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GEO ratifies contract

From a press release issued by the GEO:

Champaign, IL – The members of the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) from the campus of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign overwhelmingly voted by more than 95 percent to ratify a new contract.

The new contract will protect tuition waivers at their current levels for all members of the bargaining unit.  Tuition waiver protection was consistently the most important issue for GEO members during negotiations.  Tuition waivers are how universities, like Illinois, bring the best graduate student teachers to campus.

In addition, in a side agreement to the contract, the university administration has agreed to abide by the recent Illinois Education Labor Relations Board decision regarding violations of the 2009-2012 contract concerning tuition waivers.  The administration will repay affected assistants in the College of Fine and Applied Arts that were unfairly charged a portion of their tuition starting in 2010.  The administration will also pay seven percent interest to each member in compliance with the ruling.  The union is currently in the process of compiling a list of affected members.

The term of the new contract will be five years.  During that time the increase to the minimum wage will be 2.5 percent during the first two years of the contract, and then will be 1.5 percent for years three, four and five.  Approximately 40 percent of GEO members make the minimum.

The annual raise for the entire bargaining unit will be 2.5 percent during the first year of the contract, and then will be set by the Campus Wage Program thereafter.

The annual percentage of the members’ health care fee paid by the Administration will increase from 75 percent, where it was set during the last contract, to 80 percent during the life of this agreement.

The contract also marked significant gains for access and equality for GEO members.  The ability to file a grievance in the case of supervisor harassment was added to the contract.  So was the requirement to provide accommodations for nursing mothers, in compliance with Illinois state law.   The bereavement leave section retains domestic partners (including same-sex and opposite-sex partners) and also updates the contract to include Civil Unions to provide time off in the event of the death of a member’s partner.

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