GEO strikes – and seeks help from YOU!

November 15th, 2009 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

My old grad union (still feels funny to frame it that way) is going on strike in the morning, after they failed to reach agreement with the University of Illinois. The sticking point in the end turned out to be tuition waivers – the University wanted the right to remove them from out-of-state students, something that would make graduate education unaffordable for many, and make the University far less competitive. The union had made concessions on other areas – including being amenable to a proposed raise of just 10% over three years, even though that would leave grads continuing to earn far below a living wage – but the University refused to budge on this last issue.

As GEO members head out on the picket line, the union is looking for help from supporters around the country – specifically phone calls to top administrators. The union will be meeting with administrators on Tuesday, so a successful two-day picket, coupled with calls from supporters, could just provide the momentum needed to get this thing finished. Here’s what the union has sent out:


The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, calls for the support of undergraduate students, parents of undergraduates, and citizens of Illinois. As a final recourse to secure tuition waivers for graduate employees, the GEO has authorized a strike against the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois to begin at 8am on Monday morning.

After nearly seven months of negotiations, the GEO believes that we have provided the administration with every opportunity to avert a strike and ensure that classes are not disrupted. Our teaching and our relationships with our students is an incredibly rewarding part of our work and a top priority. However, we have been given no choice but to withhold our labor in order to secure tuition waivers. This request will not increase the University’s costs, but it will help maintain the quality and accessibility of this university. If tuition waivers were rescinded, graduate education would be even further restricted to those with access to significant financial resources and our public university system will have failed in its core mission to guarantee access to education. We hope that undergraduates and parents of undergraduates will stand with us in holding the administration accountable.

Please help us make this strike as short as possible by calling Robert Easter, Interim Provost/Chancellor of the UIUC campus, and Christopher Kennedy, the Chair of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. A script and phone numbers are included below. In addition you can send emails via Citizenspeak to Provost Easter and Chair of the Board of Trustees Christopher Kennedy. (Please consider adding a personal note to these emails.)

Phone Numbers and Script:
Robert Easter, Interim Provost
Phone: (217) 244-4545

ALSO . . .

Christopher G. Kennedy, University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chair, President MMPI
Phone: (312) 527-7890 x7890

  • Ask for Robert Easter or Christopher Kennedy. If they are not available, ask to leave a message.
  • Introduce yourself and any affiliation with the University (especially if you are a current student, an alumnus, the parent of a student, or a faculty/staff member).
  • I support the GEO and urge you to call off the strike by securing tuition waivers for graduate employees.
  • Tuition waivers ensure the quality and competitiveness of the U of I and ensure that graduate education at the University of Illinois is accessible.

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