Urbana-Champaign (February 26, 2011):  This morning carloads of Graduate Employee Organization members (GEO, IFT/AFT Local 6300), along with other workers and students headed up to Madison, Wisconsin and Springfield, Illinois to join the nation-wide protests taking place today in support of union workers. 

“The GEO is going to Wisconsin to be a part of this historic day,” Katie Walkiewicz, GEO Co-President said.  “We want our fellow-graduate student workers—the Teaching Assistant Association of Wisconsin—and all of those protesting in Madison to know that Champaign-Urbana stands with them.”

These trips are part of an on-going 24-7 Solidarity Vigil launched by the GEO this past Tuesday.

The vigil began with a rally attended by more than 125 people sponsored by the Campus Faculty Association.  Since then, the vigil has featured a series of rallies, talks, films, and other events.  The vigil is centered at the campus YMCA (1001 S. Wright Street) and some GEO members have spent the night in the Y as sign of solidarity with those sleeping in the capitol in Madison.

A highlight of the vigil came on Thursday, when in a surprise visit, Indiana Democratic Senator Clyde Kersey addressed a crowd of about 50 people at the YMCA.  Kersey is one of the members of the Indiana Democratic caucus that have fled their state to block anti-union and anti-public-education legislation. The representatives are staying in Urbana, and have garnered a lot of support from local unions during the past week.

The crowd at the Y greeted Kersey with enthusiasm. “How long will we be out?” Representative Kersey said. “As long as it takes.”

Last night, campus workers, students, and their children decorated cookies with solidarity images including badgers and union slogans while others made picket signs in preparation for today’s protests.  The GEO also took donations of hand sanitizer, socks, cereal, vitamin C tablets and other materials needed by the Wisconsin protestors.  They will deliver the supplies today at the rally.

The GEO is also sending people to Springfield to take part in a rally at the Illinois State Capitol.

It is expected that those who headed to Wisconsin will make it back to campus late this evening.  “We might all be a little bit tired,” Kerry Pimblott, GEO member said.  “We’ve been sleeping at the Y and working in support of the workers in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio all week.  We might be a little tired, but it is worth it to support this struggle for worker’s rights.”

For more information, please contact Stephanie Seawell, GEO Co-President, 217-722-7544,