Grad students lay out demands as strike continues

URBANA, Ill. (WAND) – On the fourth day of a strike, the University of Illinois Graduate Employees Organization gave its demands to return to work.

The News-Gazette reports union members want five things. The list includes a 7.5 percent pay raise, a one-month notice for pending employment, a drop in “mystery fees” the union says the school charges its workers, better health care coverage for dependents and the continuation of tuition waiver coverage.

The newspaper says the employment notice is important because graduate students are often told about their new jobs late, meaning they end up scrambling to get organized. Bargaining team member Katie Lee says  the GEO wants the U of I to help with health care insurance premiums for the dependents of graduate students, along with a child care stipend and insurance for pre-existing conditions and mental health.

Lee told The News-Gazette tuition waivers stop graduate students from paying “twice their salary” to attend college, adding the union wants to make sure they receive “a package that really ensures access to higher education”.

U of I Provost Andreas Cangellaris says the school put together a proposal for the union, adding the university is “willing to continue bargaining”. GEO spokeswoman Ashli Anda told the paper negotiations are still at a standstill after the strike started on Monday morning.

The Champaign Federation of Teachers and some from the Illinois Federation of Teachers are backing the GEO in their push for changes.