GEO Statement of Solidarity with UW-Madison TAA Sit-In

GEO Statement of Solidarity with UW-Madison TAA Sit-In

April 10, 2019

We, the Graduate Employees Organization at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign IFT/AFT Local 6300 AFL-CIO stand in solidarity with our fellow graduate workers of the UW-Madison Teaching Assistant Association (TAA), who staged a sit-in of the university’s Bascom Hall building on Friday, April 5th, to protest the UW-Madison administration’s unfair fee policies. The sit-in is part of the TAA’s Campaign for Fair Pay, Full Fee Coverage, and Quality Policies, which is a larger campaign aimed at improving working conditions and securing a living wage for graduate workers at UW-Madison.

Fees levied on grad workers do not only place an undue burden on grad workers who often do not even make a living wage to begin with, they constitute a form of wage theft, and erode collective bargaining rights by allowing university administrators to levy student fees that would effectively nullify wage increases won by unions. The UW-Madison administration could easily afford to waive these fees–the fees collected from their grad workers only amount to .21% of their budget.

TAA’s struggle is part of a larger nationwide struggle of graduate employee unions and organizations fighting back against this unfair wage theft. On the same day as the TAA sit in, the University of Illinois at Chicago Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) reached a tentative contract agreement after a weeks-long strike in which fees were one of the main issues.

We applaud the TAA’s brave action and stand in solidarity with them and all workers fighting to improve their lives and their communities.

 

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2,700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. In November 2009 and in February 2018, over 1,000 GEO members and allies participated in a strike to secure a fair contract and more accessible UIUC campus. With an active presence in the community, the GEO continues to work for high-quality and accessible public education in Illinois.

For more information, please contact geo@uigeo.org. More information can also be found on GEO’s website at www.uiucgeo.org.

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

Response to UI Executive Vice President’s Statement Regarding Graduate Employee Healthcare

Response to UI Executive Vice President’s Statement Regarding Graduate Employee Healthcare

April 4, 2019

Healthcare is a subject of contract negotiations between the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) administration. During last year’s bargaining, GEO proposed minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act to be written into the contract, but the university rejected this proposal due to their pre-existing contract with United Healthcare. As of now, GEO has no input into or control over this healthcare contract, which is offered based on student rather than employee status. Both historically and in the latest negotiations, GEO is able only to negotiate the portion of the premium which UIUC pays. Therefore, when the Executive Vice President of the UI System Barbara Wilson claims that “The graduate rate is higher because the Graduate Employees’ Organization negotiated a top-tier health plan in their contract,” as she did in the recent News Gazette article “On UI Trustees’ Agenda: Student Health-Insurance Rate Increase, Mascot Ideas,” she is misinformed at best, and lying at worst. Here are the facts.

GEO members, like all graduate students, receive healthcare through a contract which is signed on behalf of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees by the Contracts Purchasing division. The latest contract was signed in May 2015, and renewable for up to 8 years at the request of the university administration. The content of the plan, the cost of premiums, and the request for renewal are currently all determined by this Contracts Purchasing division — squarely outside the purview of the GEO. During last year’s negotiations with GEO, the university rejected GEO’s proposals for much-needed improvements such as increased mental healthcare access, reproductive care, and summer insurance coverage, but was willing to increase the portion of our premium which they pay by 7%. Less than a week after our contract was signed, those same insurance premiums increased from $508 to $582 per semester, or 15% — thus undercutting GEO members’ hard-won financial gain. This year, they will rise even more dramatically, to $696 per semester (an increase of 20%).

Graduate employees cannot afford higher healthcare premiums. The minimum wage for graduate employees, $17,439, is below the MIT-published living wage for a single adult in Champaign County, which is $24,544, and healthcare represents a significant additional financial burden for many. In fact, financial insecurity is experienced by so many of our members that one Urbana city council member recently pointed to our population as a contributing factor to the fact that Urbana has a higher poverty rate than Champaign, in the News-Gazette article “Cunningham Township Supervisor Breaks Down Poverty Stats for Board.” The university’s power to change our healthcare quality and price at will is exactly why we keep asking for a seat at the table, and this was a major subject of bargaining for over a year during our latest negotiations.

