bargaining update

Currently, bargaining updates can be found at our bargaining website at http://www.geocontract.org/. Please check out that site for the latest bargaining news and information!
November 2008
Contract negotiations are just around the corner. The results from this survey will help the GEO Bargaining Committee develop a set of priorities which will become our Bargaining Platform. Member input and involvement will be critical for producing a fair contract for everyone.
The survey is anonymous unless you choose to leave your name for follow-up, and it takes less time than the Ethics Training! Make sure your friends take it too.
To get the survey link, contact the GEO office at geo(AT)uigeo.org or at 344-8283


July 2008
Grad employees are preparing to bargain our third contract in Spring 2009. If you are interested in volunteering to research contract issues or educate other grads about the need for a living wage, reduced fees, childcare subsidies, and other important issues send an email to geo(at)uigeo.org. Since we are a democratic, volunteer-run union, bargaining a successful contract relies on all of us!


Feb 1, 2007

2006-2009 Agreement
Ratified and Signed!

FAQs from bargaining are available here.



1/29/07

GEO Enters Federal Mediation, Holds Open Office Hours

Champaign ?The Graduate Employees? Organization (GEO) will enter into federal mediation with University of Illinois administrators this Wednesday, January 31, in hopes of resolving contract negotiations that have been going on since April 2006. In the contingency that a compromise cannot be reached, the GEO membership voted last week to file ?Intent to Strike? paperwork, a legal requirement of the Labor Board which simply allows the GEO to plan for all possible work actions. An action such as a general strike or partial work stoppage would be a last resort and must be authorized by a special membership vote.
Members of the GEO have held rallies throughout the year protesting the administration?s sluggish response to renew the expired contract. Ideally, TAs would be able to just focus on their jobs. To convey their commitment to teaching as well as the balance required to struggle for fair negotiations, GEO TAs are holding ?Open Office Hours? on Tuesday, January 30, from 10 am to 2 pm in the Illini Union Courtyard Café. Students needing help with coursework have been asked to meet their teachers there, as opposed to their offices, and anyone with questions about the GEO is also invited to drop in.
GEO negotiators and members are confident that an acceptable agreement can be worked out via mediation. Filing the intent to strike notice, however, is a legally required measure. Christopher Simeone, lead negotiator for the GEO, states, ?We have to protect the interests of our membership and we are prepared to take all necessary steps to do so.? Currently, the GEO has proposed a contract which includes full health coverage for all TAs and GAs, 50 percent coverage for their dependents, and a stipend increase across the membership that would help meet the rising costs of living. The University administration estimates $13, 572 as a reasonable cost of living in Champaign-Urbana (www.oar.uiuc.edu-grad_expenses.html) for 2006-07, yet its counter-proposal to the GEO falls $986 below that figure and includes no coverage for dependents. In addition, the administration?s proposal does nothing to cap student fees, which this year total $1,432 for incoming students ($620 in unwaived academic fees, $312 in health fees, and a new $500 fee for the academic facilities maintenance fund). Although these fees mean graduate employees live on much less than the stated amount of their stipends, they are taxed on the total. Therefore, the administration?s proposal leaves open the possibility that future fee increases will cancel out any small wage gains. The GEO?s request for a 4.5% wage increase corrects for inflation and takes a modest but positive step toward closing the living wage gap.
For more information on the GEO, contract negotiations, and other union news, visit www.uigeo.org or contact the GEO office at (217) 344-8283.


12/14/06

GEO and UIUC administration to enter mediation; Graduate employees show solidarity at on-campus ?grade-in?

