GEO strike update, April 1
Dear faculty, staff and students:
After six bargaining sessions since the strike began on March 19, the University and the Graduate Employees Organization have made very little progress to come to an agreement, particularly on wages and fees. The University continues to bargain in good faith. We are ready to reach an agreement that is fair and equitable for both parties.
Tentative agreements have been reached between the parties to make no changes to a substantial part of the overall agreement. Remaining issues still under discussion are wages, health care, expenses, duration, office space and union rights. The main differences are outlined below:
As of March 30, the positions of the two sides on wages are outlined below. The current minimum salary for a 50% FTE, 9-month position is $18,065 (hourly rate of $23).
GEO is currently proposing an increase in the minimum salary of 7.4% in the first year of the new contract, 7.2% in the second year and 8.2% in the third year.
The University has offered a 4.1% increase in the first year, 4.1% increase in the second year and 3.75% in the third year. UIC has also agreed to pay all GEO members with active appointments at the time of ratification of a new contract the retroactive portion of the new minimum.
University departments may pay graduate assistants more than the minimum salary and many do so. Currently, approximately one-half of all assistants are paid more than the minimum salary. The University’s offer does not alter the ability of units to pay assistants at a higher rate than the minimum.
Currently, GEO members pay less than 40 percent of all student fees. With our proposal, it will be even less.
GEO members currently have the following student fees completely waived: Service Fee ($350 per semester), Health Service Fee ($92 per semester), Academic Facilities Maintenance Assessment ($334 per semester) and the Library/IT Assessment ($220 per semester). The full waiver of these fees remains in effect including coverage of any increases in those fees. Coupled with the partial coverage of the Health Insurance Fee, GEO members currently have $2,542 per academic year in student fees waived, while they receive the corresponding services paid by the rest of the student body.
GEO members currently are required to pay the General Fee ($431 per semester) and those GEO members who are international students also pay the International Student Fee ($130 per semester).
The General Fee is a fee charged to GEO members as students. The fee increase was recommended by the Student Fee Advisory Committee. The General Fee will increase by $50 per semester next year to support an expansion and remodeling of the student centers.
GEO is also requesting that all tuition differentials be waived and that the University provide a form to file for an exemption for Graduate Assistants of an IRS rule that allows for a tax exemption for Teaching and Research Assistants. The University position on these items is that none of these proposed changes can be adopted. The waiver of differentials would result in a significant revenue loss for many academic departments. The IRS rule cannot be circumvented without putting the University at risk of a violation of federal law.
GEO is currently proposing that all new fees created during the contract be completely waived, that all but $100 of the General Fee each semester be waived and that international students would only pay $30 of the International Student Fee each semester. The University cannot waive these fees because there is no source of funds which could be used to make up for the loss of revenue. The University has proposed to add $100 to the minimum wage salary for the second year of the contract to cover the $100 increase to the General Fee for that year.
GEO has requested that the University allow the union to speak at all campus, college and department graduate/teaching assistant orientations. Access to these orientations would be mandatory.
The University countered to allow GEO to speak at campus and college orientations and allow for them to speak at department orientations upon request and by mutual consent.
For ongoing information and updates on the status of negotiations, visit geobargaining.uic.edu.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources