Labor Updates and Resources

GEO Negotiations

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Teaching assistants and graduate assistants are valued members of our campus community and we depend on their expertise, experience and dedication. We respect the Graduate Employees’ Organization’s commitment to representing the best interests of its membership as we work together towards a new agreement. Through good faith, transparent and fair negotiations, we are confident that we will find common ground and reach an agreement that will make this a better university for all of us. 

Robert J. Jones, Chancellor


GEO FAQ 2018

Questions and Answers about a GEO Work Stoppage at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) filed a Notice of Intent to Strike on January 29, 2018. The following presents anticipated questions and answers related to the possibility of a strike by the GEO.

All members of the University community are expected to meet for classes as usual. Students and parents who have paid tuition in order to receive a quality education have reason to expect that the objectives of courses are fulfilled. If there are interruptions, make-up arrangements must be implemented to ensure that the instructional objectives are delivered as promised.

The University is committed to delivering instruction to all students, undergraduate and graduate alike, and to providing the highest quality of educational experience. The following questions and answers provide some basic information for persons who might be affected by a work stoppage.

Strike Questions
Student Related

Q:        If Graduate Assistants (GA) and Teaching Assistants (TA) were to strike, will the University cancel classes?
A:        No, the University intends to continue classes without disruption should a strike occur.

Q:        May a TA, instructor or faculty member move the location of a class to avoid holding class in a building that is the location of a strike?
A:        Our foremost objective is to minimize the disruption of instruction and the negative impact on students. If relocating a class will help to minimize any disruption, an assistant, instructor or faculty member may request a different classroom through the Office of Registrar’s space request process: fms-reserve@illinois.edu. It might not be possible to honor all space requests. It is the responsibility of  the instructor of record to ensure that students and departments are informed of relocations.   

Q:        What can picketers lawfully do? Can they block my way into a building?
A:        Students have a right to attend classes. Students, employees and members of the public have a right to enter academic and administrative buildings and to do so without being intimidated, coerced or threatened. Picketing on public property is usually lawful so long as the picketing is peaceful, does not create a disturbance and does not block entrances and exits. Picketers must not block a door, passageway, driveway, crosswalk or other entrance or exit. Union officials or picketers have a right to talk to people going into or out of campus buildings. Attempts to intimidate, threaten or coerce are not permitted, either by verbal remarks or physical action. If acts of violence or trespassing occur on campus property, a record of incidents should be made and the Office of University Counsel should be contacted to determine what, if any legal action, is appropriate. 

Q:        What if the strike is a partial or selective strike, as opposed to a full strike? 
A:        This is a fluid situation that would need to be responded to on a case-by-case basis. The campus is preparing and planning for a one-day strike, a series of one-day strikes and a longer term strike. The particular circumstances will be important for the campus to evaluate and consider in responding to any specific work action. 

Q:        What does the University intend to do to ensure that any classes missed because of a work stoppage are made up? 
A:        Responses to missed classes will be handled at the departmental level. While it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen and describe all possible responses, the campus has made a concerted effort to plan for a variety of contingencies. 

Q:        If TAs strike, how will grades be assigned? 
A:        Units and the supervising faculty must determine the most appropriate solution for each course.  Departments need to be able to access grades in the event of a strike. It is possible that grades could be assigned based on the work already completed at the time a strike occurs.

Legal

Q:        Can the GEO lawfully engage in a strike?
A:        Before a strike may occur, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act requires that the parties to have engaged in mediation without success and that the union has filed a Notice of Intent to Strike at least 10 calendar days prior to calling a strike. The GEO has filed a Notice of Intent to Strike. 

Q:        Who can legally participate in a strike?
A:        Only current members of the bargaining unit represented by the GEO, namely Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Administrative Graduate Assistants (GAs) holding covered assistantships, can strike. Certainly, employees in other employee groups may elect to not cross picket lines; however, the University’s normal procedures governing approved absences remain in effect. 

Q:        Why won’t the University agree to keep the current side letter?
A:        The University has been actively bargaining in good faith with the GEO since Spring 2017. It is our intent to continue bargaining in good faith and to do all that we can to avoid a strike. The GEO, however, has made tuition waiver language a central demand in these negotiations and are seeking to freeze assistantship tuition waivers in their current form for all future graduate students. The current contract between the GEO and University reserves to the University the authority to adopt and enforce policies, rules and regulations, including rules and regulations governing tuition waivers. The University is unwilling to relinquish the authority and the right to determine and modify the designated tuition policies for each of its graduate programs. 