The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) and University of Illinois administrators agreed today to seek mediation following administrators? rejection of the GEO?s latest proposal. During the afternoon bargaining session, administrators refused to engage in dialogue about the offer. Meanwhile, in the midst of final exams, some fifty GEO members held a ?grade-in? to emphasize the hard work for which all teaching assistants deserve just compensation.
Although the GEO?s current proposal represents significant movement from previous proposals, Mr. Steven Veazie, lead attorney for the administration bargaining team, classified the package offer as ?unacceptable.? Instead, Veazie re-proposed the administration?s previous offer of a 2.5% stipend increase. GEO members, however, have already resoundingly rejected that offer in a general meeting last month. Not only does it fall far short of the University?s own estimated $13,572 cost of living [1], but it does not even keep up with the 3% annual inflation projected by the most recent University strategic plan. It also fails to cap non-tuition fees which can rise from year to year and significantly cut into wage increases won at the bargaining table.
Despite acceding to the administration?s last minute change in location to the relatively less accessible Assembly Hall for the negotiations themselves, the GEO went ahead with its planned ?grade-in? at Grainger Engineering Library, the originally agreed upon bargaining location. Especially designed to be non-disruptive, the activity allowed teaching assistants (TAs) and their supporters to join together in a show of solidarity without losing precious work hours during one of the University?s busiest weeks, when many graduate students are furiously grading undergraduate exams even as they finish their own term papers and projects. Participating graduate employees expressed their disappointment with the administration?s sudden imposition of a location change for the bargaining session. ?The administration wants to keep our work invisible,? said Faiza Zafar, graduate student. ?They prefer to imagine that we?re not an integral part of this university.? By many estimates, however, graduate employees teach approximately 30% of UIUC undergraduate courses, and almost 40% at the freshman level. ?I think they?re shooting themselves in the foot,? said Steven Jug, history department TA, in reference to the possibility that top-notch applicants will choose peer institutions where wages and health benefits are higher.
The GEO is confident that entering into a mediation process will lead to substantive and fair improvements in the compensation and working conditions of graduate employees on the UIUC campus.
1 ? http://www.oar.uiuc.edu/current/financial/grad_expenses.html


12/4/06
GEO to Hold Rally for a Living Wage
The University of Illinois Graduate Employees? Organization (GEO.) will hold its ?Rally for a Living Wage? at the University of Illinois Alma Mater at noon on Wednesday, December 6. The rally encourages a living wage as part of a timely conclusion to ongoing contract negotiations between the GEO and university administrators, who will meet again on December 13.
In the November 29 Daily Illini article entitled ?Graduate employees, University continue to negotiate earnings,? the administration?s lead negotiator, Steve Veazie, said ?Graduate students are also getting a fee waiver, $12,500 added to the tuition fee waiver? (Daily Illini, Nov 29), which he classified as ?a pretty good deal.?
By the university?s own standards, however, the ?good deal? amounts to less than a living wage. The standard minimum stipend for a graduate student-worker is $12,220. The University?s Office of Administration and Records estimates graduate level expenses at $13,572. Worse, Mr. Veazie mischaracterizes the university?s fee reduction as a ?waiver,? even though incoming graduate students must pay $1,432 dollars for academic and health fees, as well as a university maintenance assessment, above and beyond the expenses estimated by the university.
A graduate student-worker receiving the standard minimum stipend earns $2,784 less than the $15,004 it costs to live, work, and study in Champaign-Urbana for two semesters. For student-workers paying health coverage for spouses and children, or for non-residents whose travel and bureaucratic costs can be higher, the ?good deal? amounts to a weak bluff.
University administrators have proposed a 2.5 percent raise and an increase of the minimum stipend to $12,586 ? well short of the university?s own estimated living expenses, which don?t include fees. A true living wage would require a 19.2 percent increase. University administrators themselves estimate yearly inflation at 3 percent , which would make their offer of 2.5 percent a net loss of income!
The GEO has included a modest wage increase as part of a comprehensive proposal since bargaining began in April of this year. Administrators were not willing to talk about wages or health care until November, three months after the previous contract expired. Late November and early December make up a particularly heavy period for graduate student workers, who are both writing and grading papers non-stop. Nonetheless, the GEO continues to work toward a timely and just conclusion to negotiations.
The December 6th ?Rally for a Living Wage? is open to the public and will include members of the GEO, the UI student body, and members of other campus and local unions.
1 HYPERLINK “http://www.oar.uiuc.edu/current/financial/grad_expenses.html” http://www.oar.uiuc.edu/current/financial/grad_expenses.html
2 < HYPERLINK "http://www.oar.uiuc.edu/current/financial/grad_expenses.html" www.oar.uiuc.edu?grad_expenses.html >


