GEO should stand together

The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO)’s struggle for a just contract is part of the struggles of all working people and students in Champaign-Urbana and beyond. I appreciate a recent letter to the editor that drew attention to the struggles of workers in our community who live on minimum wage and who earn less than graduate employees. The GEO has consistently stood in solidarity with these workers and demanded a living wage for all, not only our members. Last year, the GEO contributed a significant portion of our budget to the strike fund of the Service Employees International Union, which represents the lowest paid service workers on our campus. The only way to demand fair compensation for all of our work is by standing together in solidarity.

Additionally, the GEO’s demands are in large part about access to education for working class people. Currently, many undergraduates struggle to get through college while working on the side and paying off their debt for years after. If our graduate assistantships no longer offer tuition waivers, how can we expect these college graduates to return to school and drown themselves further in debt while pursing higher degrees? If our assistantships do not pay enough for us to live on, and the demands of our academic programs do not allow us to work additional jobs, how can we expect the brightest college graduates to return to school? Only by securing tuition waivers, ensuring that assistantships provide enough money to live on, and improving access to health care and child care can we ensure that graduate education be a realistic possibility for working class people.

Kate Grim-Feinberg

graduate student