The University has clearly communicated to the GEO that, consistent with its longstanding practice, the University does not intend to alter the tuition waiver support that assistants received at the outset of their academic program (as identified by the graduate program code) while they:

  • remain in that academic program,
  • hold qualifying assistantships,
  • are in good academic standing and
  • are making proper progress toward graduation in the program in which they began.

The University continues to negotiate with the GEO on the language of the side letter addressing tuition waivers, as well as other remaining issues before the parties.

 Q:       What are the possible consequences for assistants who engage in a work stoppage?
A:        Graduate students who are appointed as teaching assistants and graduate assistants receive a tuition and fee waiver, a stipend, and insurance benefits in exchange for performing job duties. Any deliberate refusal to fulfill job objectives could result in the assistant’s pay being withheld. 

Q:       Will we pay TAs/GAs while they are striking?
A:        No.

Q:       The GEO has asked departments to not retaliate against assistants who engage in a strike.  Is withholding pay retaliation?
A:       Striking employees do not have the right to continue to be paid while they are on strike. Paying employees who do not work violates state laws and policies regarding appropriate use of state resources. In accordance with the state labor laws, the University will comply with all applicable requirements and principles regarding the rights of striking employees. 

Q:       If TAs and GAs are on strike and we are not paying them, does that disrupt their health benefits?
A:       No, as long as they remain students at the University.

Q:       If the GEO strikes, what does that mean for faculty and staff?
A:       Faculty and non-GEO staff are expected to perform their job duties as usual. Students and parents who have paid tuition in order to receive a quality education have reason to expect that the objectives of their courses will be fulfilled. If there are interruptions, make-up arrangements must be implemented to ensure that the instructional objectives are delivered as promised.

Q:       May a faculty member go out on strike with the GEO? 
A:       Faculty members do not have the right to strike. We would look to the deans of the colleges to meet with department heads to emphasize the University’s mission of teaching and our obligations to students.   

Resources

Q:        Who do students contact if they have questions about missed classes?
A:        Instructors are the students’ first point of contact. Instructors are expected to tell students in advance regarding all class assignments and arrangements. The office staff in the department or college offering the course will also be available to respond to questions or problems that might arise. Staff in the Dean of Students office also will be available to respond to questions or concerns of students or their parents by calling (217) 333-0050.

Q:       Which offices handle the communications about the GEO and if there is a strike?
A:        The Provost’s Office, in conjunction with Academic Human Resources, the Office of University Counsel, the Graduate College, and Office of Public Affairs. Robin Kaler, Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs, will act as the official spokesperson to the media. You may forward media queries to her at rkaler@illinois.edu or 333-5010.

Q:       Whom can I contact if I have questions or want more information?
A:        You may contact the Office of Academic Human Resources, specifically Heather Horn, Assistant Director of Labor and Employee Relations, hwilson@illinois.edu, 333-3105 or Leslie Arvan, Director of Labor and Employee Relations, arvan@illinois.edu, 333-3105.


More Questions and Answers Related to Ongoing Negotiations
Tuition Waivers

Q:        Is the University trying to take away tuition waivers?
A:        No, the University remains committed to offering tuition waivers to its graduate students and will not alter the waiver being offered through an assistantship to a graduate student enrolled in a tuition waiver generating program as long as the student maintains good academic standing and continues to make appropriate progress toward their degree, even if the program’s designation should be modified after they have enrolled.  The University simply wants to preserve its ability, as reflected within the management rights clause of the collective bargaining agreement, to develop new graduate programs, assess and review current programs, and re-designate, suspend or terminate programs when necessary. 

Q:        How much is the tuition waiver worth?
A:        Nearly 69% of GEO members hold 50% appointments, which means they are required to work part-time, 20 hours a week for up to nine months each year. On average, those members are paid at the rate of $23.87 an hour and earn approximately $2,145.34 each month.  When the value of the tuition and fee waivers are factored in, the average annual compensation offered to these members ranges from $31,852 to $56,594 based upon their nine-month, fifty-percent appointment.   

Compensation

Q:        How much do GEO members earn?
A:        While the amount will vary between disciplines, graduate employees are paid for the services that they perform at the following rates (excluding the value of their tuition waivers and other benefits):

  • The average hourly wage rate is $23.87
  • The minimum hourly wage rate is $20.97
  • The highest hourly wage rate is $38.56

In contrast, the living wage for Champaign County for one adult, presumably working full-time, is $10.42 per hour.

