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GEO to hold “Unity at the Union” event Monday

From the press release:

The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) from the campus of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will hold a “Unity at the Union” work-in at the Illini Union, 1401 West Green Street, on campus starting at 9 am and lasting all day.

At the work-in, graduate employees will do their work in public and amass to show their bargaining team support throughout the day. The GEO expects a large turnout to at the event by members and allies. With final exams for undergrads approaching GEO members will grade, hold office hours, and facilitate student meetings. And together members will interpret bargaining updates and plan next steps for their union. The purpose of the work-in is to call on the administration to settle the issue of tuition waivers at the bargaining table.

The GEO will bargain with the administration at the Levis Faculty Center on campus in a session scheduled from 1 until 5 p.m. The GEO is willing to stay at the bargaining table as long as it takes in order to reach agreement on the remaining issues including health care, wages, and tuition waivers. A second bargaining session is scheduled for Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

The GEO will hold a press conference at the student union once the bargaining session has concluded. The bargaining session is scheduled to end at 5 p.m, but the GEO will request to stay at the table and bargain longer if the administration’s team will stay. Representatives for the GEO at the student union will be in contact with the bargaining team.

GEO membership overwhelmingly approved a strike authorization vote by 86.7% last week.

The most important remaining issue at the bargaining table is tuition waivers. It took the administration more than 20 meetings to provide any written proposal on waiver security. Their proposed contract language would not provide any tuition waiver security for incoming graduate student workers and would greatly diminish the guarantees to tuition waivers that were set in place in the 2009 GEO contract. Tuition waivers are how top-tier University of Illinois attract and retain the best graduate students and are able to hire them so cheaply to teach classes.

From 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., the participants in the work-in will be at the Illini Union. They will have information stations set up to help inform undergraduates and the campus at large about the remaining issues in GEO negotiations and also about how a strike could impact the campus as the end of the semester approaches. It is anticipated that from 1 until 5 p.m., most GEO members will attend the bargaining session, and then return to the Illini Union after the session closes to continue to the work-in and discuss next steps.

The GEO is a member of the IFT-AFT and AFL-CIO, and represents more than 2,400 Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants who teach more than 20 percent of all instruction hours on campus. For more information, please email Stephanie Seawell, or call (217) 722-7544, and follow GEO at their website.

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