GEO to move forward with Monday morning strike
February 25, 2018
The Graduate Employees Organization is moving forward with its strike Monday morning after last minute talks between members and the University fell through Sunday afternoon. The GEO made its announcement in front of the Fire Service Institute after negotiations ended at 5 p.m. Sunday.
The strikes will begin at 8 a.m. Monday on the Main Quad and will go until 5 p.m. each day until a contract is reached, according to GEO rally coordinator Jennifer Jones.
Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the University team was the last to give a written counterproposal and didn’t leave the building until about 6:30 p.m.
“They were still in the building and had told the mediator multiple times that they were willing to keep talking, when the GEO told the mediator they were leaving. Then the GEO went out to hold their rally where they said we had ended the talks,” Kaler said.
GEO co-president Augustus Wood said the negotiations began at noon Sunday and ended at 4:52 p.m. after University negotiators said they had nothing else to give them that day and that they “were not interested in bargaining today.”
“We were willing to stay there as long as possible if they were willing to move to a negotiation that would end the strike. And they were not willing to make any substantial movement,” Wood said.
He said after University negotiators said they weren’t interested in bargaining, GEO members went outside to rally while University negotiators stayed inside until protesters left.
“They gave up on negotiations. They gave up on graduate students, graduate workers and they gave up on undergraduate education here,” Wood said.
In an emailed statement from Andreas Cangellaris, vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, the University is “extremely disappointed” in the GEO’s decision to “end Sunday’s negotiations and ask its members to participate in a strike.”
“We’ve listened to the concerns of the GEO. We’ve made generous and serious proposals that address those concerns,” Cangellaris said in the statement.
One of the concerns the GEO voiced Sunday was securing tuition waivers for current and future graduate students. According to Cangellaris’ statement, the University had a proposal that “explicitly guarantees tuition waivers for bargaining unit members.”
Adam Kozak, fifth-year Ph.D. student in the classics department, said preserving waivers for future graduate students is a large reason he’s protesting with the GEO.
“The University is trying to drive a wedge between us and future students, saying that our tuition waivers won’t be touched, but in the future that that might be different,” Kozak said. “And we’re saying we’re not going to sell out our future just to get a contract now.”
Other concerns the University said it has been compromising on with the GEO include raising minimum wage and providing further health insurance coverage.
Wood is hoping the strike will send a message to the University to bring negotiators “back to the table.”
“The University will be shut down until the bargaining team recognizes that education runs this University, and not money,” Wood said. “We’re going to be on the picket lines every day until we settle this contract.”
Cangellaris’ statement said the University is taking the necessary steps to minimize any disruption of instruction, and the University is ready the bargaining process to reach an agreement that will end the strike “as quickly as possible.”
“We have made significant progress toward a final agreement and our goals are not separate or different here,” the statement read. “We want to ensure Illinois’ sustainable excellence in graduate education and research by remaining competitive in attracting the most talented, hard-working and brightest graduate students in the world.”