    • Living Wage - $10.42/hour
    • Poverty Wage - $5.00/hour
    • Minimum Wage - $8.25/hour

GEO members holding a fifty-percent (50%) assistantship

  • Comprise 69% of the membership (1957 employees)
  • On average, earn a monthly salary of $2,145.34
  • The minimum monthly rate for a 50% assistantship is $1,817.78, while the highest monthly rate is $3,342.01             
  • When tuition and fee waivers are factored in (but excluding leave benefits),  the average hourly rate is estimated to be between $40.83 and $68.84
  • The value of the tuition and fee waivers received for a nine-month appointment is estimated to be between $15,492 and $37,334
  • When tuition and fee waivers are factored in (but excluding leave benefits),  the average annual compensation ranges from $31,852 to $56,594 based upon a nine-month, fifty-percent appointment, which exceeds the listed 2017-18 Graduate Estimated Expenses of $22,654
Financials

Q:        Why can’t the University provide the wage increases sought by the GEO?
A:        The GEO has maintained that the University is spending its monies on a bloated administration and on unnecessary vanity projects.  In actuality, the University endured a $140M cash shortfall during fiscal year 2016 (FY16), which resulted in budget reductions during FY16 and fiscal year 2017 (FY17) totaling $69M.  Thirty-nine percent (39%), or $27.16M, of this reduction occurred to the budgets for the administrative units and other centrally budgeted units, rather than to the colleges.  In addition, capital projects, including the renovation of buildings, are funded through sources that are separate and distinct from employment-related funds. Capital projects often are financed through grants, endowments and donations that are specifically earmarked for the project at hand.   

Benefits

Q:        In addition to the compensation and waivers granted to GEO members, what benefits are they given?
A:        The University offers a generous benefit package to GEO members that includes both leave and other forms of benefits.

Leave Benefits

Sick Leave – 13 non-cumulative days of sick leave are provided

  • 6 ½ days for a semester appointment
  • Days of sick leave are measured by the employee’s “work day,” rather than being measured in terms of 8 hours
  • Parental Leave – two paid weeks and 4 additional, unpaid weeks of parental leave are provided

    Floating Holidays – 2 paid floating holidays are provided to be used at the employee’s pleasure

    Bereavement Leave

      Up to 3 days of paid bereavement leave is provided upon the death of

    • Immediate family member
    • Domestic partner
    • Household member
    • In-laws
    • Grandparents and/or grandchildren
    • 1 day of paid bereavement leave is provided upon the death of a relative other than those listed above who is not a member of the household

Other Benefits (Excluding Leave Benefits)

  • Campus Recreational Facilities – faculty and staff must pay $480.00 each year to use these facilities
  • University Paid Access to McKinley Health Center and Counseling Center
    • Office visits with doctors, nurse practitioners, mental health therapists and health educators, as well as most x-rays and laboratory tests at no additional out-of-pocket expense.
    • Many immunizations and medications are offered at low cost or no cost.
  • University Paid Dental Insurance
  • University Paid Vision Insurance
  • Fees – GEO members are exempt from having to pay $2,395 in fees each academic year that are endured by other graduate students who do not hold an assistantship
Background

Q:        What is the GEO?
A:        The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) is a labor organization or union that represents a bargaining unit on the Urbana-Champaign campus that is comprised of approximately 2,700 graduate students who are employed as either teaching assistants or graduate assistants.

Q:        Who is represented by GEO?
A:        The GEO represents a bargaining unit comprised of graduate teaching assistants and graduate assistants holding tuition waiver generating appointments between .25 full-time equivalent (FTE) and .67 FTE. 

Q:        What is an assistantship?
A:        Through an assistantship, a graduate student performs services in exchange for compensation and other benefits, including tuition waivers, certain fee waivers, health insurance and other fringe benefits.

Resources

Q.        Whom can I contact if I have questions or want more information?
A.
        You may contact Leslie Arvan, Director of Labor and Employee Relations, arvan@illinois.edu or Heather Horn, Assistant Director of Labor and Employee Relations, hwilson@illinois.edu, at 333-3105.


Outstanding Bargaining Issues
Appointment Terms

GEO Position - Although the parties have discussed this matter at the last four bargaining sessions, the GEO is now seeking to maintain the current contract language on appointment notices.  

University Position - The University is committed to creating timeframes by which to provide offer letters to employees being reappointed into a represented assistantship for the fall semester by July 16 and for the spring semester by December 1.  

Wages

GEO Position - The GEO is now seeking a 7.47% increase to the minimum wage for the 2017-18 Academic Year, a 4% increase to the minimum wage for the 2018-19 Academic Year, and a 3.75% increase, for all graduate employees.

