Discussions continue

The purpose of this session was mainly to continue past discussions on evaluation and training, employee expenses, employee files, and stipends. Other issues included distribution of information, dues deduction processes and fair share, and management rights. What follows is an explanation of these topics and brief statements reflecting GEO positions in relation to those of the administration.

The next bargaining session will occur on Tuesday, August 5th, from 1-4 PM in Grainger Library. The meeting will be held in Room 329 or 335. As always, observers are very welcome to attend all or part of the session. If you do not arrive at the beginning of the meeting, a sign on the meeting room door will indicate if or when it will be appropriate to enter. While there are usually frequent opportunities to leave early, observers should come at 12:45 PM or around 2:15 PM and plan to stay for about 90 minutes. Also, please share your observations and comments during GEO caucuses or following the session. At the latest session, thoughtful strategies for negotiating the terms of employee training and evaluation were received from English and sociology grads.
Sometimes grads incur costs related to their employment (travel, special certifications, work supplies, lab equipment, etc.). The expenses article will indicate what costs are to be covered by the employer. Progress was made on this issue in a previous bargaining session, but on this day the administration resisted GEO proposals that would require the employer to provide parking to employees whose work requires local travel and would obligate the employer to pay for special certifications, such as CPR and First Aid. According to the administration’s team, these are not issues that merit presence in our contract.
Employee Files
This article outlines records that will be kept in employee files as well as employee access to those files. A reference to the Illinois Employee Access to Records Act is central to the administration’s offer. The Act ensures minimum availability of employee files. The GEO would like for the files to be more accessible. A GEO counterproposal elaborated on the portions of the Act that are most pertinent to graduate employees. The administration responded that by using a reference to the entire Act instead of specifics, employees would benefit from any improvements to the law. Alternatively, the GEO pointed out that weakening of the legislation would be counterproductive for grads. While the two sides cannot agree about what materials are appropriate to employee files, both agree that employees should have the right to dispute information placed into the file and attach statements to that effect.
The administration offered a counterproposal on wages that that simply reframed their original intention-reserving the right to unilaterally determine all salaries. The old proposal allowed the administration to set wages without influence from the GEO for an indefinite period of time. The new proposal allowed them to do the same thing but on an annual basis. Labor law requires that wage determination must be negotiated, and so the GEO rejected this inequitable plan.
Training and Evaluation
These issues are obviously connected. Related articles will establish how employees are prepared for their jobs and how their performances will be judged. Claiming their approach was more “developmental,” the administration argued that the GEO proposals on training and evaluation were overly draconian. The GEO responded that its proposals stress specific training strategies intended to help TAs become better teachers, whereas punishment (in fact, termination) for missing training is central to the administration’s proposal on training. The GEO would like for employees to have multiple, specialized training opportunities; the administration views this as unnecessary, claiming training never really stops. As to evaluation, the GEO requested that TAs and GAs be evaluated at least once and with regularity if so desired by the employee. The GEO also would ask that evaluations be planned with advance contact from the evaluator. The administration recommends unannounced classroom evaluations, and would allow employees only one week to respond to evaluator comments. The administration suggested that further deliberation over evaluation processes be postponed.
Management Rights
The GEO recognizes certain management rights as dictated by the Illinois Education and Labor Relations Act. However, the administration’s management rights proposal goes far beyond the law, designating more than fifteen terms and conditions of employment as non-negotiable. The GEO questioned the legality of this proposal and declined to compose a counter until provided with a more reasonable proposal from the university.
Distribution of Information
An article on this topic would require the administration to supply the union with data on employees in the bargaining unit. Having home phone numbers and addresses is particularly necessary given the wide range of graduate workplaces. In the event that the GEO needed to contact the membership quickly, there must be reliable and up-to-date contact information. This information is also critical to the work of building the union. While willing to provide less direct contact information, the administration suggests we consult a phonebook for home addresses and phone numbers. The GEO is holding out for an electronic file containing this important data, but the administration believes an agreement will not be reached any time soon.
Dues Deduction and Fair Share
The GEO is seeking to continue the current process of automated membership dues deduction. Additionally, we seek “Fair Share,” meaning that nonunion employees in the bargaining unit, who will benefit from the terms and conditions set forth by the contract, would have an amount equivalent to GEO dues deducted from their paychecks. These topics were put on the bargaining table by the GEO, but the administration declined further discussion.