GEO makes progress at bargaining table


Daniel Zhou

Chancellor Robert Jones speaks at a meeting with members of the GEO on Sept. 22.

By Layli Nazarova, Staff Writer

On Jan. 26, University administration and the Graduate Employees’ Organization reached seven agreements during their bargaining session at the Illini Union. The last session was held on Friday, but no updates were disclosed.

The seven agreements achieved included expanding the protection of GEO members in terms of discrimination and sexual harassment.

“The University expressed its desire to exchange proposals and make progress toward an agreement,” stated the University official bargaining session recap on their Human Resources website. “The University then presented its next package proposal related to the Recognition Article and Non-Discrimination Article, with the addition of the Grievance Article.” 

GEO members said that they see changes in administration bargaining behavior that they did not see before.

“We are starting to see the movement from the administration which we didn’t see before, and we are hopeful that we can get more agreements this month,” said Michael Klajbor-Smith, GEO secretary. “Right now, as we speak, there is a proposal being considered by the administration that might get us another agreement.”

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According to GEO Co-Treasurer Tony Mirasola, last year, the University refused to bargain on each article individually. In 2023, they changed their approach. 

“In our first meeting in January, which was last week, we reached an agreement on seven articles, including Recognition and Non-discrimination articles,” Mirasola said. “It was a turnaround from what the administration has been saying before, that they would never sign any individual articles like that, so that’s I think a signal of progress.”

Mirasola said he thinks that such changes in administration bargaining tactics were caused by higher turnout among GEO members and supporters.

“We have really improved the participation of our members, we have had a high turnout at our bargaining sessions and other events that we have held,” Mirasola said. “Last December and all throughout this semester so far we have just had people contacting us, coming to information sessions at a higher level than we have seen before, so there is more engagement now.”

The next and most important step in bargaining for GEO, according to Mirasola, is getting the increase in wages and free year-round health care.

“The agreements we have reached so far have been on these noneconomic articles, and we still have a lot of them to get through before we can start bargaining on the wage increases and health care,” Mirasola said. “We are making fast progress on these non-economic items, so I would hope that within a month we should be able to get to the issues that really matter.” 

Even though progress has been made, GEO members said they can’t predict when the conflict will be fully resolved. 

“The bargaining is a matter of push and pull. It can take a month, it can take several months, but we are hoping that this semester we will get a fair contract, whatever that means,” Klajbor-Smith said.


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