The University of Illinois at Chicago GEO is currently on strike, facing many of the same battles that led UIUC GEO to strike last year — including back-door pay cuts of this nature. The University of Illinois Board of Trustees needs to own up to its own actions, and the actions of its constituent universities, instead of blaming the labor unions which represent its workers.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2,700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. In November 2009 and in February 2018, over 1,000 GEO members and allies participated in a strike to secure a fair contract and more accessible UIUC campus. With an active presence in the community, the GEO continues to work for high-quality and accessible public education in Illinois.

For more information, please contact geo@uigeo.org. More information can also be found on GEO’s website at www.uiucgeo.org.

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

GMM on Thursday!

Subject: GMM on Thursday!

***March 25th, 2019***

Table of Contents:

  • ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS

    • Next GMM(s) on March 28th

    • Volunteer Hours + Coffee with Co-Presidents

  • JOIN A GEO COMMITTEE!

  • CONNECT WITH GEO!

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS

Next General Membership Meeting on March 28th at 12:00 pm and 6:30 pm

Join us for our next General Membership Meeting of the Spring 2019 semester on Thursday, March 28th! This GMM, we have urgent organizing updates and a mid-year review of our finances in our first academic year post-Janus. We will also be presenting proposed changes to our constitution and providing information regarding voting for these changes, which will occur at a later date yet to be decided. It is vital that our membership be aware of all of these updates and processes, so please come to this meeting! Here is the Facebook event for more information.

We will be having two GMMs during the day:

  1. 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

    • Serving: Bagels and Coffee

    • Childcare: provided

    • Doors open: 11:45 AM

  2. 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM

    • Serving: Little Caesars Pizza

    • Childcare: provided

    • Doors open: 6:15 PM.

Both GMMs will be at the Channing Murray Foundation (1209 W Oregon St, Urbana).

 

Volunteer Hours + Coffee with Co-Presidents

Want to help your union but not sure how? We have plenty of things around the office that we could use your help with! Come in any Monday between 11am and 1pm. This is a great low-stakes way to lend a hand. See our Facebook event for Volunteer Hours here.

As a member-run, member-centric union, GEO leadership want to be as available to you as possible. Co-presidents Bruce and Hilary will be in the office every Monday at 1pm; come by and grab a cup of coffee or tea, ask questions, or just have a chat! See the Facebook event for Coffee with Co-Presidents here.

 

—————–

 

JOIN A GEO COMMITTEE!

 

We are a member-run union; we depend on the commitment of our members to stay as strong as possible. You can find details about what each committee does and how to contact them on our website. No special knowledge is required. You can also follow the calendar of events on our website for the date and time of upcoming meetings: http://uiucgeo.org/events/. Meetings are open to membership, and coming to a meeting does not commit you to joining a committee.

 

Upcoming meetings:

Constitutional Committee (cc@uigeo.org) – Contact email for more

Healthcare Working Group (health@uigeo.org) – Contact email for more

Stewards’ Council (sc@uigeo.org) – See website next week

Finance Committee (treasurer@uigeo.org) – See website 1-2 weeks after GMM

Solidarity Committee (solcomm@uigeo.org) – Wednesday April 3, 5:30-7:00 pm

Grievance Committee (grievance@uigeo.org) – Wednesday April 3, 4:00-5:00 pm

Communications Committee (commcomm@uigeo.org) – Monday April 8, 5:00-6:30 pm

Coordinating Committee (cc@uigeo.org) – Friday April 5th, 4pm

 

—————–

 

CONNECT WITH GEO!

 

Have comments about the GMM? Other kinds of feedback for us? We want to hear it! Reply to this email or use our anonymous google form. You can also get in touch through our website and social media:

Website: www.uiucgeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo  @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Email: geo@uigeo.org

Statement of Solidarity with UIC GEO

GEO Statement of Solidarity with UIC GEO

March 20, 2019

The Graduate Employees’ Organization at UIUC (IFT/AFT Local 6300) strongly expresses our support for the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC). Graduate workers at UIC went on strike on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. They are fighting for living wages, an end to excessive academic fees, and a transparent appointment process. After over a year of negotiations, they still have not reached an agreement for a fair contract with the university.

We stand in solidarity with UIC GEO while they face similar struggles to those we experienced one year ago. We went on strike for twelve days to protect tuition waivers, improve wages, require timely notification of reappointments, better healthcare, and transparency with student fees. The struggles of graduate workers at UIC are the same struggles graduate workers are facing all across the country. Graduate workers should not have to live with the constant anxiety of not knowing whether we will be able to continue our graduate work due to economic hardships and uncertainties in our appointments. A graduate education should be accessible to low income and underrepresented groups, not just the wealthy. The fight for better working conditions makes this possible.

We demand that the administrators at the University of Illinois-Chicago bargain in good faith to reach an agreement with UIC GEO. The University of Illinois System continues to profit from the work of its graduate employees, which is why graduate student labor needs to be recognized, valued, and fairly compensated.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), IFT/AFT local 6300, AFL-CIO, is a member-run labor union and represents Teaching and Graduate Assistants (TAs and GAs) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In November 2009, and more recently, in February 2018, GEO members and allies participated in a strike to secure a fair contract and more accessible UIUC. With an active presence in the community, the GEO continues to work for high-quality and accessible public education in Illinois.

For more information, please contact us geo@uigeo.org.

More information can also be found on our website at www.uigeo.org

Twitter: @geo_uiuc    Facebook: @uigeo @geosolcomm        Instagram: @geo_uiuc

Statement Against the Proposed ICE Detention Center in Dwight, Illinois

GEO Statement Against the Proposed ICE Detention Center in Dwight, Illinois

February 28, 2019

We, the Graduate Employees Organization at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign IFT/AFT Local 6300 AFL-CIO, strongly condemn the proposed construction of a private prison in Dwight, Illinois. The Dwight Planning Commission met on Tuesday, February 19, 2019 to discuss the annexing of private land for a privately-run, federal immigration detention center. The detention center would serve to detain up to 1,200 undocumented immigrants. The Dwight Planning Commission voted in favor of annexing the private land for an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center. The Dwight village board will be meeting on Monday, March 11, 2019 to have a final vote on whether to approve the contract with the Immigration Centers of America. More than 100 protestors, including Dwight residents and activists from across the state of Illinois, attended the February 19 meeting to voice their opposition to the proposed plans.

The GEO is a sanctuary union that stands with all workers, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. We oppose ICE and their policies of deportation and family separation, which tear our families, communities, and workplaces apart. ICE detention centers are inhumane and cruel and they should be abolished. We call upon the Dwight Village Board to vote no on establishing this detention center, which will benefit no one but the corporate interests that profit off of the prison-industrial complex.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2,700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. In November 2009 and in February 2018, over 1,000 GEO members and allies participated in a strike to secure a fair contract and more accessible UIUC campus. With an active presence in the community, the GEO continues to work for high-quality and accessible public education in Illinois.

For more information, please contact geo@uigeo.org. More information can also be found on GEO’s website at www.uiucgeo.org.

Twitter: @geo_uiuc

Facebook: @uigeo @geosolcomm

Instagram: @geo_uiuc

Statement of Solidarity with UNC-Chapel Hill TA Strike

GEO Statement of Solidarity with UNC-Chapel Hill TA Strike

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, IFT/AFT Local 6300, stands in solidarity with teaching assistants and anti-racist activists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who have called for teaching assistants and faculty members to go on strike and withhold final grades in response to the UNC Board of Trustees’ plan to reinstate the campus’ racist Silent Sam statue. Silent Sam was initially erected in 1913–a full 50 years after enslaved people forced the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation–by a white supremacist group called the United Daughters of the Confederacy. From its inception, Silent Sam was meant to be a monument to white supremacy, as evidenced by Julian Carr’s dedication speech, in which he declared that confederate soldiers had “saved the very life of the Anglo-Saxon race” and referred to whipping a “negro wench” in front of federal soldiers for insulting a “Southern lady.”

Not only have UNC’s Board and Chancellor decided to reinstate this monument, they have planned to do so at an immense cost: $5.3 million dollars, at a time when the university is raising student fees to make up a facilities maintenance budget.

No person should be expected to work or study in a racially hostile environment. We call on the UNC administration to do the right thing and accede to the protesters’ demands. We know first hand that the call to strike is not one to be made lightly, and we applaud TAs and faculty at UNC who are taking this step in the name of justice.

