GSU Statement on ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program Modifications

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) just announced that international students with F-1 and M-1 visas whose courseloads will be fully online must leave the United States or face deportation. GSU strongly condemns this policy and demands that the University of Chicago uses its financial and legal resources to act decisively in opposition to this policy. We also maintain that reopening campus is not the solution: it is reprehensible to force students to choose between risking infection to attend courses and deportation, especially when livelihoods and travel are so precarious. The administration of the University of Chicago must do its part to protect graduate students and other members of our community from the harmful policies of the federal government, from the dangers of COVID-19, financial insecurity, and from rising xenophobia and racism in our country. 


International students comprise 25% of the total student population at the University of Chicago. In Spring 2020, 918 undergraduate students and 2998 graduate and professional students were enrolled at the university; all are threatened by this and other xenophobic measures recently proclaimed by the Trump administration. The threat of deportation is a particularly grave problem given safety concerns stemming from the current COVID-19 pandemic. Travel to and from the United States is unreliable, expensive, restricted, or simply closed. International students, already under pressure from this country’s draconian immigration policies and mishandling of the pandemic, are now facing the very real possibility of having their education and lives further interrupted.
Even under the University of Chicago’s hybrid model for Fall 2020, international students on F-1 visas in coursework cannot take an entirely online course load and remain in the United States. Students do not have control over whether their courses will be in-person or online, and the university’s assurances that students with pre-existing conditions or other circumstances that require them to remain in online courses for their own safety can no longer apply to international students. Additionally, students currently abroad can only maintain their visa status if the university offers online-only instruction, which is currently not the case for the University of Chicago, forcing students to return to the United States despite the massive public health risks. If the COVID-19 situation worsens and forces the university to move online, students with visas will be forced to leave the country within 10 days. This would be unacceptable under normal conditions, but it is especially reprehensible during a worldwide pandemic. By leaving the “choice” between in-person versus online instruction to faculty and graduate instructors, the university is abdicating its responsibility to vulnerable students, instructors, and the university community as a whole. This places a burden upon departments to either force their faculty and instructors to risk their safety or to put students in a position to be deported – putting instructors in an impossible position.


Additionally, international students who are currently out of the country will not be able to re-enter the United States, forcing them into an especially difficult and unstable position where they must negotiate how to continue their research and education away from the university. This change comes on top of an already exacerbated situation for graduate students pursuing their degrees under the threat of probation and an already restricted timeline following the university’s recently unveiled funding overhaul program and the university’s refusal to address the unique hardships caused by COVID-19 for graduate students. We have already heard from several students that they have faced difficulties applying for and receiving their visas, an issue that will likely be further exacerbated by this measure. Additionally, it is still unclear how students no longer in coursework would be affected by this policy. Further, it is entirely unclear how this change will affect stipend payments, health insurance, and other forms of university-provided assistance. The university needs to ensure that all graduate students will continue to receive their health insurance, stipends, and other payments in full and on time, regardless of where they are located in the world.  Understandably, this uncertainty is causing considerable distress among students and graduate workers in our community.
We recognize that the best advocates for graduate students and workers are graduate workers themselves, and that the university’s refusal to enter into collective bargaining with graduate students worsens our already precarious position in academia. Quoting from our graduate worker colleagues at Northwestern, the university’s refusal to communicate and bargain with graduate workers “remains a palpable barrier to ensuring international graduate workers have a say over their protection and livelihoods.” 


We call on the University of Chicago to denounce these immigration restrictions in the strongest possible terms, and to take all measures necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of its international community.


In solidarity,
Graduate Students United

Exciting News for Other Grad Unions, CARES Act Funds, and Getting Involved This Summer!

Congratulations to our fellow graduate workers at Harvard and Brown!

Earlier this week, HGSU-UAW, the union of graduate workers at Harvard University, reached the end of a 19-month bargaining process to achieve a tentative agreement on a contract with their administration. They are currently in the process of their ratification vote! Read more at The Harvard Crimson.
This exciting news comes shortly after SUGSE, Brown University’s graduate student union, won their own contract, which they ratified earlier this week!
This is exciting news all around, and a huge congratulations on these two monumental wins for graduate workers everywhere. But the fight is not over, graduate workers across the United States (including at UChicago) work without their rights recognized or protected by their administrations. This is especially unjust, amidst a global pandemic and increasing austerity at most universities. Temporary band-aids are not enough. We need union organization and labor contracts to protect our rights as workers and students. Read this email to figure out how to get involved with GSU’s fight.

