Strike Authorization Vote Passes by Wide Margin

Champaign, IL – November 16, 2012: The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) from the campus of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Strike Authorization Vote passed by a wide majority 86.7%.

This vote authorizes the formation of a 23 person Strike Committee. The Strike Committee now has full authority to call a strike. The Committee will work in consultation with GEO membership and the GEO bargaining team, and will hold its first meeting this evening.

This Strike Authorization Vote announcement comes one day after the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB) ruled in favor of the GEO regarding violations of their previous contract related to tuition waivers. Tuition waivers are a fundamental part of graduate education at every major university. Waivers are how universities, like the University of Illinois, are able to hire and compete for high quality and diverse graduate students.

These talented employees teach more than 20 percent of all course hours offered at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and more than 36 percent of all Freshman classes. Without waiver protection, many of these teachers would be forced to choose other universities that are committed to quality instruction.
In November 2009, approximately 1,000 GEO members went on strike and successfully won tuition waiver protection in their contract. Nonetheless, a representative of the administration told GEO officials in a meeting held on March 2, 2012 the administration actually sees graduate student tuition as a means to “generate revenue.”

In violation of this contract protection, this University administration began to charge hundreds of dollars of tuition each semester for incoming students in the College of Fine and Applied Arts since the 2010-2011 academic year.

The GEO filed a grievance on the matter which was upheld during arbitration. This University administration challenged the arbitrator’s ruling, and yesterday the IELRB unanimously (5-0) endorsed this ruling.

The Strike Authorization vote also comes after the GEO has met with the Administration for approximately 100 hours more than 20 times since last April. GEO members have been working without a contract since mid-August. The last two sessions with a federal mediator have not garnered agreement on health care, tuition waivers, or wages.

The GEO is a member of the IFT-AFT, AFL-CIO, and represents more than 2,400 Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants.

For more information, please contact Stephanie Seawell, at 217-722-7544 or stephseawell@gmail.com. http:/uigeo.org.

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