10/12/06
Union to University: Stop Clowning Around!
CHAMPAIGN?After nearly five months of negotiations, the Graduate Employees? Organization is telling the University of Illinois to stop clowning around and take their demands seriously.
?We have been working without a contract all semester,? said Christopher Simeone, lead negotiator for the union that represents teaching assistants and graduate assistants. ?The tactics from the University have become clear. They simply aren’t willing to give us straightforward answers. We feel deeply disrespected.”
The GEO recently won an arbitration case, where Edwin Benn, a neutral third party, determined that the University had no grounds to pay library workers eleven months worth of wages for twelve months worth of work.
?We’re happy to see that a neutral third party was willing to be reasonable and interpret the contract’s clear meaning. 11/12 does not equal 12,? said GEO co-president Andrew O?Baoill.
Despite the GEO?s victory, the University remains stubborn, delaying discussion on wages, benefits and fees, issues that the GEO says must be addressed to ensure fairness for teaching assistants and graduate assistants.
Members of the union will rally on the quad, Friday October 13, at 3 PM. Musicians, stilt-walkers and other acts will accompany them for a circus parade. They will then move to the Swanlund Administration Building to tell administrators to bargain seriously.
?The university says we are free to express ourselves,? said Brian Dolber, GEO Communications Officer. ?What they really mean is that they aren’t interested in listening to our issues.?
WHAT: GEO Circus Parade March
WHERE: U of I Quad, outside the Illini Union south entrance
WHEN: Friday, October 13
3 PM


9/11/06
Grad Employees to University: SAFETY AND HEALTHCARE NOW!
The Graduate Employees? Organization is demanding that the
University of Illinois address their concerns regarding campus safety during labor negotiations scheduled on Wednesday, nearly one month after their contract expired.
The graduate employees began work this semester without a contract, leading the union to schedule regular membership updates to discuss with employees their rights and progress in current negotiations. GEO members are planning their first meeting to coincide with the union?s labor negotiations with the University on Wednesday. Following the meeting, union members will participate in a cross-campus march and rally.
?Graduate employees do not know what security measures exist on campus,? said Christopher Simeone, the lead negotiator for the GEO. ?Informing grad workers what to do in case of an emergency should be part of our mandatory orientation. Graduate employees deserve to feel safe at work.?
The University has also backed away from addressing pressing
healthcare concerns. ?The administration told us that they would meet with representatives from different insurance companies to find the best plan for graduate employees at the best rates,? said Simeone. “They are no longer willing to have those representatives sit at the table. We think it is in everyone’s best interest for grad employees to have the best possible healthcare.”
Although graduate employees teach 30 percent of the classes on campus, 40 percent of graduate employees cannot afford healthcare for their families. GEO members will rally during the negotiations on Wednesday at 1 PM.
?When union members work together outside of bargaining,? said Simeone, ?we get results at the table.?
The GEO represents 2,800 teaching assistants and graduate
assistants at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
WHAT: GEO Rally for Fair Bargaining
WHEN: Wednesday, September 13th, 1 PM
WHERE: Grainger Library, North Side
1301 W. Springfield Ave, Urbana


8/15/06

Graduate Employees to University:
?Bargain in Good Faith!?

TAs and GAs Demand Fair Pay, Healthcare as Contract Expires

Graduate employees at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will rally today, demanding that the administration negotiate with them in good faith as their contract expires.
?The fall semester begins one week from today,? said Christopher Simeone, lead negotiator for the Graduate Employees? Organization (GEO). ?Rather than greeting teaching assistants and graduate assistants with job security and respect, the University will welcome us back with frozen wages and unaffordable health care.?
The GEO has been negotiating its second contract with the University for three months. However, the administration has been unwilling to compromise on wages, student fees, and health insurance costs. The University has chosen to freeze grad employees? wages this semester, despite the rising cost of living.
?Nearly one third of all classes at this University are taught by graduate employees, but 40 percent of us are unable to afford health insurance for our families,? said Simeone. ?We are the backbone of the U of I. We should not be forced to work without a contract.?
Place: Outside of Grainger Engineering Library
1301 W. Springfield Avenue
Urbana, IL
Time: Tuesday August 15, 1:30 PM
The Graduate Employees? Organization represents 2,800 graduate employees at the University of Illinois. For more information, visit www.uigeo.org .