CARES Act Funds – and who’s eligible to them? 

On June 4th, the University announced that it accepted $6.2 million it was awarded by the Department of Education, from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act’s established Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). This announcement came after much deliberation, since the awarding of the funds to the university on April 9th

Accepting the funds has proven politically controversial for elite higher ed institutions, with many deciding not to accept the federal funds (e.g., Northwestern, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Duke, to name a few), and others, like Cornell University, announcing that they would allocate the entire funding they receive to assist students, and not just 50% as the Act requires. The University of Chicago followed suit with the latter, after almost two months of consideration.

GSU is commending any funding that goes to aid students (eligible students may receive up to $2500), but we are concerned about several aspects of the process, including its invitation-only nature, its non-transparency, and the eligibility criteria that the University posed on top of the original criteria stipulated by the CARES Act: According to the university policy, only students with a valid Free Application for Federal Students Aid (FAFSA) on file are eligible to the funds, thus narrowing down the eligible population, especially among graduate students. Moreover, the FAFSA should have been on file as of May 15, although the University announced this policy only on June 4th, meaning that if you hadn’t applied before their announcement, it was already too late! 

GSU is trying to assess the extent to which these funds have been made available to graduate student workers, and how many otherwise eligible students could not apply due to the process and the conditions that the university designed.

Please take a minute of your time and fill in this short questionnaire!

Get Involved! Get (Re)Engaged! 

This is our first newsletter as an independent union (Yay!!!), since our affiliation vote. And we have exciting times ahead! In the next few weeks, we will develop our shared vision for GSU as an independent union. Our members are invited and encouraged to express their voice and take part in this process – in various ways! Stay tuned for an announcement on an upcoming GMM, and other avenues to participate in shaping GSU vision.

In the meantime, members are encouraged and more than welcome to join and attend our ongoing meetings. There are currently four different committees that members can attend and get involved with:

Stewards Council/Organizing Committee – Meets every Monday at 6:00PM.  Stewards are elected by membership to represent their department in the union.  There are currently openings for stewards in almost every department and this meeting is open to all members. This is a place where organizers can hear from each other and strategize going forward.  If you are interested in becoming a steward either email us or find the Zoom link in your GSU newsletter!

Steering Committee – Meets every Tuesday at 6:00PM. Steering committee is also elected by membership and is responsible for the day-to-day responsibilities of the union including grievances, overall strategy, finances, endorsements, etc. We currently have vacant positions for divisional representatives in PSD, BSD, SSA, and the Divinity School. We also have openings for communications secretary and financial secretary. If any of these positions sound interesting, feel free to email us, or find the Zoom link in your GSU newsletter.

FORCe (Funding Overhaul Research Committee) – Meets every Wednesday at 6:00PM.  FORCe was formed in response to the funding overhaul announced earlier this year and has since been the driving force behind actions in our union. In FORCe’s short lifespan we have already organized three successful actions:

Funding overhaul petition
COVID-19 petition
June 3rd’s walkout/teach-in

We are currently deciding what kind of actions we want to take over the summer and what we want next Fall to look like. To get involved with FORCe please email us, or find the Zoom link on the GSU newsletter.

Mutual Aid Committee – Meets every Thursday at 5:30PM.  Our mutual aid committee is our newest committee which focuses on building membership and community solidarity through mutual aid. During our June 3rd action, members of the mutual aid committee bought and collected food to bring to local food pantries. We are compiling information on how to get involved in the community, protests to attend, how to attend protests safely, and more resources for GSU members to more easily get involved with the Chicago and South Side community. We have worked with the University of Chicago Labor Council (UCLC) to provide protest health and safety training which can be found on their Twitter here.  If you are interested in getting more information please email us or find the Zoom link on the GSU newsletter.

GSU Walk-Out/Teach-In on June 3

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Dear Friends,

We are excited to have you join us on Zoom for our GSU Walk-out/Teach-in about organizing for racial justice in Hyde Park tomorrow, June 3!

