I stand with the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) in their current struggle to win a fair contract and formally demand that the University of Illinois Administration immediately sign GEO’s contract proposals for wages, tuition waivers, fees, healthcare, and access and equality to uphold the rights of graduate employees at UIUC.
At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduate employees perform essential work and are the backbone of the University, since every undergraduate student is taught by graduate teaching assistants at some point during the course of their study. The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) represents a majority of graduate workers who stand together and negotiate their wages and working conditions with the University of Illinois Administration. The GEO has been in contract negotiations with the University Administration since March and began federal mediation in October. GEO’s current contract with the University of Illinois expired on August 15th without a new contract being signed, yet graduate employees have continued to perform their job duties.
The Administration has proposed that graduate employee compensation, which in most cases is currently far less than the University’s own published cost of living, remain stagnant or worse, by offering no wage increases and no guarantee that graduate employee pay won’t be reduced. They also proposed to give themselves the power to make graduate employees pay a portion or all of their tuition, which is waived under the previous contract. This tuition waiver represents the bulk of graduate employee compensation. Furthermore, they proposed capping the portion of graduate employee health care costs they pay at a time when premium costs are set to increase by hundreds of dollars.
We, the undersigned, formally ask that the Administration commit to providing better working and living conditions to its graduate employees by signing the GEO’s contract proposals. We collectively urge the University of Illinois to agree to GEO’s proposals in the name of improving higher education in Illinois. GEO has proposed the following for a fair contract:
- Tuition Waivers: Tuition waivers continue to be granted in full for graduate employees
- Fee Waiver: All student fees waived
- Health Care: Admin contributes a higher percentage of the premium, more counseling center visits, summer health care coverage, dependent coverage, guaranteed minimum health care standards as defined by the ACA
- Child Care: Monthly subsidy for parents, better access to campus resources
- Wages: 8% raise to the minimum salary, 4% yearly raises
Without a new and better fair contract, graduate employees will increasingly suffer from being overworked, underpaid, and never be prioritized as valuable workers. Since the living and working conditions of graduate employees affect the learning conditions of undergraduate students, this University would not be esteemed institution of higher education that it is without the work of graduate employees.