GEO DEMANDS WORKER SAFETY IN EXTREME COLD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: GEO DEMANDS WORKER SAFETY IN EXTREME COLD

Urbana-Champaign (January 29, 2019): The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO, IFT/AFT Local 6300) calls for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to protect the health and well-being of its employees and students by providing adequate accommodations to those working in ‘essential’ positions and refusing to penalize workers’ vacation and personal time off for being unable to commute or attend work. Although classes have already been canceled, many graduate employees are still expected to come to campus–in potentially life-threatening temperatures–to work in labs, libraries, and other workplaces. These hazards represent a significant challenge to our members, who must choose between coming to work in dangerous cold or face potential discipline for not showing up. The GEO will support grievances against supervisors that do not accommodate their employees for being unable to work in such extreme, life-threatening work conditions. GEO Co-President Bruce Kovanen said, “We will fight for every graduate employee who chooses to stay home in this unprecedented cold. We have heard from our members, and we will stand up for their right to stay home in hazardous conditions. It is unconscionable that the University administration would cancel classes but still require other workers–not only graduate employees but also our comrades in unions across campus–to show up in conditions deemed too dangerous for students.”

Extreme weather conditions disproportionately affect low-income students, people with disabilities, and university employees who have to commute to campus. Consequently, the GEO will not stand by as the University fails to make appropriate accommodations for its workers in good faith.

—————————

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2,700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. In November 2009, and more recently, in February 2018, GEO members and allies participated in a strike to secure a fair contract and more accessible UIUC. With an active presence in the community, the GEO continues to work for high-quality and accessible public education in Illinois.
For more information, please contact geo@uigeo.org. More information can also be found on GEO’s website at www.uigeo.org.

###

GEO-L: GMM on Thursday + Late Appointment Letters

***January 28th, 2019***

Table of Contents:

 

  • ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS
    • Next GMM(s) on January 31st
    • ECE Organizing on Tuesday January 29th
    • Late Appointment Letter? File for Compensation!
    • Volunteer Hours + Coffee with Co-Presidents
  • JOIN A GEO COMMITTEE!
  • CONNECT WITH GEO!

 

 

—————–

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS

Next General Membership Meeting on January 31st at 12:00 pm and 6:30 pm

Join us for our 1st General Membership Meeting of the Spring 2019 semester on January 31st! This GMM, we will be looking to the future and presenting an organizing plan GEO committees have put together for this contract cycle (ending in 2022). An upcoming milestone in this contract cycle plan is bargaining for our wages in 2020. Please come to this meeting to provide us feedback so we can decide our next steps together! Here is the Facebook event.

We will be having two GMMs during the day:

  1. 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
    • Serving: Bagels and Coffee
    • Childcare: provided
    • Doors open: 11:45 AM
  2. 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM
    • Serving: Little Caesars Pizza
    • Childcare: provided
    • Doors open: 6:15 PM.

Both GMMs will be at the Channing Murray Foundation (1209 W Oregon St, Urbana).

 

ECE Organizing on Tuesday January 29th

Our stewards will be organizing at the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) building (306 N Wright St.) this week, and you’re welcome to join. We will be carrying welcome booklets, contracts, and GEO swag! If you know someone in ECE that is interested in being a member, please invite them to meet our stewards in the ECE building lobby at 1:30pm on Tuesday!

 

Late Appointment Letter? File for Compensation!

If you received your appointment letter less than 30 days before the start date of the appointment, then you are entitled to $50 in compensation thanks to our new contract. Fill out this form here to start the process.

 

Volunteer Hours + Coffee with Co-Presidents

Want to help your union but not sure how? We have plenty of things around the office that we could use your help with! Come in any Monday between 11am and 1pm. This is a great low-stakes way to lend a hand. See our Facebook event for Volunteer Hours here.

As a member-run, member-centric union, GEO leadership want to be as available to you as possible. Co-presidents Bruce and Hilary will be in the office every Monday at 1pm; come by and grab a cup of coffee or tea, ask questions, or just have a chat! See the Facebook event for Coffee with Co-Presidents here.

—————–

JOIN A GEO COMMITTEE!

We are a member-run union; we depend on the commitment of our members to stay as strong as possible. You can find details about what each committee does and how to contact them on our website. No special knowledge is required. You can also follow the calendar of events on our website for the date and time of upcoming meetings: http://uiucgeo.org/events/. Meetings are open to membership, and coming to a meeting does not commit you to joining a committee.