Tomorrow’s teach-in has been organized to explicitly highlight black voices and issues of racial justice within our own community, including speakers from Care Not Cops, the Reparations Working Group, and activists from the campaign for a South Side Trauma Center. Now more than ever, we are especially grateful to be hearing from these much-needed organizations in our community. Political education is an essential tool for liberation and mobilization, and we will be providing information and resources for how grad students can support protesters and local organizations throughout the day, and discussions will focus on how grads at UChicago can work for racial and economic justice at UChicago and beyond.

Without racial justice, the needs of graduate workers cannot be fully met. We believe that supporting GSU also means standing in solidarity with community organizations across Chicago and around the globe. Moreover, the University of Chicago’s historical relationship to slavery, systematic destruction of black and working class communities on the south side, and maintenance of the UCPD, a private militarized police force which was deployed against peaceful protesters in Hyde Park this weekend, means that the struggle for a more just and democratic campus is intimately related to larger struggles against police brutality and racial inequality. Graduate student organization is one of the ways that we can pressure the administration to defund the UCPD and invest in south side community resources. The fight against exploitation in our community is not bounded by campus walls.

There are many ways for graduate workers and allies to participate in the walk-out through actions of solidarity, political education, and mutual aid. We fully support all our members who will be engaging in direct action, protest, and mutual aid on Wednesday, and hope that our teach-in can be another venue for movement building and working towards parallel goals. Wednesday will also be a time for angry and anxious grad workers to come together when so many have been so isolated.

You can find all the information about the walk-out/teach-in, the full schedule of synchronous and asynchronous events, and how you can show solidarity here: http://bit.ly/GSUWalkOutInfo

For those interested in sharing the Facebook Live details, it will be telecast live at our event link here: http://bit.ly/GSULive

We have sent Zoom details in a GSU newsletter sent to your email addresses on June 2. Otherwise, email us at gsu [DOT] riseup [DOT] net. 

Loyola Chicago Faculty Forward Supports GSU’s June 3 Walk-Out and Teach-In

The following is a letter of support from Loyola Chicago Faculty Forward, the non-tenure track faculty union at Loyola University Chicago.

Dear Colleagues,

As the leaders of Loyola Chicago Faculty Forward, the non-tenure track faculty union at Loyola University Chicago, we support the ​walk-out and teach-in​ planned by Graduate Students United (GSU) at the University of Chicago on June 3 and the ​demands​ they are making of the school’s administration.

Even before the start of the coronavirus crisis, working conditions for graduate students, non-tenure track faculty, and staff in higher education were severely deteriorating. Many college and university administrations have abdicated their responsibility of ensuring the well-being of all community members, following a misguided “business” model that focuses on cost-savings without fully accounting for the human impact of these decisions on faculty, graduate students, and staff, as well as the negative repercussions these measures have on graduate and undergraduate education and students. This trend in higher education is part of a wider shift in US and global society of ignoring basic principles of care for other members of society in the name of efficiency and cost-savings.

The coronavirus crisis should have made clear the devastating impact these decisions have made on our society. But too many people in positions of leadership, including the administration at the University of Chicago, are continuing with business as usual, not taking the steps necessary to support all community members. We therefore call on the administration of the University of Chicago to concede to the GSU’s demands, providing graduate students the support they need in this time of crisis.

In solidarity,
Janet Fair-Christianson, Adjunct, Modern Languages Emma Feeney, Lecturer, Biology
Deb Goodman, Adjunct, Dance

Sarita Heer, Lecturer, Art History
Diane Jokinen, Lecturer, Biology
Alyson Paige Warren, Adjunct, English
Matt Williams, Lecturer, Sociology/ Global and International Studies

Things We’ve Won This Week + More COVID-19 Updates

It’s been another long week, and many of us have felt isolated and scared. But we’ve also won some real victories. Read on for details and more.

Student Life Fee Reduced to $125

Last week we tweeted about the UC Labor Council’s list of demands from the University in response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and the University’s shift to distance-learning for spring quarter. One of those demands was that the University reassess the student services fee for spring quarter. This fee, which is typically $416 per quarter if not subsidized by financial aid packages, supports things like recreation facilities, student programs and organizations, and UChicagoGRAD—facilities and programs that will not be operating next quarter. On Monday, the University announced in an email that for spring quarter the fee will be decreased to $125, a reduction of nearly 70%. Other services included in the student services fee, such as student health and counseling services, will continue to operate during the quarter.

