UPDATE: Five days into a strike, GEO ready to talk

UPDATE: Five days into a strike, GEO ready to talk

Updated 10:15 a.m. Friday

URBANA — The Graduate Employees Organization, which has been on strike since Monday, says it's ready to return to the bargaining table.

The GEO announced Friday morning that it had sent a message to the university's bargaining team on Thursday afternoon requesting a meeting. The union said it had yet to hear a response.

UI administrators have said that they've been ready to resume contract talks since Sunday night, when the GEO walked out of negotiations, and have communicated that to federal mediators.

On Thursday, banging drums and buckets and tooting horns, more than 200 GEO members ended the fourth day of their strike with a rally under the McFarland Carillon on the South Quad.

Katie Lee, a member of the GEO's bargaining team, publicly announced the union's five negotiating demands of the university:

— At least one month's notice that graduate employees will have a job and what that job will be.

"By the university's own numbers, over 90 percent of appointment notifications are late," Lee said. "This means graduate workers have to scramble each semester to find housing and plan their lessons for the semester."

— A 7.5 percent pay hike.

"The only reason the percent increase looks so large is because we get paid so little," Lee said. "The modest raise we are asking for is about $500 for our lowest-paid members."

— A reduction in what the GEO calls "mystery fees" charged to graduate employees.

"We are willing to continue paying fees into the local public transportation system and the fees our own student government approves, but we do not want to pay for fees that go toward infrastructure that our employer should fund and services we do not use," Lee said

— Resources for dependents of graduate employees.

Lee said the union wants the university to help pay for health care premiums for dependents and for a stipend to help with child care. The union also wants insurance that covers pre-existing conditions and mental health care.

— Maintaining tuition waivers for members.

"Without tuition waivers, graduate students will have to pay twice their salary to stay in school," Lee said. "If you are working as a TA (teaching assistant) or GA (graduate assistant), you deserve a full tuition waiver. And we are fighting to defend this for future members of the GEO."

GEO spokeswoman Ashli Anda said there have been no new negotiations since the strike began at 8 a.m. Monday, and no additional negotiations have been scheduled.

"We are asking for a package that really ensures access to higher education," she said.

On Thursday, UI Provost Andreas Cangellaris said the UI is ready to negotiate at any time.

"We had put a comprehensive proposal on the table for them," Cangellaris said. "When they said they were going to go on strike, we responded that we are willing to continue bargaining. We have reached out to the mediator to confirm our availability. We learned that the mediator has not heard from the union."

Meanwhile, the Champaign Federation of Teachers has thrown its support behind the GEO, and teachers have joined the graduate students in picket lines and rallies.

"This is a fight for the soul of higher public education," CFT President Jen White, a seventh-grade teacher, said to those gathered at the rally. "My students of today, my precious kids who make me smile every day, are your undergrads of tomorrow and hopefully the graduate students of the future that will one day be in your shoes."

The GEO's efforts also have the backing of a statewide organization.

"We are fully behind them in their pursuit of education justice and for making education successful for all," said Kenzo Shibata of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

The evening rally was the third of the day for the GEO. About 500 people took part in a noon rally at the Beckman Institute, and nearly 100 turned out for a labor sing-along led by faculty from the UI music department.

"The grad students are being asked to do more with less while the university fills its coffers to the brim, hoarding money from the classroom and hiring more administration," Lee said.

"I'm ready to go back to the negotiating table," Cangellaris said. "I feel very good about how close we are with them. All it will take is both sides agreeing to continue negotiations in good faith."

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nschne393 wrote on March 01, 2018 at 10:03 pm

 "we do not want to pay for fees that go toward infrastructure that our employer should fund and services we do not use"

Welcome to one of 2 places-

1) Real life, we all pay taxes for services we don't use i.e. schools when you have no children or libraries when you don't use them 

or

2) Being a conservative. 

 

 

 

UIUCGradStudent wrote on March 02, 2018 at 12:03 pm
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God I hope the GEO wins.

UIUCGradStudent wrote on March 02, 2018 at 12:03 pm
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God I hope the GEO wins.

pranjal wrote on March 02, 2018 at 3:03 pm

Most employers do not charge their employees for infrastructure; you don't see Carle charging its doctors and nurses a fee to build new hospital buildings; you don't see McDonalds charging its employees for new grills; you don't see United charging its pilots for jet fuel.

MarkDibley wrote on March 02, 2018 at 2:03 pm

"The only reason the percent increase looks so large is because we get paid so little," Lee said. "The modest raise we are asking for is about $500 for our lowest-paid members."

Yeah! What do you make?

"While the amount will vary between disciplines, graduate employees are paid for the services that they perform at the following rates (excluding the value of their tuition waivers and other benefits):

*The average hourly wage rate is $23.87
*The minimum hourly wage rate is $20.97
*The highest hourly wage rate is $38.56"

Oh. Sorry, I can't afford any sympathy for you.

 

pranjal wrote on March 02, 2018 at 3:03 pm

These "hourly wages" are calculated based on a 20-hour work week for 9 months (a so-called 50% appointment). In reality, no graduate employee works just 20 hours a week, and almost all graduate employees work 12 months. The minimum wage for graduate students is just $16,281.

Champaign Guest wrote on March 03, 2018 at 12:03 am

I'm pretty sure that back when I was a TA it was rare for me to work more than 20 hours per week (lesson prep, teaching, grading, office hours.)  Maybe around midterms/finals, but that was it.  Since most graduate appointments in our department were teaching, only a fraction of the students had appointments over the summer when there weren't as many students taking classes.