Upcoming meetings:

 

—————–

CONNECT WITH GEO!

Have comments about the GMM? Other kinds of feedback for us? We want to hear it! Reply to this email or use our anonymous google form. You can also get in touch through our website and social media:

 

In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Email: geo@uigeo.org

 

GEO Stands in Solidarity with Grinnell Student Workers

The Graduate Employees’ Organization at UIUC (IFT/AFT Local 6300) strongly expresses our solidarity with the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW) and their vote to expand the union to all student employees at Grinnell College. We strongly encourage the Grinnell College administration to accept the student vote in favor of expansion, and withdraw their appeal with the National Labor Relations Board.

Formed in May of 2016, UGSDW is the only independent undergraduate student union in the United States. Since their formation, the UGSDW has won major victories for student dining hall workers including wage increases, tiered bonuses for students who work at least 110 hours a semester, grievance procedure, paid breaks, and equal pay for local high school student workers. With membership dues at $2 a month, no paid staff, and no representation from an international union, the UGSDW has remained dedicated to the needs of student workers. On Tuesday, November 27, hundreds of Grinnell student workers voted yes to an expansion of the UGSDW beyond the dining hall. With a current annual tuition of $50,000 (excluding fees), labor protections for Grinnell students are critical. Despite the vote in favor, the Grinnell College administration has filed an appeal to challenge the student vote with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

As graduate employees we are extremely concerned with Grinnell College’s appeal to reject the result of the student vote. Controlled by anti-union appointees, an NLRB appeal in favor of the college administration could threaten the possibility for students to continue to organize at private institutions of higher education. The Grinnell College administration argues that a union would create “tension, divisiveness and a fracturing of relations among students and faculty.” As unionized graduate workers, we know this claim to be far from the truth: unionization promotes a sense of ownership, pride, and respect for our labor.    

Grinnell College advertises itself as an institution that is committed to principles of social justice. Boasting an annual Social Justice Prize of $100,000 given to one person to “serve the common good,” supporting a student founded and led labor union should be common sense. With a 1.8 billion dollar endowment, there is no excuse for Grinnell College to ignore the demands of labor unionization for students.

We, the GEO local 6300 stand in solidarity with the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW) and all students who wish to be represented. We strongly encourage the Grinnell College administration to reflect upon their commitment to social justice and withhold an appeal to the NLRB.

GEO Statement on Leaked Health and Human Services Anti-Trans Memo

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, IFT/AFT Local 6300, condemns in the strongest terms the leaked Department of Health and Human Services memo that seeks to redefine sex in federal law as “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” This definition would deny transgender people protection under federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. The proposal would limit equal access to health care, housing, education, and fair treatment under the law.  It would functionally deny many trans people documentation of their identity, citizenship and immigration status, and the ability to travel freely. For others, it would force them to choose between the life-threatening dangers of the closet and living in a state of constant exposure and vulnerability. It sends a chilling message that the existence and identity of transgender people is not recognized by the government, and deepens ongoing attacks on civil rights. It compounds the threats already facing unions and union members in the form expansion of Right to Work laws and the recent Janus vs AFSCME Supreme Court ruling.

The GEO is a democratic union made up of a diverse population of rank and file members, including graduate workers of diverse gender identities. In our last contract, we fought for and won an expansion of our non-discrimination policy, including protection from discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. We also reached a memorandum of understanding with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Administration that microaggressions constitute discrimination and harassment, and are thus violations of our contract subject to our grievance procedure. We will continue to fight for the safety, well-being, and dignity of all of our members.

The Department of Health and Human Services proposal represents a challenge to the central principle of the labor movement, that unions stand for dignity, rights and equality for all workers. It is a threat to worker solidarity across job categories, between unions and for all genders, ethnicities, races and abilities. We oppose the DHHS memo on the grounds that it promotes a broader context of transphobia and a climate of fear that makes it even more difficult for members to empower each other through organizing. As union members who fight to protect our coworkers, our families and our communities, we oppose the threats to transgender people expressed in the leaked memo. We stand in solidarity with all LGBTQ people who may be experiencing heightened stress, fear or harassment and discrimination at this time.