GEO members to begin negotiating first grad employee contract
As graduate employees here at UIUC, we finally have a voice in the terms of our employment. On December 3rd and 4th, 2002, Teaching and Graduate Assistants voted by a margin of more than three to one for the Graduate Employees’ Organization IFT/AFT (GEO) to be our official union representative, making the GEO one of the largest grad unions in the country. Our landslide victory was over ten years in the making, with thousands of graduate employees contributing to the campaign over the last decade.
What this means right now is that our union, comprised of a large group of fellow grads, has the official power to support us when we have issues with our work. Most importantly, we are now able to negotiate a contract with the university.
[PDF version of Update available as well.]
Our contract will be a legally binding agreement between graduate employees and the university governing the terms of our employment. This contract will cover all Graduate Assistants and nearly all Teaching Assistants. To find out if you will be covered in the contract, check out the GEO’s web site.
During the next several months, GEO representatives chosen by our membership will meet with the university administration to negotiate over issues such as pay, health care, grievance procedures, and other policies according to a platform of issues discussed by the union’s membership. The membership will be regularly updated on the status of the negotiations and will approve the final contract through a vote.
Typically, this process takes several months and requires the participation of as many graduate employees as possible.
“At over 30 other universities, grads have achieved significant gains in the terms of their employment, including increased stipends, reasonable workloads, improved health care and more,” said Jeff Scott (Social Work). “Compiling and prioritizing the changes that grads want to see at UIUC will be one of our largest tasks this semester.”
Developing the platform for negotiating will occur on many levels: from surveys, to a series of general membership meetings to one-on-one conversations between grad students. Come to the first General Membership Meeting of the semester on Wednesday, February 5th at 5 PM at the Wesley Foundation (on the southwest corner or Green and Goodwin) to help set our bargaining platform and strategy! This special meeting is open to ALL graduate employees.
The best way to get your voice heard in the contract negotiation process is to become a member of the GEO. Only members can vote in the General Membership Meetings where grads frame the bargaining platform and only those members who would be covered by the contract can vote on final approval of the contract.
The greater your involvement, the stronger your voice. And there are plenty of ways that members can volunteer: researching issues for negotiations, talking with your fellow graduate employees, and being elected to leadership positions within the organization. Your help will ensure that grad employees on this campus get the contract that we deserve.
If a GEO representative doesn’t contact you in the next couple of weeks, please contact us — all grads affected by the contract should help set the agenda. You can call the GEO office at 344-8283 or contact any of your department’s stewards or representatives. An online survey is also available on the GEO web site: www.geo-uiuc.org.