Message concerning negotiations with GEO union

Dear Campus Community,

I write today to update you on the status of the ongoing Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) contract negotiations. We recognize and appreciate the importance of graduate assistants to the research and academic mission of UIC and the success of our undergraduates. With this in mind, university representatives have met with a team of UIC graduate student GEO leaders and union leadership in 17 bargaining sessions since March 2018. I have participated in all of the 17 negotiation sessions with one exception because of scheduling. During our negotiations, we have tentatively agreed to 19 of the 27 articles from the previous contract, including issues such as Nondiscrimination, Employee Rights, TA/GA Work Rules, Health and Safety, and Grievance Procedures. The GEO has also introduced three new articles for consideration, as well as changes to an existing side letter from the previous contract regarding tuition waivers. The issues we continue to discuss are largely financial in nature, but also include appointment and reappointment terms and changes to parental leave policies.

Last December, the GEO and university negotiating teams mutually agreed to federal mediation. Our first session with the federal mediator occurred on February 1, 2019. As you may be aware, the GEO held a strike vote and received strike authorization from its members. This vote is advisory to union leadership and does not mean that a strike is imminent. Before a strike can occur, the union is required to provide the university with a 10-day notice of intent to strike and that has not occurred.  The management negotiating team wants to emphasize our sincere commitment to continued bargaining in good faith to come to mutual agreement on all of the outstanding articles in the GEO contract and to avoid a strike.

UIC administration is committed to providing a fair wage and benefit package to our graduate assistants, but such salary and associated cost increases must align with both financial resources and market equity concerns.  The university has not increased undergraduate tuition rates for five years and commensurate funding increases associated with a larger student enrollment have barely kept up with the costs of providing a modest salary increase program to staff and those associated with enrollment growth and necessary additional course sections.


Karen Colley
Dean of the Graduate College
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

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