U of I grad workers approve new contract

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) – Graduate workers have reached a contract after negotiations with the University of Illinois.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) voted in favor of a proposal that came from talks with the school and a mediator. It says 98 percent of its members voted yes to the proposal, ending a strike on campus.

The News-Gazette reports the contract includes several changes:

  • Half-time teaching and graduate assistants will receive a 4.5 percent campus minimum raise, along with a 2 percent bump in the second and third years with the sides potentially negotiating again in the fourth and fifth years.
  • The school will move health insurance premium coverage up from 80 to 87 percent, and cover 25 percent when one dependent is involved.
  • U of I leaders will give a one-month notice of job appointments to TAs and graduate assistants. A claim can be filed for $50 if that time frame isn’t met.
  • Tuition waivers are guaranteed for TAs and graduate assistants working in a 25 percent to 67 percent time appointment.

The newspaper says contract language guarantees waivers to people in that percentage range, but specifies that full or base rate coverage will depend on the program the person is in. U of I leaders are exploring charging full tuition on some programs, such as professionally-oriented masters degrees, in order to make money.

Union workers say they’re thrilled with the agreement reached.

“Because of the dedication of the members in this union we have a contract,” said GEO Co-President Gus Wood. “Countless hours of organizing made this happen. We held the lines, we stayed positive, and we remained hopeful that we’d get the contract we deserve. I thank all of the GEO members and allies for their support through what is now the longest strike in University of Illinois history.”

The Illinois Federation of Teachers, which supported the GEO in its efforts to reach a contract for graduate workers, says it’s also happy with the result.

“We were so inspired by the graduate workers at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and their fight to make graduate studies accessible to all,” said IFT president Dan Montgomery. “Going on strike is never an easy decision, and we know that GEO had exhausted every possible avenue before taking that step. Ultimately, it was their courage which pushed the administration to do what is right for all students. Graduate workers and their students will be going back to class in a new era for UIUC, one where all work is valued.”

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