6/22/06

Grad Contract Expires in Two Months?Still no Agreement on Healthcare, other Issues.

Graduate employees at the University of Illinois do the work of educated professionals, teaching classes, assisting professors, and running university programs. But when they have to visit a doctor, U of I healthcare treats them like students, not like other campus professionals. The Graduate employees at the U of I have been bargaining with the University since April, and they will take up the issue of health care on June 30th, 2006 when they next meet with University administrators.
In recent labor negotiations with University administrators, the Graduate Employees? Organization (GEO) proposed a more comprehensive health insurance plan for employees that would reduce everyday healthcare expenses and provide affordable dependent coverage.
The University dismissed the health care needs of over 2,700 teaching and graduate assistants currently employed at the U of I and represented by the GEO, when it swiftly issued a ?NO? response to their proposals.
Compared to other Universities, the healthcare that the U of I offers appears expensive and inadequate. Some graduate employees are forced to take out high-interest loans or go without care all together. Other universities, such as Michigan State and the University of Michigan, pay up to 95% of premium costs for single coverage holders. Michigan State will also contribute up to 70% of the premium cost for family care. In contrast, the U of I contributes no money towards family healthcare, and meets only 25% of premium costs for single coverage holders.
?Four in ten graduate employees say they cannot afford healthcare for their children, leaving them uninsured or dependent on state programs,? said Christopher Simeone, a GEO member and lead negotiator. ?The University lectures us about ?living in the real world.? But we know about the real world. Many of us cannot meet basic living expenses because of costly medical bills. Our families go without care while we work hard to provide high-quality education to the thousands of students at the U of I.?
GEO members are committed to working out a solution that is agreeable to both the University and graduate employees. ?Better healthcare has never hurt anyone,? said Dave Morris, a GEO member. ?It is in the best interest of both the University and students to take good care of the grad employees.?
?It?s time for professionals to get the healthcare they deserve,? said Simeone.
?While other professionals at the U of I have adequate health coverage, ours caters to ?students? with minimal needs. The University must accept responsibility for the well-being of its workforce and take our healthcare issues seriously.?


6/20/06
Grad Contract Expires in Two Months?Still no Agreement on Healthcare, other Issues.
Graduate employees at the University of Illinois do the work of educated professionals, teaching classes, assisting professors, and running university programs. But when they have to visit a doctor, U of I healthcare treats them like students, not like other campus professionals. The graduate employees at the U of I have been bargaining with the University since April, and they will take up the issue of health care on June 30th, 2006 when they next meet with University administrators.
In recent labor negotiations with University administrators, the Graduate Employees? Organization (GEO) proposed a more comprehensive health insurance plan for employees that would reduce everyday healthcare expenses and provide affordable dependent coverage.
The University dismissed the healthcare needs of over 2,700 teaching and graduate assistants currently employed at the U of I and represented by the GEO, when it swiftly issued a ?NO? response to their proposals.
Compared to other Universities, the healthcare that the U of I offers appears expensive and inadequate. Some graduate employees are forced to take out high-interest loans or go without care all together. Other universities, such as Michigan State and the University of Michigan, pay up to 95% of premium costs for single coverage holders. Michigan State will also contribute up to 70% of the premium cost for family care. In contrast, the U of I contributes no money towards family healthcare, and meets only 25% of premium costs for single coverage holders.
?Four in ten graduate employees say they cannot afford healthcare for their children, leaving them uninsured or dependent on state programs,? said Christopher Simeone, a GEO member and lead negotiator. ?The University lectures us about ?living in the real world.? But we know about the real world. Many of us cannot meet basic living expenses because of costly medical bills. Our families go without care while we work hard to provide high-quality education to the thousands of students at the U of I.?
GEO members are committed to working out a solution that is agreeable to both the University and graduate employees. ?Better healthcare has never hurt anyone,? said Dave Morris, a GEO member. ?It is in the best interest of both the University and students to take good care of the grad employees.?
?It?s time for professionals to get the healthcare they deserve,? said Simeone.
?While other professionals at the U of I have adequate health coverage, ours caters to ?students? with minimal needs. The University must accept responsibility for the well-being of its workforce and take our healthcare issues seriously.?