University Position - The University has offered a one and one half percent increase maintains that both the minimum wage and any wage increases for graduate employees should be determined in accordance with the percentage increase announced by the Chancellor and Provost as part of any campus-wide general salary program for each academic year. 

Fee Waivers

GEO Position -  The GEO is seeking to have the University waive all student fees for graduate employees.

University Position -  Represented graduate employees currently have over seventy-two percent (72%) of their student fees waived.  Waiver of the few remaining fees would impact the University’s ability to capture certain costs and would need to be approved through an administrative process involving the Provost’s Office.

Health Care

GEO Position -  The GEO is seeking to have the University:

(1) contribute eighty percent (80%) of the fee for dependent coverage through the McKinley Health Center and the Counseling Center;
(2) increase its contribution towards the Student Health Insurance fee for graduate employees by fifteen percent (15%) and contribute eighty percent ( 80%) of the fee for dependent coverage; and
(3) contribute ninety percent (90%) of the fee for coverage during the summer for those assistants who do not hold a tuition waiver generating appointment during the summer term. 

University Position - The University has offered to increase the contribution that it makes on behalf of graduate employees towards their Student Health Insurance fee by proposing to increase the minimum dollar contribution or contributing eighty-three percent (83%) of the cost of that fee, whichever is less.      

Child Care Subsidy

GEO Position -  The GEO is seeking:

    (1)to have the University grant a child care subsidy in the amount of $2,250 each semester for every graduate assistant who requests the subsidy;
    (2) GEO representation on the Student Parent Advisory Council; and
    (3) to have the University distribute information regarding the child care resources available to graduate assistants upon admission and at the start of each academic term. 

University Position -  The University is willing to have language added to the collective bargaining agreement confirming its continued commitment to inform graduate students of the child care resources available to them, through its Student-Parent website.  The University also maintains that the graduate student population already is being represented by the presence of a graduate student on the Student Parent Advisory Council. 

Side Letter

GEO Position -  The GEO is seeking no change to the current language of the side letter. 

University Position -  The University is seeking to have the language of the side letter modified to accurately reflect the original intent of that letter and to restore the ability of the University to manage the tuition waiver program to meet its operational and budgetary needs in accordance with its management rights.

Duration

GEO Position - The GEO is seeking a collective bargaining agreement that will be limited in duration to two (2) years.

University Position - The University is seeking a five (5) year collective bargaining agreement.

Tentative Agreements

The parties have reached agreement on the following twelve (12) provisions:

      • Recognition Clause
      • Nondiscrimination Statement
      • Evaluations
      • Hours of Work
      • Employee Rights
      • Expenses
      • Distribution of Information
      • Dues and Fair Share Deductions
      • Holidays and Leaves, including a new provision on immigration-related leave as well as a revision to the parental leave provision.   
      • Grievance Procedures
      • Health & Safety
      • Effect of Federal and State Law
 

Updates

February 7, 2018 Bargaining Session Recap
(23rd Overall Bargaining Session/11th Mediation Session)

The University and the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) continued to negotiate, with the involvement of federal mediators, over a new collective bargaining agreement. The GEO spent the first several hours of this session working on a counter-proposal to the comprehensive proposal submitted by the University at the prior session. After receiving that counter-proposal and a statement on tuition waivers from the GEO, the University prepared a revised comprehensive proposal that offered further concessions with regard to wages and healthcare costs.   

The GEO did not provide a counter-proposal that addressed all of the remaining economic issues raised in the University’s revised comprehensive proposal, but instead elected to focus solely on the issue of student fees and presented the University with a stand-alone proposal seeking the waiver of all student fees. While represented graduate employees currently have over seventy-two percent (72%) of their student fees waived, the GEO’s proposal calls for the waiver of all fees, including the General Fee, the Student Initiated Fee, and the Transportation Fee. The waiver of all student fees would detrimentally impact certain units that serve all students and are dependent upon those fees. While the University is not willing to completely waive student fees, the University is willing to add new language to the bargaining agreement guaranteeing that the current fee waivers will remain in effect throughout the duration of the agreement. In fact, during the mediation session, the University modified its comprehensive proposal to offer such a guarantee.

The parties also discussed, through the federal mediators, the side letter on tuition waivers that was contained within the expired bargaining agreement. Contrary to the GEO’s assertions, the University is not seeking to terminate tuition waivers for its graduate students. The University’s comprehensive proposal seeks to clarify the language and intent of the side letter. The University is not seeking to restrict access to tuition waivers for graduate students who are already receiving waivers or for those who are awarded waivers in the future as long as they continue to maintain good academic standing, continue to make appropriate progress towards their degree, and do not change their degree program. Under the University’s proposal, graduate students, once enrolled in a program, can be confident that their eligibility to qualify for a tuition waiver generating assistantship and the rate of their tuition waiver would remain unaltered as described above. The University’s proposal, in short, seeks to provide graduate students with needed security in knowing that their tuition waiver eligibility will not change as long as they continue to meet the following criteria: maintain good academic standing, continue to make appropriate progress towards their degree, and do not change their degree program. The proposal provides departments with the flexibility to adapt and modify their graduate programs in light of changing needs and administrative models.    

