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Letter of Support for The GEO
February 3, 2018
STATEMENT OF SUPPORT
FOR THE GRADUATE EMPLOYEES’ ORGNIZATION
We, the faculty in the department of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, write to express our support for the Graduate Employees’ Organization in their effort to bargain a fair contract with the University. Graduate employees at UIUC have been without a contract since August, with negotiations for a new contract having stalled. We urge Provost Cangellaris to accept the GEO’s proposals for a new collective bargaining agreement, preserving graduate employees’ tuition waivers, paying them a living wage and providing them with adequate healthcare.
Graduate employees perform essential work for the University as teachers and graduate assistants. At some point, every undergraduate student is taught by a graduate instructor, and over 2,800 graduate workers on this campus provide valuable labor. In fact, Illinois ranks 6th in the country among universities where graduate employees teach the most classes.
In spite of its dependence on graduate labor, the University is proposing cuts to the tuition waivers that many graduate employees need in order to be here. This will directly impact the quality of education and research at Illinois, harming our ability to attract the graduate workers who help make UIUC a preeminent institution of higher learning and research in the United States.
Additionally, the GEO’s contract proposals call for a living wage and adequate healthcare coverage. Despite the fact that Teaching Assistants making the minimum salary earn about $6,000 less than the University’s own published cost of living, the University has not raised their wages in a meaningful way, while attempting to force them to pay significantly more for their healthcare in the current contract negotiations. Graduate employees should not have to choose between healthcare and food, and the quality of education at Illinois will suffer as long as this is the case.
We urge Provost Cangellaris and the University bargaining team to work with GEO to provide graduate employees with a fair contract. If the Graduate Employees’ Organization is forced to strike, we understand that this drastic measure means that the University administration is unwilling to resolve negotiations at the bargaining table. We recognize that striking graduate employees are protecting themselves, undergraduates, and the integrity and quality of education at the University of Illinois. Therefore, we support this and all efforts by GEO to secure economic stability for its members.