STRIKE BY UIC GRADUATE STUDENTS AVERTED
Late last evening, after a marathon 13 hours in mediation, the UIC Graduate Employees Organization and the UIC administration reached an agreement regarding the GEO’s contract. The GEO's first agreement expired in August 2009, and GEO members have been negotiating a new contract since April 2009.
After the university declined to guarantee the tuition waivers alland already receive, GEO members approved a vote to go on strike if Monday’s mediation session did not secure the future of tuition waivers and give graduate employees input on controversial “Tuition Differential Fees,” which force some graduate students to pay up to $11,000 per year in fees, despite the fact that most GEO members make less than $15,000 per year.
GEO members were joined by faculty, undergraduates, and community members to rally at the site of the mediation session early Monday morning. The crowd chanted “settle our contract” and “no waiver, no labor” to voice their demands and their intention to strike if the university refused to listen. Addressing the large crowd, Professor of Sociology andAnna Guevarra urged the university’s bargaining team to “produce the best possible university and not the cheapest university.”
At the subsequent mediation session, the UIC administration and the GEO came to agreements on the union’s two core issues, tuition waivers Tuition Differential Fees. In addition to these agreements, the university agreed to other concessions that would provide more economic security for graduate employees in the form of pay raises and contributions to health care costs.
Although the lengthy mediation session was “grueling,” according to GEO Bargaining Team Leader Sarita Heer, “it was worth every second to know that we have successfully settled our contract without having to go on strike.” Heer echoes the sentiments of the GEO members who attended the mediation rally carrying signs that said “I’d rather be teaching.”
The GEO’s next step is to have the membership ratify the contract at a meeting next week. The union reports satisfaction with the contract agreed upon in yesterday’s mediation session. “We are happy that the university valued graduate employees enough to guarantee our financial security as we teach undergraduates at UIC and complete our research,” reported GEO President Charles Moss.
The Graduate Employees Organization, AFT local 6297, AFL-CIO, is the labor union representing more than 1400 Teaching and Graduate Assistants at UIC who teach undergraduate classes, grade papers, work in offices, design websites, maintain databases, and perform other work crucial to the teaching and research missions of the university.
Labor Beat released today this video featuring the rally held Monday to push the unions demands...