2019 Chicago Election Candidate Questionnaires

This year, GSU reached out to candidates for local office to ask them about how they plan to support GSU. We were glad to get responses from nearly every candidate for office, each expressing their support for our demand to be recognized! Full candidate questionnaires and support statements for candidates in the April 2nd runoff election may be found below.

To look up your ward and polling location, click here. If you are not yet registered to vote, Illinois permits same-day registration. This means you may register to vote while early voting or on Election Day. The same is true if you need to change your address or otherwise update your registration. For more details and required documents, visit the Chicago Board of Elections website.

To view all questionnaires received from candidates in the 5th and 20th Wards, click here.

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2019 GSU Officers and Stewards election

Elections results may be found here.

We will be electing our officers and stewards for 2019-2020 from March 4th through 5th. All GSU members should have received emails with nomination and voting information; voting will be conducted by online ballot. See here for a list of candidates; if you have any questions or trouble voting contact the GSU elections committee at GSU.elections.team@gmail.com.

GSU statement on 6th year funding for Humanities (with strings attached)

For the past two years, we’ve organized for recognition as a union so we can collectively bargain with the UChicago administration. It’s always been clear we need our rights respected as employees and union members through a legally binding and democratically negotiated contract, even as we’ve won some partial victories along the way. The flurry of funding changes that have occured in the past two weeks are no exception.

GSU members in the Divinity School won 6th year funding, and members in the School of Social Service Administration (SSA) of Public Policy and the Social Sciences Division (SSD) won increased summer funding. This is welcome news in these divisions, and it’s impossible to separate these changes from the pressure we’ve consistently put on UChicago for increased compensation for the work we all do. As one member said: these aren’t gifts, they’re paychecks, and the raise is one our members deeply deserve.

At the same time, there are also many questions. Many in SSA and SSD take six years or more to complete their degrees, and are left to wonder why they weren’t offered another year of funding. Other divisions, particularly the Biological and Physical Sciences and the Harris School, may be wondering if the central administration has forgotten all about them. And then there’s the situation in the Humanities. We were glad to learn that those of us in the Humanities would finally be offered a guaranteed 6th year of funding — unfortunately, this offer comes with strings attached.  

We are alarmed to see a time-to-degree cap of 8 years included as a part of the new funding structure. Even more concerningly, the the message that announced the policy stated: “almost all students across the Division should be able to complete the dissertation in 6 years.” This makes clear that the policy was written without consulting with us–or even with faculty–in many departments.  More than 23% of currently enrolled students in the Humanities Division are in year 7+, and most departments in the Humanities have an average time-to-degree that well exceeds six years — and that time is dependent on one’s coursework, field of study, research subject, and more. Many questions, like changes to teaching expectations, remain unanswered. To be clear, guaranteed sixth year funding is good, but its conditions and the process by which it was developed point to some fundamental issues.

  1. One size fits all doesn’t work.

Universities are supposed to support the creation of new knowledge–in other  words–dissertations. A cap on time-to degree will limit the types of research students in the Humanities will be able to pursue. If UChicago is committed to research and scholarship, it needs to support those of us who do projects with extensive travel, archival work, language acquisition, or field research. A time-to-degree cap could especially hit international grads, parents, first-generation grads, people with disabilities, and people with mental health needs. People who need to take personal leave will either have to justify their leave in new ways, or risk not being able to finish their programs. International students who need to stay in the country in order to apply for jobs will be simply unable to with this new policy. As GSU works to make the university more equitable for all, we have to fight policies that punish those of us who are not the university’s image of the “ideal graduate student.” Stigmatizing people who take longer with blanket statements like “everyone should be able to finish in 6 years” is damaging to our members and devalues our scholarship. This policy’s “one-size fit all” model fails to account for the unique character of our degree programs and the diversity of the graduate students that make up our community. GSU will always fight for inclusivity and policies that reflect that diversity.

2. No decisions about us, without us.

The most fundamental principle of having a union is that we deserve a say in our workplace. These funding came from the upper administration with almost no input from grad workers, faculty, or even department chairs. This one size-fit all decision made by people who know next to nothing about our individual programs should alarm us all. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be how decisions are made at UChicago. With a union, the administration will have to negotiate with us.