The University is looking forward to making continued progress on the remaining provisions at the next bargaining session, which is scheduled for February 15, 2018.  

Previous Updates
January 30, 2018 Bargaining Session Recap (22nd Overall Bargaining Session/10th Mediation Session)

Following the submission of an intent to strike notice a day earlier by the GEO, the University and the GEO continued their negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement with a federal mediator present. As requested by the GEO at the last bargaining session, the University opened the session by offering a comprehensive proposal addressing (1) appointment terms, (2) wages, (3) health care, (4) child care, (5) duration of contract, and (6) the side letter agreement. Even though both parties now have comprehensive proposals on the table, the focus of the session returned to a discussion about notices of appointment. By the end of the extended session, the parties had made good progress and seemed to agree on the contract language regarding notices of appointment, even though the GEO declined to officially classify it as a tentative agreement. 

The parties have declared tentative agreements on twelve other provisions through the course of these negotiations. The University is looking forward to making continued progress on the remaining provisions at the next bargaining session, which is scheduled for February 7, 2018. 

January 18, 2018 Bargaining Session Recap (21st Overall Bargaining Session/9th Mediation Session)

The parties’ met yesterday in another full-day bargaining session with the federal mediator. Because the University had submitted a revised memorandum of understanding on notices of appointment to the GEO at the conclusion of the January 5th session, the University was looking forward to receiving a written response from the GEO on this memorandum. Although both parties expressed an interest at the beginning of yesterday’s session in continuing to address that memorandum, which has been the subject of discussion at the last four bargaining sessions, the GEO did not submit any revised language to the memorandum. Instead, the GEO ultimately responded by submitting a comprehensive, package proposal that reverted back to the GEO’s initial position on many of the remaining economic issues, including the position that the current contract language on appointment notices should be left unaltered.  The only substantive change from the GEO’s initial position that was reflected in their most recent comprehensive, package was a slight reduction in the wage increases that they are seeking during the first year of the contract.  Rather than seeking an 8% increase to the minimum salary for new appointments and a 4% wage increase for reappointed graduate students during the first year of the contract, the GEO is now proposing a 7.47% increase to the minimum and a 3.75% wage increase for reappointed graduate students during the first year.  The comprehensive, package proposal is continuing to seek additional wage increases during the second year of the contract.   

In light of this dramatic shift in the GEO’s approach, the University determined that it needed to carefully assess its next steps and, therefore, intends to address the GEO’s comprehensive, package proposal at the next scheduled bargaining session on January 30, 2018. 

January 5, 2018 Bargaining Session Recap (20th Overall Bargaining Session/8th Mediation Session)

Following a break since the last session due to finals and the holidays, the University and the GEO resumed collective bargaining with the continued presence of federal mediators. The focus of this session was again on the drafting of a Memorandum of Understanding to create a joint committee that would address the process for issuing reappointment notifications to represented graduate employees. After reviewing a revised Memorandum of Understanding prepared by the GEO, the University responded by submitting a new draft of the memorandum that sought to address the GEO’s request for more detailed information regarding the composition and scope of the committee, as well as reaffirm the University’s goal of implementing an improved process by the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. The University remains optimistic that the parties will be able to agree on a final draft of the Memorandum of Understanding at the next session, which is tentatively scheduled for January 18, 2018.

December 12, 2017 Bargaining Session Recap (19th Overall Bargaining Session/7th Mediation Session)

The parties’ held another full-day bargaining session with a federal mediator. The focus of discussion for the day centered on the parties’ shared interest in a memorandum of understanding addressing the appointment notice process. The University re-drafted and proposed to the GEO a memorandum that addressed many of the topics identified as shared interest points. The memorandum sought to facilitate the parties’ ongoing efforts to identify ways to improve the timing of notifications through the creation of a joint committee and, again, the University expressed its commitment to improving the appointment notice process and its goal of being able to notify the majority of its reappointed teaching assistants at least thirty (30) calendar days in advance of their appointments by the 2019-2020 academic year. Near the conclusion of the session, the GEO expressed that they would consider the University’s written proposal and seek to have more discussion at the next agreed upon session, which is tentatively scheduled for Friday, January 5th.