Changes to Student Health Insurance

On Friday, the student insurance office announced via email that effective immediately, the U-SHIP non-referral deductible will be waived through spring quarter. This means that students on U-SHIP insurance will no longer be charged a $50 deductible for seeking medical treatment outside of Student Health and Counseling Services without a referral. GSU has been asking about this since before the admin announced that Spring quarter would be remote, and we’re glad to see this barrier to accessing care removed for the moment.

Have other questions about health insurance, campus services, and navigating the next quarter? Check out the COVID-19 resources page on our website. We’ll be updating the site regularly as we get more information from the University and other Hyde Park organizations, so check in often!

Some University Staff to Continue Receiving Pay during Spring Quarter

One of the big issues we’ve raised, alongside our fellow unions in the UChicago Labor Council, is whether university staff will continue to be paid as dorms clear out and classes go remote. We’re pleased to say that there has been some progress. As we wrote last week, the university reversed its plan to lay off undergrad Resident Assistants after an organized pushback campaign. More recently, the university has announced that contracted food service workers would continue to be paid as dining halls closed, and that many other university workers would have access to additional paid leave.

These are important victories, though they do not meet all of our demands. A particularly worrisome outstanding concern comes from nurses at the Medical Center, who need more personal protective equipment. We’ll continue to organize alongside our fellow unions to address these and other issues.

“Stay at Home” Order and Research

As recently as last Thursday, despite the obvious barriers posed by social distancing, the Provost wrote in an email that, “We expect that our research activity can continue.” This changed abruptly on Saturday, with another email addressing the governor’s “Stay at Home” order, which went into effect that day. With this order, means that all non-essential research activities requiring people to be present on campus have been suspended. Essential research functions have been defined by the administration as:

  • “Critical maintenance procedures to maintain long term laboratory viability and safety. For example, providing animal support and maintaining critical equipment such as computation equipment, deep-storage freezers, incubators, mass spectrometers, and electron microscopes.
  • COVID-19 research that may mitigate the spread of the pandemic.”

According to guidance received from the Vice Provost, faculty supervisors of graduate workers in labs have been instructed “to be creative and collaborative in thinking about tasks that can be performed remotely and still contribute to research in your fields.” He further noted that “Unless you have been designated ‘essential personnel’, you should work exclusively remotely. You should consult with your program directors, chairs, or advisor as applicable to help understand how you can continue your research and progress towards the degree remotely.”

Now, we all know that just because faculty supervisors have been instructed to work with graduates towards a solution doesn’t mean that they have done so. It remains to be seen how much support administration will give to graduate students who have had their lab research disrupted or whether we will have problems with supervisors attempting to either circumvent these instructions or lacking flexibility in creating accommodations for their graduate workers. It also remains an open question whether timelines and funding will be adjusted to support us as we navigate these disruptions, an issue raised in the UChicago Labor Council sign-on letter. If you are being instructed to violate the stay-at-home order for any non-essential research functions or otherwise run into difficulties, please be in touch with your steward or departmental organizer to let them know.

Election Results, SARS-CoV-2 Mutual Aid Resources, and More

SARS-CoV-2 Mutual Aid Resources

Over the next few weeks, many of us will be spending unprecedented amounts of time at home, as we follow CDC and WHO guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19. This is a stressful time for all of us, but in particular for members of our community who are immunocompromised, who live or spend time with elderly family members, who are missing paychecks or housing insecure, who rely on public transportation to access resources like grocery stores, and others. Fortunately, people in the UChicago community and across the country have been organizing online to create mutual aid networks. If you need assistance with accessing things like groceries, medications, and other necessities, we have collected a number of links to these resources on our website—you can find them here. Likewise, if you are wondering how you can help while sitting at home for the next two weeks, you can donate or volunteer to help with aid collection and distribution. Not in the Chicago area at the moment? Don’t worry—we’ve also got links to national resources. We’ll also be reaching out to members via text over the next couple of weeks, and you can always contact us at gsu@riseup.net if you have questions or need assistance.

