate a campus child care plan. This staff member sould work closely with the Parents’ Council and campus experts in the area of child care, and should make necessary contacts to develp a plan for a substantial expansion of campus child care.
? By Spring Break 2000, present this plan, with necessary approvals and a specific timetable for providing additional child care by January 2001.
In an attempt to difuse the situation, Provost Herman then presented the group with a letter saying that they are working with an architect and looking into doubling the capacity of the current Child Development Laboratory to accomodate an additional 96 kids–far short of what the need is on this campus. This plan was also made without input from parents and is contingent on budgetary restraints. Thus, though the Provost wants to appear like he is giving parents a great response, in reality, the University has conceded nothing.
Cameras from all the major TV stations were there as well. There were also reporters from the News-Gazette, the Daily Illini, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
We will, no doubt, be meeting again soon to formulate a group response and to plan future action. If you wish to be involved in the organizing around this issue, please contact the GEO office at 344-8283 or e-mail us at geo@uigeo.org.
Stay tuned for more details.