The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) today announced plans for a
three-day work stoppage the week of April 8th to pressure the Administration
of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to recognize the union
rights of graduate employees. This semester’s work stoppage will involve
more employees and target more buildings than the two-day
action of November in which 350 teaching assistants cancelled classes,
and nearly 8,000 students were affected each day.
"We want the Administration to know that the pressure on them and
these types of actions will not stop until we have a union," said
GEO Co-President Uma Pimplaskar. "They can end this and future actions
any time by agreeing to negotiate a contract with graduate employees, but they’d prefer to waste time and taxpayer
money fighting democracy."
The announcement from the GEO Strike Committee is a response to the continued
hostility of the university Administration to graduate employees’ efforts
to unionize. The GEO has shown its strength in the past, with 3,226
grads asking for an election in 1996, and 64%
choosing GEO as their union representative in a 1997 election conducted
by the Religious Workers Association. With over 1,150 active members and
thousands of additional supporters, the GEO is the largest graduate organization
on campus. The Administration, however, has refused to allow graduate
employees the right to union representation, so the GEO Strike Committee
has decided more pressure is needed.
"We want grads to have a voice," said GEO officer Jon Coit.
"In this time of budget crisis, the employees who keep this campus
open need to be involved in the process. Only a union contract guarantees
us that involvement."
The GEO simply seeks to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the
Administration that guarantees graduate employees the right to union representation
and the commencement of good-faith negotiations on a binding contract
that covers the working conditions of the over 5,000 Teaching, Research,
and Graduate Assistants at UIUC.
"The Administration keeps saying they can’t negotiate with
us because their hands are tied by the courts," said GEO steward
Kate Bullard, "but that’s simply not true. They can settle with
us at any time, and our strike this semester will show them we’re
not going to rest until they come to the negotiating table ready to talk."