The University remains optimistic that the appointment notification memorandum of understanding can be resolved in the near future and that the GEO will provide written counterproposals to the remaining economic matters.

November 29, 2017 Bargaining Session Recap (18th Overall Bargaining Session/6th Mediation Session)

Following a break due to the holidays, the parties resumed their negotiations with an eleven-hour long session. The focus of the session was on negotiating a settlement of a previous arbitration decision addressing a program's exercise of its right to seek reimbursement of a tuition waiver for the first time. The session culminated in the parties agreeing to a memorandum of understanding that resolved all issues related to that arbitration decision.

During this session, the University reaffirmed its expectation that the side letter to the bargaining agreement will be addressed during these negotiations. Although the GEO previously had expressed an unwillingness to discuss any modifications to the side letter, the GEO is now indicating that it will discuss the side letter in future sessions.

The parties have scheduled another bargaining session for December 12, 2017, at which the parties intend to focus on the contract language regarding appointment terms. 

November 7, 2017 Bargaining Session Recap (17th Overall Bargaining Session/5th Mediation Session)

The parties held another full-day bargaining session that was attended by federal mediators. The University sought to continue the dialogue over the notification of appointment provisions of the bargaining agreement by offering a proposed memorandum of understanding at the outset of the session. That memorandum sought to facilitate the parties’ ongoing efforts to identify ways to improve the timing of notifications of appointment through the creation of a joint committee to review the matter and propose a suitable process. In conjunction with the memorandum, the University also expressed its commitment to improving the notification process and its goal of being able to notify the majority of its reappointed teaching assistants at least thirty (30) calendar days in advance of their appointments by the 2019-2020 academic year. Near the conclusion of the session, the GEO expressed, through the mediators, that it was rejecting the proposed memorandum of understanding in favor of retaining the current language of the bargaining agreement.

The University also sought to initiate dialogue on the side letter proposal that it originally introduced at a bargaining session in June 2017 by submitting a package proposal to the GEO, which incorporated both the side letter proposal and a proposed resolution to an earlier arbitration decision involving the side letter. At the end of the session, the GEO through the mediators expressed no interest in discussing the University’s side letter proposal.

The University also continues to seek a counter proposal from the GEO to its wage proposal. Even though the University already has modified its original proposal so as to offer guaranteed increases to both the minimum and base salaries for graduate employees during the first year of the contract in order to make those increases commensurate with the increases offered to other employee groups on this campus during this academic year, the GEO has not deviated at all from its original wage proposal offered on March 30, 2017.  The GEO continues to seek an eight percent (8%) increase to the minimum wage rate and a four percent (4%) increase to continuing appointments.

The University is hopeful that a dialogue can occur on these various provisions, as well on the health care proposal that was offered recently by the University that would increase the University’s contributions to the graduate employee’s health insurance premiums, at the next bargaining session, which is tentatively scheduled for November 16, 2017.

October 31, 2017 Bargaining Session Recap (16th Overall Bargaining Session/4th Mediation Session)

The University and the Graduate Employees’ Organization met with federal mediators for a fourth time on October 31, 2017.  At the outset of that session, the GEO responded to the comprehensive package proposal that had been submitted by the University at the preceding session.  In its package counterproposal, the GEO addressed four of the remaining seven articles, namely appointment terms, fee waivers, healthcare, and child care.  The GEO’s counterproposal did not address the University’s last proposals relating to wages, the side letter or the duration of the agreement. 
  
During the session, the University revised its comprehensive package proposal to include a greater proposed contribution to the graduate employees’ health insurance premiums.  The parties also continued to address the timing of appointment notices to graduate employees in light of the various operational factors (such as registration periods, undergraduate and graduate enrollments, changes in course offerings, budgetary constraints) that impact or influence the timing of such notices.  The GEO also submitted a proposed memorandum of understanding at the conclusion of the session, which put forth a potential resolution to an arbitration decision addressing the side letter. 
     
The University remains confident that the parties can negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that will be fair to both sides as it prepares for the next mediation session scheduled for November 7, 2017. 

