Call to action: Call the U of I this Wednesday, and support graduate employees

November 9th, 2009 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

This Thursday, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees will meet in Springfield. Members of the GEO will be there to remind them of the urgency of reaching agreement on a fair contract. You may not be able to be in Springfield, but you can play your part in persuading the University’s administrators of the importance of meeting the needs of graduate employees.

Graduate employees have been working without a contract since August, as the University offered regressive proposals in response to the union’s call for a living wage, protection for tuition waivers, and improved conditions for families. In recent meetings, as the threat of a strike has increased, the GEO has reached tentative agreements on a number of items, but the administration continues to refuse both a living wage and a guarantee that tuition waivers will continue to be a condition of employment. [The University tried to unilaterally remove waivers from those on 25% appointments earlier this year.]

Call Interim Provost Robert Easter and new BoT chair Christopher Kennedy this Wednesday, and urge them to reach a fair contract with the GEO. Then pass this message to colleagues and friends.

WHEN: Wednesday, November 11

Interim Provost Easter: (217) 244-4545
Christopher Kennedy: (312) 527-7890 x7890

It’s useful if you can put your message in your own words, but the following provides a basic template for you to use. (My text suggests leaving a message, but if you can talk directly with these men, even better.) Remember, what’s most important is that the message of support for the GEO position be communicated to administrators.

Hello, my name is __________. I’m a graduate of the University of Illinois, and I’d like to leave a message for [Provost Easter/Mr Kennedy.]

I want to urge him to reach a fair agreement with the Graduate Employees Organization, and ensure that graduate employees, who teach a quarter of classes at the University, receive a living wage.

Thank you.

Graduate employees have voted for strike action, but there is still time to avoid that if the administration engages positively with the wage concerns of those employees.

The campus budget grew by 7% in FY09, but the percentage devoted to instruction grew by only 0.8%. I urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that the university lives up to its responsibilities as a land grant institution that serves the public good and is committed to high quality instruction and research.

The public higher education system has a responsibility to ensure accessibility to all. The GEO’s requests for  a living wage, secured tuition waivers, better health care, and better support for working parents, would increase access to graduate education and would also improve the quality of instruction and research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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