Today, after graduate employees held a daylong Sit-in at the Swanlund Administration Building, University of Illinois officials reversed their long-standing policy of refusing to negotiate with the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO). Administrators conceded to a series of ongoing meetings with GEO representatives to determine which graduate employees will be eligible to vote in a union election and covered by a union contract.
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Today’s Sit-in was only one in a series of events aimed at winning union recognition for graduate employees. Most recently, in November 2001, Teaching Assistants across the UI campus held a two-day strike. GEO members anticipated that more strikes would be necessary to convince the administration to abandon its anti-union policy.
“We still have to ask why it took 10 years, two Sit-Ins and a two-day strike for the administration to negotiate with grad employees,” said GEO Co-President Uma Pimplaskar. “Finally this campus is headed in a democratic direction. This is a tremendous victory for the entire community.”
The Sit-in was held in Swanlund Administration building and prevented 100+ university officials from going to work.
Background: The GEO has been fighting for the rights of teaching, research and graduate assistants at the University of Illinois since 1994. Over 30 campuses around the country already have graduate employee unions. Over 3200 graduate employees signed union authorization cards in a 1996 drive, and 64% voted for GEO as their union representative in a 1997 election. This is the second sit-in in GEO’s history; 55 GEO members and supporters occupied the Board of Trustees office for 20 hours in March 2000.