Note: While I wouldn't consider my work on The Feminine Dialectic to be terribly journalistic in nature, I do strive to be political. This is a press release I worked on for the Graduate Employee Organization at UIC. To stay up to date on bargaining and strike information or to find out how to support us, please visit the GEO website, Facebook, or Twitter.
On May 16, 2012, the UIC Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) presented UIC administration officials with a comprehensive contract proposal to go into effect when the current contract expired in August 2012. Eleven months later, counterproposals continue to be exchanged.
The GEO represents more than 1,400 teaching and graduate assistants on UIC’s campus and is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers, and the AFL-CIO.
Since contract negotiations began last year, the major sticking points between the two camps have been wages, health care, and tuition differentials. (Tuition differentials are thousands of dollars of additional fees on top of base tuition that many programs require graduate students to pay to fund research and equipment not covered under the department's base budget.
While the GEO has significantly revised their demands with each counterproposal, the administration continues to inch its way through negotiations. Currently, the wage difference between proposals for the 2012-2013 academic year is around $1,500. The GEO’s current proposal is thousands of dollars less than their original request; UIC’s most recent adjustment was to increase the minimum wage by $75, or one-tenth of one percent of the current wage.
Other, smaller issues have been sticking points during the last year. For example, the administration refused to include a specific sexual harassment clause in the contract because sexual harassment is a matter of perception rather than fact. UIC administration officials have regularly cancelled, rescheduled, or prematurely ended bargaining sessions, drawing out negotiations.
To make matters worse, UIC gave Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares a 9.8% raise, bringing her salary to $411,752.11 in 2012. Professor Howard Bunsis of Eastern Michigan University has done an analysis of UIC’s finances and found $300 million in unrestricted reserves, quashing the argument that the university’s financial situation is uncertain.
The GEO has been organizing its members and filed intent to strike paperwork on April 6th. The next bargaining session is scheduled for April 17th, after which the general membership will consider options for striking. If a fair contract cannot be reached by the end of this session, the GEO is prepared to take action.