October 24, 2017 Bargaining Session Recap (15th Overall Bargaining Session/3rd Mediation Session)

The University and the GEO made progress towards achieving a successor bargaining agreement with the continued assistance of federal mediators. In an effort to be responsive to several outstanding issues, the University initiated the session by submitting a package proposal addressing a number of provisions on which the University believed the parties could either reach agreement or withdraw. Ultimately, the parties reached tentative agreement on the following four (4) provisions, extending the total number of tentative agreements reached between the parties to twelve (12): 

- Effect of State and Federal Law
- Distribution of Union-related Information
- Grievance Procedure
- Health and Safety

In an effort to resolve the seven (7) remaining provisions, the University submitted a revised comprehensive package proposal addressing: (1) appointment terms, (2) wages, (3) fee waivers, (4) health care, (5) child care, (6) the side letter, and (7) the duration of the agreement. The University is looking forward to receiving the GEO’s response to that package proposal at the next session, which is scheduled for October 31, 2017.

October 10, 2017 Bargaining Session Recap (14th Overall Bargaining Session/2nd Mediation Session)

The University and the GEO met on October 10, joined for the second time by a federal mediator. The University opened the session by submitting a revised package proposal addressing (1) appointment terms, (2) the grievance procedure, (3) distribution of union-related information, and (4) health and safety. At this session, the discussion focused on the appointment terms article, particularly on the timing of the notices of appointment/reappointment to graduate employees. The University continues to work with the GEO to find language that provides graduate employees sufficient notification of their appointments while recognizing the operational factors that impact the timing of notices, such as registration periods, undergraduate and graduate student enrollments, changes in course offerings, budgetary/funding considerations, among others.

At today’s session, the GEO also submitted counterproposals on Health Care and Child Care, which the University will review in preparation for our next session, scheduled for October 24, 2017.

As previous summaries indicate, the parties have reached tentative agreement on eight provisions, relating to:

  • Recognition Clause
  • Nondiscrimination Statement
  • Evaluations
  • Hours of Work
  • Employee Rights
  • Expenses
  • Dues and Fair Share Deductions
  • Holidays and Leaves, including a new provision on immigration-related leave as well as a revision to the parental leave provision. 

The University remains confident that the parties can continue to work together to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that is fair to all parties affected by this agreement.

October 3, 2017 Bargaining Session Recap (13th Overall Bargaining Session/1st Mediation Session)

A federal mediator joined the GEO and the University for the first time as they continued their negotiations over a successor collective bargaining agreement. At this session, the GEO submitted a counterproposal to the University’s latest package proposal addressing (1) appointment terms, (2) the grievance procedure, (3) distribution of union-related information, and (4) health and safety. The focus of this session was on understanding the operational factors that affect the timing of appointment notices and accommodating those operational concerns while giving graduate employees sufficient notification of their appointments as far in advance as possible. The parties will continue to work with the mediator in addressing the GEO’s counterproposal when they meet again next week, on October 10, 2017, for another session.    

September 5, 2017 RE-CAP (12th Bargaining Session)

During this session, the University and the GEO reached tentative agreement on three additional articles, bringing the total number of tentative agreements to eight.  The articles on which tentative agreements were reached in this session relate to employee rights, dues and fair share deductions, and holidays and leaves, and include a new provision on immigration as well as revisions to the parental leave provision.
   
The parties also continued to discuss proposals relating to appointment terms, grievance procedures, distribution of information, and health and safety.  Regarding renewal of appointments, the University continues to strive for language that gives employees predictability while at the same time recognizing operational factors that also affect the timing of appointment notices.

Based upon a request made by the GEO at the end of the bargaining session, the parties intend to seek the use of a federal mediator for future negotiation sessions.   

August 24, 2017 RE-CAP (11th Bargaining Session)

The University presented a package counter-proposal addressing the issues previously raised by the GEO regarding the articles on employee rights, dues deduction and fair share, leaves and holidays, and child care.  The University responded to a number of questions raised by the GEO specific to the revised parental leave section.  Because the University provided the last counter proposal, we requested the GEO submit its written counter-proposal on these articles for the University to review.

The parties also resumed a discussion regarding the grievance and health and safety articles.  The University asked a number of clarifying questions about the GEO’s proposed language on the grievance procedures.  The University will review and seek to address the grievance and health and safety articles at the next bargaining session, which is scheduled for September 5, 2017.  

August 15, 2017 RE-CAP (10th Bargaining Session)

The session commenced with the University’s submission of a revised package counterproposal addressing employee rights, dues deductions and fair share, and leaves and holidays.  Consistent with the preceding session, the primary focus was on the language contained within the new proposed section on immigration.  As reflected in the continued dialogue on that section, the parties share a common interest in ensuring that our graduate employees are supported and provided necessary resources when confronted with an immigration matter that may impact their employment.

The GEO submitted a counterproposal relating to the establishment of a child care subsidy for eligible graduate employees, as well as a counterproposal relating to the grievance procedure.  The University will review those two counterproposals in preparation for the next bargaining session that is scheduled for August 24, 2017. 