UCLC Letter

GSU is a proud member of the UChicago Labor Council, alongside unions of nurses, non-tenure-track faculty, cleaning, maintenance, administrative, library, and other workers across the university and Medical Center. Yesterday the Council released this letter to the administration with a number of demands to ensure the protections of workers, students, and community members amidst the COVID-19 response, and we invite our members to sign on.

Student Services Fee

We’ve been receiving news over the last week regarding the extent that closings and emergency measures due to coronavirus will disrupt campus life. It’s not surprising that the University libraries, recreational facilities like Ratner and Henry Crown, and other elements of student life will be largely shutting down. This is absolutely necessary to reduce the spread of the virus and protect workers and community members from exposure.

However, we’ve also received repeated reminders that most of us are still expected to pay the Student Services Fee (formerly known as the Student Life Fee). Only those living over 50 miles away from campus will be able to apply to have the fee waived. That fee totals $416 per person for this quarter.

At a time like this, when most of the things that the fee funds are shutting down and many graduate workers and their families are facing lost income due to the virus, those hundreds of dollars can make a huge difference. With most campus facilities closed, we are essentially paying the fee only to fund the Student Health Center—on top of our insurance premiums, which already cost $1,522 per quarter.

The letter above from the UChicago Labor Council demands that the administration not assess the Student Services Fee when student services are being drastically curtailed, and also that it ensure that Student Health and Counseling Services do not turn anyone away during this emergency due to inability to afford such fees. Be sure to sign on!

GSU Election Results

Earlier this week, GSU held elections for a number of positions on the Steering and Stewards Committee. Thanks to everyone who voted! Here are the results of the elections:

Steering

  • Co-President (Bargaining): Mike van der Naald
  • General Secretary: Will Kong
  • Divisional Rep (Humanities): Lex Ladge
  • Divisional Rep (SSA): Tadeo Weiner-Davis

Stewards

  • Anthropology: Abhishek Bhattacharyya, Yukun Zeng
  • Art History: Lex Ladge
  • Astronomy: Nora Shipp
  • CompSci: Will Kong
  • EALC: Yueling Ji
  • English: Michael Stablein
  • German: Davd Kretz
  • History: Laura Cremer, Corbin Page, Alyssa Smith
  • Math: Josh Mundiger
  • Music: James Skretta
  • Philosophy: Stephen Cunniff
  • PoliSci: Lilly Judge
  • Psychology: Ben Morris
  • SALC: Zoe High
  • Sociology: Rishi Arora
  • SSA: Emily Ellis, Kit Gindler, Durrell Washington

WOW, THERE’S A LOT HAPPENING. WE NEED EACH OTHER MORE THAN EVER.

Election Nomination Extension

Over the past few weeks the GSU Elections Committee has been accepting nominations for governing positions. The elections committee will be extending the nomination period for Steering Committee and Stewards Council until Saturday, March 14 at noon for self-nominations only. Are you looking to get more involved in our union? Consider running to represent your department as a Steward or your Division as a Divisional Representative! Ready to take on more of a leadership role? Why not run for Co-President? If you’d like to nominate yourself for a position, you can find more information on the nomination form or email gsu.elections.team@gmail.com.

Get Out the Vote

Remember to vote in the Illinois primary next Tuesday, March 17th! The primary will select candidates for President, Congressional Representative, States Attorney, and other offices.

You can find more information on registration (as well as information for voting in other state primaries) here: https://www.uchivotes.com/

Find your polling location here: Chicago Elections: Polling Locations

You can vote early now through March 16th at the locations and hours listed here: Chicago Elections: Early Voting

You can also apply to vote by mail until Thursday, March 12th (that’s today!) at 5pm: Chicago Elections: Vote by Mail

Coronavirus Updates

Tuesday, the Provost announced the cancellation of study-abroad programs as a measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Then last night, the Chicago Maroon published the news that all undergraduate and graduate classes will be conducted via remote (i.e., online) learning for the Spring Quarter. Official word arrived to the campus community this morning via a mass email from the University President. Despite the obvious impact to our work, we as grad workers–along with faculty and staff) were left in the dark until the last minute.

To be clear, we support social distancing for public health. We are concerned for the health of our community, and particularly those who are immuno-compromised or otherwise at risk.

