FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: UIUC STRIKE CONTINUES TUESDAY 11/17 AT 8 AM
ADMINISTRATION SPREADS MISINFORMATION ABOUT PICKET LINES
URBANA-CHAMPAIGN (November 17): On Tuesday, November 17, at 8 am, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), will continue its strike against the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. All buildings previously picketed by the GEO will continue to be designated as “struck” buildings.
On Monday, November 16, at least 1,000 GEO members and their allies picketed four major classroom buildings on the UIUC Liberal Arts and Sciences quad. Up to 700 GEO members and allies were present on picket lines at any given time. Hundreds of teaching sections and classes were suspended, while major classroom buildings including the English Building were completely shut down.
The GEO Strike Committee called a strike after months of stalled negotiations. While the GEO and the UIUC administration agreed in principle on most elements of a contract in a bargaining session on November 14, the administration refused to provide sufficient protection for most tuition waivers in the GEO bargaining unit. The administration’s offer provided only some protection for in-state tuition waivers, even though the majority of the GEO bargaining unit receives out-of-state waivers.
Tuition waivers are a traditional and necessary condition of employment that allows students to earn a degree without incurring extreme debt. By helping to ensure affordable access to higher education for all, tuition waivers are also central to the public, land grant mission of the University of Illinois. Waivers also play a vital role in attracting top students to the University’s graduate programs. At the same time, they provide the University with high quality, cheap instructional labor. Graduate employees teach 23.1% of all undergraduate course hours at UIUC, yet assistant salaries represent less than 6.5% of the University’s state funding. As a comparison, faculty salaries account for over 55% of state funding.
Tuition waivers have been one of the four “pillars” of the GEO’s contract platform since negotiations began on April 21st, 2009. The GEO believes that the administration’s reluctance to include sufficient protection for all tuition waivers, both in-state and out of state, stems from a desire to phase out the provision of full tuition waivers in some or all University departments. Cary Nelson, UIUC Professor of English and President of the American Association of University Professors, issued this statement in support of the GEO strike: “Given that the administration had already eliminated them for research assistants in the sciences, there was good reason to fear administration interest in cherry picking humanities or social science sub-disciplines for similar treatment… once again an activist union is working to keep higher education’s core values in place.”
The GEO and UIUC administration bargaining teams will meet Tuesday, 11/17 at 9 am in the UIUC Levis Faculty Center for further contract negotiations. The GEO is hopeful that the administration will agree to language guaranteeing tuition waiver security, an issue that represents no increased cost to the University. The University’s public statements in support of tuition waivers are misleading, as they are not reflective of the administration’s position in the bargaining room. The GEO hopes that the University’s stance in the bargaining room on Tuesday will be more in line with its public statements.
Finally, the GEO would like to alert members of the UIUC campus to misinformation being spread by the University administration about what constitutes crossing a picket line. In the Chronicle of Higher Education on November 16, University Spokeswoman Robin Kaler said that the administration has encouraged GEO members to hold classes away from picketed buildings, and has assured members that this is not in violation of a strike. This statement is extremely misleading, as the GEO’s public position and its position to membership has always been that only a total work stoppage, that is, cessation of all labor pertaining to a graduate employees’ teaching or graduate assistantship, constitutes participation in a strike by GEO members. The GEO calls upon the University administration to stop spreading misinformation about the strike to graduate employees.
The GEO is a labor union representing all teaching and graduate assistants (TAs and GAs) on the UIUC campus. With over 2600 GEO members, and over 2600 graduate employees represented in the bargaining unit, the GEO is one of the largest higher education union locals in the United States. The GEO strike is the first strike by a recognized union local at UIUC in over 10 years.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Peter Campbell, GEO Communications Officer, email@example.com, 253-222-5861, or the GEO office at firstname.lastname@example.org, 217-344-8283, 1001 S. Wright Street, Champaign, IL, 61820. Information about the GEO can also be found on our website at www.uigeo.org.