Rally held by Graduate Employee’s Organization at I Hotel

The Graduate Employee’s Organization held a rally this morning, at the I Hotel, in attempts to put pressure on the University for securing a fair contract.

The twelve previous bargaining sessions have been unsuccessful in negotiating a contract with the University, and the GEO have now been working ten weeks without a contract.

“We’re trying to raise awareness to the fact that the GEO is really struggling to get a contract—it’s something we felt that we haven’t gotten enough attention about, and we really want these bargaining negotiations to go well,” said T.J. Tallie, a graduate student.

The rally was designed to put pressure on the the University administration to provide graduate employees with a fair contract that includes a minimum Teaching/Graduate Assistant salary at a living wage.

The cost of living for a graduate student on this campus is about $16,000. TA’s on this campus get paid around $13, 400 a year, Ceisel said.

“We hope the rally this morning will continue to put pressure on the University administration, to make significant moves at the bargaining table for a fair contract,” said Peter Campbell, communications officer for the GEO.

The rally was held outside the I Hotel, which was hosting the Illinois Association of Graduate Schools Conference on Graduate Education and the Economy.

“I’m really hoping that the University will stay true to its mission of learning and labor, and prioritizing the work of graduate employees that make this University run,” said Ashley Howard, a graduate employee in the history department, and a member of the GEO bargaining team.

In a press release, the GEO stated that the contract University administration continues to propose represents a significant regression from the 06/09 contract that expired on August 15, by asking graduate employees to accept frozen wages for three years, and seek to significantly erode graduate employee rights.

The 13th bargaining session was held last Friday, Oct. 23rd. “It’s apparent to us that the pressure we’re putting on the administration is having an effect. There was some movement in negotiations on Friday which was not something we’ve seen in the past, but there’s still a really long way to go,” Campbell said.

On October 8, members of the GEO voted unanimously at a General Membership Meeting to file an intent to strike notice. At that meeting, members also voted on an organizing plan consisting of a series of events designed to put pressure on the University administration short of a strike.

“I think that the GEO’s actions outside of the bargaining room, including the unanimous intent to strike to vote, all of our press advertisements, our informational table on the quad, and our WORK-IN’s at the courtyard café have all been really effecting means of putting pressure on the administration,” Campbell said.

The rally featured speakers, drums, music, and guided chants.

“GEO members have been working without a contract for 10 weeks. The bargaining team continues to be committed to negotiating for a fair contract in good faith at the bargaining table. We’ve been working without a contract for too long; our member’s need a contract, and want a contract, and the time to get to a fair contract is now,” Campbell said.

Katie Durkin contributed to this report