GEO Response to DI Article

While the GEO was pleased to see the 2-page article in Wednesday’s Daily Illini covering the history and structure of our organization, there were several issues presented which bear further clarification.
The article stated:
“But fewer than half of those assistants are actually union members and thus have no say in how the union budget is spent our how policy is set.”
As the article mentions, Illinois is a “Fair-Share” state; this means that all Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants on campus are automatically represented by the GEO. The GEO signed card membership fluctuates between 47-51%.  This percentage is actually typical of graduate employee unions throughout the United States.  The GEO represents all of those in our bargaining unit, and any assistant interested in having a say in budget or policy decisions can do so by signing a membership card.  The GEO holds regular meetings to gather member feedback and works hard to ensure that any interested assistant has the opportunity to participate in their union.  We pride ourselves on being a democratic, member-driven organization.
“Adding to the union’s challenges is that more than two-thirds of the dues they collect go to parent unions, one of which they say they have almost no contact with.”
The GEO has strong relationships with the Illinois Federation of Teachers:
1.  We meet regularly with our IFT staff representative to consult on union matters.
2.  During the past year alone the IFT has provided trainings for our membership in both the Illinois legislative process and grievances.
3.  The IFT provides legal advice, legislative advice, and other practical guidance for the GEO regularly.
4.  Two GEO members attended the IFT conference this year, where we were able to vote for both the leadership of the IFT and the platform of issues important to the organization.
The Illinois Federation of Teachers is our local contact to the larger American Federation of Teachers,  While we do not converse as often with the AFT, we also have an active, working relationship with this parent union:
1.  The GEO is very active in the AFT’s Alliance of Graduate Employee Locals (AGEL), which is the group within AFT which specifically works on graduate student worker issues.  Currently GEO member Christopher Simeone is the Co-President of AGEL.
2. The AFT provides the opportunity for the GEO to meet other graduate workers throughout the country, an invaluable way to share ideas, strategies and tactics.
3.  The GEO works with AFT staff located in Washington concerning federal legislative issues important to our members.
4.  Seven GEO members attended the AFT conference this year, where we were able to vote for both the leadership of the AFT and the platform of issues important to the organization.
Most importantly, affiliation with the IFT and AFT means that the GEO stands in solidarity with 80,000 educational workers in the State of Illinois and 1.5 million educational workers nation-wide.  This affiliation gives GEO support and strength it could never achieve on its own.
“Two years ago, 1,100 union members struck for one day, to ensure tuition waiver security in the College of Fine and Applied Arts.”
The GEO went on strike for two days in 2009 to protect tuition waivers for all graduate workers we represent in all departments and schools.