August 8, 2017 RE-CAP (9th Bargaining Session)

The University is pleased to report that the parties were able to reach a tentative agreement on five articles within the collective bargaining agreement that address union recognition, nondiscrimination, evaluations, hours of work and expenses.

The parties also continued to discuss issues and proposed language relating to the articles on employee rights, dues deductions and fair share, and leaves and holidays, with a particular focus on a new immigration section that the GEO is seeking to have added to the article on leaves and holidays.  At the end of these discussions, the GEO submitted a counterproposal relating to the three articles, which the University will review and address at the next bargaining session scheduled for August 15, 2017.  Based on the ongoing discussions, the University is optimistic that a tentative agreement can be reached soon on those three articles as well.  

July 25, 2017 RE-CAP (8th Bargaining Session)

The University presented a package counter-proposal addressing the issues previously raised by the GEO regarding the articles on recognition, nondiscrimination, evaluations, hours of work and expenses.  Although the parties engaged in dialogue and made progress on each of the five articles, much of the focus was on the nondiscrimination article and which classifications should be deemed protected under that article.

The parties also resumed a discussion regarding the immigration and visa leave section of the article on leaves and holidays. After noting that the parties share a common interest in assisting graduate employees with immigration and visa issues, the University asked a number of clarifying questions.  The University remains committed to working with the GEO on drafting a mutually acceptable provision that addresses the complex concerns arising out of the immigration and visa process.

Towards the end of the bargaining session, the GEO submitted a package counter-proposal relating to employee rights, the use of pronouns, and health and safety, which the University will review and seek to address at the next bargaining session, which is scheduled for August 8, 2017.  

July 11, 2017 RE-CAP (7th Bargaining Session)

The University responded to a number of questions raised by the GEO at the last session relating to the University’s wage proposal, its financial status, and its current contract with the carrier providing health insurance to graduate students.

The GEO, in turn, submitted a package counter-proposal in response to the comprehensive proposal presented by the University at the last session. This counter-proposal reflected some agreement between the parties on certain provisions. In discussing their counter-proposals, the GEO offered some guidance on the importance placed on certain proposals by its constituents.

June 20, 2017 Re-Cap (6th Bargaining Session)

The University presented a comprehensive proposal addressing all of the issues raised within the negotiations, both economic and non-economic.  Because the University has responded to each of the proposals submitted by the GEO, the University is now seeking, and specifically requested, that the GEO submit its written counter-proposals for the University to review.

While the GEO raised concerns regarding the University’s proposal to modify the side letter in the collective bargaining agreement, the University continues to maintain that these modifications are necessary to restore the University's original intent of the side letter and to bring clarity to the administration of tuition waivers.  The University remains committed to continuing to offer tuition waiver generating assistantships to its graduate students as part of its ongoing efforts to attract and retain graduate students of the highest caliber. The University recognizes, though, that tuition waivers must be administered in a manner that does not put academic programs at risk and, thereby, diminish opportunities for students to participate in those programs.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for July 11, 2017.   

June 6, 2017 Re-Cap (5th Bargaining Session)

The University presented a prepared proposal relating to the side letter contained within the collective bargaining agreement. Because arbitrators have misconstrued the original intent behind the side letter, the University is seeking to modify the language of the side letter to add clarity and restore the original intent of the letter. Recognizing our continued commitment to attracting and retaining the best graduate students through competitive assistantship opportunities and corresponding tuition waivers, the proposal is not intended to diminish or reduce the tuition waivers offered to graduate students.

Despite having differing views on how to negotiate and address proposals, the University is satisfied with the progress being made in bargaining to date and recognizes that it shares with the GEO a common interest on a number of issues.

The parties will meet again on Tuesday, June 20, 2017, for their sixth bargaining session.

May 23, 2017 Re-Cap (4th Bargaining Session)

The University presented to the GEO a comprehensive proposal that addressed all of the non-economic issues that have been raised in the negotiations, and thereby responded to fourteen of nineteen total proposals.  The University confirmed that the five outstanding economic proposals that will be addressed in upcoming negotiation sessions relate to wages, fee waiver (a new provision proposed by the GEO), healthcare, child care (a new provision proposed by the GEO), and the side letter addressing tuition waivers.


Contact Information

Specific labor relations questions associated with Teaching Assistants and Graduate Assistants (Administrative) should be directed to:

Name Title Email Phone
Heather Horn Assistant Director hwilson@illinois.edu (217) 333-3105
Leslie Arvan Director arvan@illinois.edu (217) 333-3105