G.E.O. Wins Student Referendum: 77% Vote “Yes”

The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) received a clear mandate from the student body this week, as 77% of voters in the Illinois Student Government (ISG) elections supported graduate employees’ union rights.
3,655 voters, both undergraduates and graduates, answered “Yes” to the question: “Should Teaching, Research and Graduate Assistants have the right to choose union representation to address employment concerns?” Only 1,060 voted “No”. The total vote turnout was one of the highest in University history.
The voters were almost certainly swayed by numerous endorsements. Both major candidate slates, “Revision” and Impact”, as well as the Daily Illini’s editorial board, publicly announced their support for the right of graduate employees to organize.
Voters may also have responded to the refusal by University administrators to participate in a February 29 informational forum sponsored by Illinois Student Government. It marked the first time in the history of ISG that administrators, when invited, refused to attend a forum.
Said David Kamper, GEO member: “Their refusal to come debate us was a real disappointment. It seems the University administration doesn’t care what students think about this issue.”
The referendum is not the first time that the GEO has demonstrated its support. In 1996, 3,200 grads signed authorization cards calling for a union election. In 1997, 64% of graduate employees voting in a community election chose GEO as their bargaining representative. GEO has also received thousands of signed petitions, letters and postcards over the years from undergraduates, faculty and University staff.
In coming months, GEO and ISG will work together to encourage University administrators to heed the wishes of the University community.
Said Kavitha Babu, ISG Treasurer: “It’s unfortunate that the Administration doesn’t recognize the rights of graduate students on this campus. We hope they will take the referendum into consideration and rethink their stance.”