3.  We need a contract.

To be clear, sixth year funding is good, but it isn’t enough. It does nothing to address the rising cost of healthcare or rent, lack of dental/vision insurance, the Student Life Fee, campus climate and diversity, equity, and inclusion, and more. Just in the past few months, our colleagues at American, Brandeis, Tufts, and The New School have all reached contracts with their universities that address this broad range of issues. It’s clear that the only way we will make true progress and win a funding policy that fully values our scholarship is through a democratically negotiated union contract.

The impacts of these funding changes are uneven across, and even within, divisions. These Humanities funding changes are beneficial to many and detrimental to some, and we know that the only way forward is to stand together as a union in solidarity with each other. GSU will continue to fight for no-strings-attached 6th year funding for al and for UChicago to once and for all #BargainNow.

Solidarity Statement for UTLA Teachers

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Graduate Students United stands in solidarity with the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) in their strike effort. These teachers say they are standing up against attempts by their School Board to corporatize education, devalue teachers’ labor, negotiate in bad faith, and put profits ahead of the needs of their students. As a union of educators and researchers, GSU recognizes that we are up against the same corporatizing agenda and anti-democratic tactics in our own workplace. Whether public or private, university or school, we are all workers united in our struggle to defend the educational mission of our institutions against those who try to exploit them for profit. We are inspired by the unity and determination of UTLA as they take to the picket lines, and we are encouraged by the support they have received from students, parents, and community members.

Solidarity Statement for Treasure Island Workers

RESOLUTION IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE WORKERS OF TREASURE ISLAND FOODS AND COMMUNITIES AFFECTED BY ITS CLOSING

WHEREAS, Treasure Island Foods, the supermarket chain that employed over 500 workers in Chicago and was one of only a few grocery options in Hyde Park, abruptly announced their closing in late September 2018 and ceased all operations less than two weeks later; and

WHEREAS, this abrupt closing without advanced notice to their workers constitutes a violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act; and

WHEREAS, Treasure Island Foods and High Ridge Partners LLC, the firm that oversaw its liquidation, failed to compensate workers for accrued paid time off, constituting a violation of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act; and

WHEREAS, Treasure Island Foods and High Ridge Partners LLC, failed to compensate their workers for labor provided in the final weeks of operation, and prematurely discontinued their employees’ healthcare; and

WHEREAS, the closing of Treasure Island Foods exacerbates an existing lack of affordable, nutritious grocery options in Hyde Park and surrounding communities; and

WHEREAS, the University of Chicago is the landowner of the property vacated by the Hyde Park branch of Treasure Island Foods and is responsible for finding a replacement; be it therefore

RESOLVED, that we, Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago (AFT/AAUP), stand in solidarity with the displaced workers of Treasure Island Foods and their efforts to seek redress for their former employer’s unethical and illegal actions; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we demand the University of Chicago decline to collect back-rent or other damages from Treasure Island Foods, High Ridge Partners LLC, or any other involved parties, until all back-pay and damages are assessed to the workers and paid in full; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we demand the University prioritize i) compensation and reemployment of displaced Treasure Island Foods employees and ii) providing a source of nutritious, affordable groceries for Hyde Park and surrounding communities in a timely and transparent fashion.

Solidarity Statement in Opposition to Title IX Amendments

We, Graduate Students United (GSU) at the University of Chicago, stand in opposition to the Title IX amendments proposed by Betsy DeVos, reaffirm our support for survivors of identity-based violence and discrimination. We stand united in solidarity with graduate workers, their unions, and their advocates across the United States as they speak out against these amendments.

DeVos’s proposed amendments bolster the rights of students accused of assault, harassment or rape by; raising the evidentiary standard for sexual misconduct in addition to narrowing the definition of assault; making appeals more difficult; and by de-incentivizing schools to take meaningful actions to support survivors.

We demand that the University of Chicago expand the Title IX resources already available to students by increasing funding for this office. Furthermore we demand that the University advocate for other institutions to follow suit. Upholding the current Title IX procedures is the bare minimum to ensuring the safety of our campus communities.

Graduate Students United will continue to advocate for safer workplaces, in which workers have adequate, trauma-informed recourse for cases of sexual misconduct, identity-based violence, and discrimination. Upholding President Obama’s 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter” addressing Title IX recommendations is the bare minimum for ensuring the safety of workers at the University of Chicago.

GSU urges supporters, alumni, and current members with legal expertise to submit comments on the DeVos amendments.