UIC and GEO Bargaining Proposals as Negotiations Continue
On April 7, 2022, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), the union representing UIC’s more than 1,500 graduate employees in collective bargaining, announced its intent to strike as the parties were still in a bargaining session. GEO communicated that it will strike on Monday, April 18. With 21 of 27 issues agreed upon in our good-faith negotiations to date, we believe much can be resolved through continued dialogue. The parties are set to reconvene bargaining on Tuesday, April 19.
We sincerely value the contributions made by our graduate employees to UIC’s academic mission and remain optimistic that we will, together, reach a collective bargaining agreement that is fair and beneficial for all involved.
The university is committed to continuing normal operations to the fullest extent possible and all members of the UIC community will be expected to meet for classes as scheduled. Students, parents and guardians can be assured that educational objectives will be fulfilled, and grades will not be affected.
To date, UIC and the union have met more than 30 times, including eight sessions with an independent federal mediator, in an effort to reach a fair and fiscally responsible multiyear contract that reflects the best interests of the entire campus community. We continue to work toward resolution on a number of critical issues.
Below are the most recent offers from UIC and the union on key outstanding issues:
STIPEND AND TUITION WAIVERS
GEO members receive a stipend or wages based on the full-time equivalent (FTE) of their assistantship appointment (e.g., 0.25 FTE=10 hours per week, 0.50 FTE=20 hours per week). Currently, GEO members receive a minimum stipend of $20,615 ($26.43 per hour) for two semesters of 20 hours of work per week. UIC departments cover these costs from their budgets with some paying higher than the minimum.
In addition to the stipend, GEO members receive an additional benefit, on average, of $17,226 in the form of a tuition waiver over the two semesters (assuming full-time tuition of 12 credit hours plus for two semesters). Some GEO members are assessed a tuition differential, which is not covered by the waiver. The average cost of the differential is just under $600 per semester.
UIC is proposing a 12% increase in the minimum stipend over the three-year period of the next contract (8% in year one, 2% in year two, and 2% in year three) to begin August 16, 2022. In addition, UIC is offering a one-time payment of $850 for each assistant who is in the bargaining unit on the date the agreement is fully executed (approximately 4% of their current salary).
The GEO is demanding a 21% increase in the minimum stipend over a three-year period (15% in year one of the contract, 3% in year two, and 3% in year three). In addition, GEO is seeking to maintain its tuition waiver that covers the 100% of tuition and 100% of the cost of all student fees to be covered by the university. GEO is also demanding that its members only pay 10% of the tuition differential assessment.
Graduate assistants are students first and are subject to the same student fees as all other UIC graduate and undergraduate students, which total approximately $1,700 per semester. UIC currently waives $1,031 or 61% of student fees for GEO members. In addition, UIC graduate and undergraduate international students pay a $130 per semester fee to support all services associated with international students—UIC currently waives 50% of this fee for GEO members.
UIC proposes that GEO members continue to pay the general student fee and, if applicable, any international student fee. In addition, UIC has proposed to waive any newly created fee during the term of the agreement.
GEO only wants to pay a flat $100 of the general student fee while other students pay over $950 per academic year; a 100% waiver of the international student fee; a waiver of any increase in student fees; as well as the waiver of any newly created fees during the term of the agreement.
HEALTH CARE FEES
Approximately 70% of GEO members choose to enroll in UIC’s Campus Care student health care program, with the balance obtaining insurance coverage elsewhere.
While all other UIC students (graduate and undergraduate) pay the full premium cost of $697 per semester for this coverage, UIC currently subsidizes the majority (62%) of the premium costs for GEO members, who currently pay $260 per semester. As is the case for all other UIC employees eligible for insurance coverage, GEO members have the option to purchase discounted dependent coverage for their spouse and/or child(ren).
UIC is proposing that GEO members continue to share in the cost of health care coverage paying an additional $130 over the term of a three-year contract. Under this proposal, the university would continue to subsidize the majority of health care premiums for GEO members.
The GEO is demanding that its members’ contribution decrease from $260 to $50 per semester and only 20% of the cost of coverage for all dependents, which is significantly less than any other student pays. GEO expects the university to pick up the remaining 80%. This proposal would add significantly more costs to the $1.4 million the university already pays based on current enrollment.
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While we believe that a strike is not in the best interest of UIC or our students, we fully respect the rights of union employees under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act and other applicable laws to peacefully picket and demonstrate and have the right to work or to strike.
Those who choose to strike will not be paid during the strike, and those who choose to work and not strike will continue to be paid.
The university has created a website, geobargaining.uic.edu, to inform our campus community, to answer questions relating to the strike and to share detailed information about the most recent university and union proposals. We will continue to provide timely updates to our campus community as negotiations continue.
Senior Associate Director, Labor and Employee Relations
Assistant Director, Labor and Employee Relations