GEO holds protest before bargaining session

By Layli Nazarova, Staff Writer

Graduate Employees’ Organization members rallied on the Main Quad in front of the Illini Union on Thursday right before a bargaining session with the University. 

“We all are out here today putting pressure on the administration and saying that we are really not going to quit until we get a fair contract that addresses all of our members’ needs,” said Megan Mericle, GEO communications co-chair and research assistant in the English department. 

In a later email, Mericle said that the GEO has scheduled another session with the administration on Dec. 15 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. with the location is still being determined.

The protesters gathered outside the Union holding posters saying “fair wages for grad labor.” Their negotiations with the University have been going on for the last eight months with little movement from the administration, according to GEO members.

“The only thing that we have gotten back from them is a ‘take it or leave it’ proposal where they literally offered us $500 as a wage increase for the next cycle and two years of summer health care,” said GEO Secretary Michael Klajbor-Smith. 

The protesters chanted slogans and wore GEO merch in support of the organization, even though the ongoing situation has hurt them financially and emotionally, according to their words.

“Overall, it is really frustrating to be nearly nine months into bargaining and seeing almost no movement from the administration,” said Savannah Wills, GEO communications co-officer and a teaching assistant in the history department. 

The bargaining session that followed the rally addressed not only financial aspects of the contract but discrimination issues graduate employees face as well. 

“Today we are gonna hear from a lot of grad workers and testimonials on issues they have experienced around language requirements as well as discrimination,” Mericle said. 

The protest ended with a speech by GEO Co-President Karla Sanabria-Véaz, siren sounds and the screams of the crowd.

The members expressed lack of hope in the University’s decisions, but reiterated their intentions to persevere.

“I hope we walk in there and get a contract, I don’t think we are going to but we will continue to rally, we will continue to bargain and if needed we will go on strike, the University works because we do,” Klajbor-Smith said. 

 

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