We also have major questions about this news. How will it impact our work? Our financial security? Our progress in programs that have become significantly harsher around time to completion over the past year? And there are even more questions about how this impacts our students, our co-workers, and so many others. Although the President’s email made clear that “students will continue to receive financial aid and stipends,” some details are still uncertain. Will those of us who were meant to teach or TA study abroad courses receive the pay they were planning on? How about those with on-campus jobs that cannot be done remotely? The insistence on referring to our pay as “stipends,” rather than acknowledging that we are paid for our work, only heightens this uncertainty

This news also impacts the undergraduate members of our community, as most are being asked to leave their campus housing by March 22nd. There is a crowdsourced resources google sheet, that you can reach here (on last checking, you need to request permission to edit, probably due to the high volume of traffic to the spreadsheet last night).The Student Government recently announced that they have donated $10,000 to The Emergency Fund, which both grads and undergrads can access. You can find out how to apply for that support at http://facebook.com/ucemergencyfund.

As the situation unfolds, we appeal to all of our members to share stories. What questions do you have? What are your worries? What are you hearing from your division or department?

For the administration to leave us wondering about all of these questions, with no power to bargain on behalf of our members during this crisis, is a stark reminder that we must continue to push for the recognition and respect we deserve.

Have You Filled Out Our 2020 Issues Survey Yet?

This survey, our first in two years, will only take a few minutes of your time (really!), and the information you share will help to provide an up-to-date snapshot of our individual and collective concerns. By now, all of you should have received an email with the subject line “Graduate Students United Survey” providing you with a unique survey link. If you experience any issues taking the survey or have not received a link, let us know at gsu@riseup.net! If you’re interested in checking out the results from our last survey and seeing what has (and hasn’t) changed, you can always view them here.

Petition

Even amidst the coronavirus response, the administration’s proposed overhaul of PhD programs seems to proceed apace. And so too must our organizing for transparency in the changes, and to mitigate their most harmful effects. We continue to circulate an in-person petition to the new Provost, Ka Yee Lee. This is a paper-only petition, so ask for a copy from your DO or Steward. Not sure who that is? Email us at gsu@risuep.net and we’ll put you in touch with an organizer.

Housing, UCSC Strike, and More!

Housing

We’re continuing last week’s discussion on housing this week by focusing on the ways that the neighborhoods around the University are changing, and what the University’s role is in this transformation.

As we discussed previously, over the past several years, the University has been selling off its own affordable housing occupied by graduate workers, leaving us to compete for rentals going for higher rates from private companies—sometimes the same exact units that UChicago just sold off. This, of course, affects the overall cost of housing in the area: as rents for grads increase, we can’t forget that rents for all of our neighbors are also increasing.

Of course, there’s been new housing being built over the past few years—but it hasn’t been affordable. Luxury apartment buildings have dominated: since 2015, we’ve seen Vue53 and three new towers from MAC properties: Solstice on the Park, City Hyde Park, and the new 5252 South Cornell. There’s no doubt that these apartments are not geared towards the typical grad student or renter already living in Hyde Park. Rents for a one-bedroom at City Hyde Park are over $1,800/month; over $2,000/month at Solstice on the Park; and over $2,100 at 5252.

Vue53, however, does market itself towards both grads and undergrads. Its rents are cheaper—in the range of $1,500-$1,700 per month—but still significantly above the average rental price in the neighborhood, and undoubtedly unaffordable on a grad stipend. But curiously, the University has subsidized housing at Vue53 for two years in a row, using it as overflow housing for undergrads and offering $1,500 directly to students to opt to live in the off-campus building.

It’s unclear why the University has sold off its own affordable housing only to actively promote and subsidize luxury housing that costs well above market price. But one thing is for sure: the University’s actions are contributing to increasing rents in Hyde Park, not only making housing unaffordable for grads, but also changing the neighborhood and pushing our neighbors out.

Later this week, we’ll be talking more about the University’s role in gentrification, particularly in Woodlawn around the Obama Center, and how the community has been organizing to keep housing affordable in the neighborhood.

Have a story about your experience accessing housing while at UChicago? Weigh in on the conversation on social media, or get in touch to share your story!

