GEO wins tuition waiver security! Pickets suspended!

November 17th, 2009 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

In a successful 2-day strike – the first by a union local at the University of Illinois in 10-years, and one of the largest in the history of graduate unions in the US – the GEO has secured a commitment to retain tuition waivers for graduate employees. The University had previously refused to commit to retaining them for the contract period, after considering removing them for certain graduate employees earlier this Spring, as well as actually pulling them (mid-year) from undergrad assistants just a few weeks ago.

This strike, over waivers, which are a necessary element of making grad school accessible to those other than the wealthy (and, in Illinois, the well-connected), is clearly situated in a broader context of struggles over the future of public education, as recognized by Amy Goodman on today’sDemocracy Now!, where she was talking, in California, with some of those engaged in the struggle (with credit to Rich Potter of the GEO for making contact with Amy over this issue):

AMY GOODMAN: And Professor Roy, maybe you can comment on this and what is happening at the same time here at home with the state budgets, with our educational system. UC Berkeley is not the only one going through this. For example, the news from the University of Champaign-Urbana in Illinois: apparently, in this last week—let’s see if I can find the information—graduate teaching assistants at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign went on strike yesterday after the university refused to guarantee continuation of the teaching and grad assistant tuition waivers.

Strikes have many elements. There’s the ‘above the fold’ part, the most visible: the pickets, the rallies, and (in the case of the GEO) an amazing drum corps. There’s the bargaining: tedious, important in the formal process of getting an agreement that lets the strike come to an end. And then there’s so much background work. The people who planned and organized: both over the past months, and the many years of activism, work, and sacrifice that brought the union into being and made this week’s action possible, not only necessary. The people churning out press releases and materials, taking care of the administrative overhead and much more. Congratulations to my colleagues, my comrades, at the GEO, IFT/AFT 6300, for their success this week.

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