GEO vote could lead to strike

The Graduate Employee’s Organization will vote on whether to strike for higher wages from November 4 through 6. If the authorization vote passes, the GEO could create a strike committee that has the authority to determine plans that would initiate a strike.

The latest round of negotiations between the University and the GEO was held Oct 23. At the meeting, the University determined that more meetings were needed in order to create a contract.

“We’ve seen some evidence in the bargaining room that the administration is recognizing how serious we are after our unanimous ‘intent to strike’ vote, but we still have a really long way to go,” said Peter Campbell, GEO communications officer.

The GEO has worked without a contract from the University for over 10 weeks. The organization has made multiple attempts to put pressure on the University: staging rallies, holding work-ins at the Courtyard Cafe and setting up an informational booth on the Quad.

“We believe it’s in the best interest of graduate students and the University not to have a strike, but they certainly have the right to do that,” said Robin Kaler, University spokeswoman.

At one GEO rally Oct. 26 at the I-Hotel, GEO Communications Committee member Rich Potter argued that financial issues should not hold the University back from paying its graduate students a living wage.

“We know from publicly available budget documents that the problem is not how much money there is in the budget, but where it is being spent,” Potter said.

According to a GEO press release, raising the minimum salary for teaching and graduate assistants to a living wage of $16,086 would cost less than two-tenths of one percent of the campus budget.

“We know that the money exists in the budget for a living wage, and the time to make progress at the bargaining table is now,” Campbell said. “Unless we continue to see substantial movement from the administration in response to our attempts at compromise, our membership is seriously considering the possibility of a strike.”

With the possibility of a strike from the GEO looming, the University is making preparations to ensure classes continue, Kaler said.

Teaching and graduate assistants teach 23.1 percent of all undergraduate course hours at the University, according to a GEO press release.

She said preparations depend on how each department strikes.

“We’re committed to offering students the classes that they’ve registered for, and we’ll do our very best to deliver those services as promised,” Kaler said. “It’s pretty important to remember that even if there is a work stoppage, it won’t change our financial situation.”