UCSC on strike

If you’re keeping up with graduate labor in the news, you might already know that graduate workers at UC Santa Cruz remain on strike this semester. Facing a crisis in housing costs, the union began the action in December by withholding grades in pursuit of a cost of living adjustment. In Santa Cruz, workers face an incredibly expensive housing market that they simply cannot afford on their current pay. In the past few days, the movement for a cost of living adjustment has spread to other University of California campuses as well. Picketers at UC Santa Cruz have faced threats from the administration and even violence from campus police.

As we know quite well, prestige doesn’t pay rent! Keep up with what’s going on in California through the website https://payusmoreucsc.com/ or the Twitter account @cola4all, and be sure to express your support for our colleagues in the University of California system.

Nominations

As we announced yesterday, nominations are now open for 2020–2021 Stewards and Steering officers. Visit bit.ly/GSUnoms2020 to read more about the roles of the Stewards Council and Steering Committee, and nominate yourself or a colleague by March 9.

GMM next week

The next General Members Meeting will be held next Wednesday, February 19, in the third floor lecture room of Swift Hall. This is an important meeting, as we will continue to discuss our future affiliation options.

The meeting location is wheel-chair accessible and childcare will be available. If there’s anything else we can do to help make the meeting more accessible, please let us know. In particular, if you need ASL interpretation, please contact us at gsu@riseup.net in advance of the meeting so we can hire interpreters.

NLRB

Anti-union comments submitted to the NLRB are still open for rebuttal. As we initially reported a few weeks ago, the NLRB has extended the initial rebuttal period “in order to allow sufficient time for responses to the large number of initial comments received.” We now have until February 28th!

You can set the record straight on some of these comments through AFT’s new portal at https://aftacademics.org/weareworkers/. Once again, the more unique comments we submit, the more work we create for the Board, so take just a few minutes to respond to one or two and remind them that We Are Workers!

Solidarity Statement for GEO at UIUC

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We, Graduate Students United (GSU) at the University of Chicago, support the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) in their effort to bargain a fair contract with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Graduate employees at UIUC have been without a contract since August 2017 and have been in negotiations since March 2017. We urge Provost Cangellaris to accept the GEO’s proposals for a new collective bargaining agreement which preserves graduate employees’ tuition waivers, pays them a living wage, and provides them and their dependents with affordable, accessible healthcare and childcare resources.

Graduate employees perform essential work for UIUC as Teaching and Graduate Assistants. At some point, every undergraduate student is taught by a graduate instructor, and over 2,500 graduate workers on this campus provide invaluable labor. In fact, Illinois ranks 6th in the country among universities where graduate employees teach the most classes. Grad employees make Illinois work.

UIUC administration is attempting to cut the tuition waivers that are an essential part of grad workers’ compensation. They insist on removing protections for tuition waivers that GEO won in 2009, and fought to keep in 2012. They want to give themselves “authority to waive tuition” and the “right to determine and modify tuition waivers for each graduate program,” enabling them to not only cut tuition waivers, but to replace waiver-generating appointments with hourly graduate positions not covered by GEO’s contract. They’ve also recently revealed a plan to legally prevent GEO from striking over tuition waivers, a drastic measure that shows their intent to break the union: by replacing graduate appointments covered by GEO’s contract, the administration would have the power to erode and ultimately eliminate GEO’s bargaining unit.

On top of this, UIUC administration refuses to pay graduate workers a living wage, and refuses to provide health care and child care resources for those with dependents. Teaching and Graduate Assistants making the minimum salary earn about $6,000 less than the University’s own published cost of living and most have not received a raise in five years. The administration is also refusing to provide healthcare coverage for dependents of graduate workers, or a childcare subsidy for graduate worker parents. Without these important benefits, graduate workers will not have financial stability and graduate school will not be equally accessible to everyone.

For these reasons, the GEO has declared that it will strike on February 26th to protect both tuition waivers and its survival.

GSU urges Provost Cangellaris and the University bargaining team to work with GEO to provide graduate employees with a fair contract. If the Graduate Employees’ Organization is forced to strike, we understand that this drastic measure signals the University administration’s unwillingness to resolve negotiations at the bargaining table. GSU will support actions deemed necessary by GEO to protect themselves, undergraduates, and the integrity and quality of education at the University of Illinois. All graduate employees, students, and workers deserve better living, learning, and working conditions.