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.

Let Your Views Be Known NOW in Our Bargaining Survey

 

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On the morning of February 23, 2018 executive vice-provost David Nirenberg sent out an email to the UChicago community announcing what he termed a “collective self-study” in the coming months meant to “sustain and improve the possibilities for graduate student life, education, and research.”

It seems the message elicited some skepticism. Perhaps because there was no clear timeline, nor discussion of accountability or decision-making authority. Perhaps because we’ve seen other such inquiries come and go with miminal change. And perhaps because the message came from someone who publicly testified, less than a year ago, that “in a class of 19, having someone grading is not a relief to me” (see pages 202-203 of the May 19th transcripts of last year’s NLRB hearing).

But we agree with Dr. Nirenberg that our views as graduate students (and as university employees) are important. If you think so too, you don’t need to wait for the admin’s process to begin. GSU’s bargaining priorities survey is already underway, and it stays open until Friday, March 1. If you are a graduate employee on this campus and haven’t received an email about it yet, you can request a secure, confidential survey link here.

You can let your concerns be known RIGHT NOW–and we’re pretty confident that we ask questions that the administration would rather avoid.

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.

GSU Statement on the Stephen Bannon Invitation

We, at GSU, are writing to express our opposition to the proposed Stephen Bannon “debate” at the University of Chicago. By approving the invitation to Bannon, the university confirms its disregard for the emotional and material well being of its student population. Bannon, whose career has been fueled by racist, anti-semitic, Islamophobic, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, and white supremacist politics, has no place at our university. It is in particularly bad faith for the university to invoke and defend Bannon’s right to freedom of expression when his white supremacist ideology and policies have already diminished the freedom of women, people of color and marginalized populations. Following on the heels of an aggressive proliferation of anti-union propaganda, the administration’s decision to grant Bannon a platform fuels a growing sense that it is committed to a perverted conception of freedom: where “freedom” in fact signifies the right of the administration to exclude the voices of the student population. Furthermore, the invitation to Bannon demonstrates a reckless lack of consideration for the larger community in which the University of Chicago is situated. Granting Bannon an outlet betrays the university’s espoused commitment to nurturing a diverse environment.

GSU endorses UofC Resists, UChicago YDSA, UChicago Socialists-ISO, and Reparations at UChicago in their ongoing organizing against the Bannon event. We believe that providing Bannon a platform contradicts the values of democracy and tolerance that the university claims to support, and for which GSU will continue to struggle.

How We’ll Win Our Contract

Colleagues,

In October, graduate workers at the University of Chicago made history: we voted 1103-479 to demand that the university recognize our union, Graduate Students United (GSU). In the months since, the University of Chicago administration has refused to respect the results of that election and begin bargaining a contract. They have made clear in recent public statements that they intend to continue their appeal to the Trump-controlled National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and seek to overturn the board’s 2016 Columbia decision that recognized graduate workers across the country as what we are: employees.

Today, Graduate Students United withdrew our certificate of representation granted by the NLRB in order to prevent the University of Chicago from using the Trump Administration to overturn the Columbia precedent. This decision was made by a vote of members at our weekly open organizing committee meeting, based on concerns that a review of our case was imminent. Just today, the University administration filed a letter with the NLRB asking that “The Board should grant Chicago’s RFR [Request for Review], reverse the Regional Director’s decision and overrule Columbia.”

This action became necessary because of developments at the national level. Since taking office, Donald Trump has appointed two new members to the five-member NLRB. These appointees moved quickly to undo a number of pro-worker decisions that were made under the Obama administration. This week the U.S. Senate is advancing the confirmation of his third appointment, John Ring; at the same time, the UChicago administration argued today against the recusal of Trump appointee Marvin Kaplan (whose wife works for Columbia University) from presiding over cases related to the Columbia precedent in a naked attempt to strip graduate workers of our rights. We believe that these new NLRB appointees will overturn the Columbia precedent, meaning that it could take years for graduate workers to regain their legal status as employees even after a new president appoints a new board. It’s clear that the Trump appointees don’t have the best interests of workers like us at heart, and therefore we plan to pursue alternate pathways toward winning recognition and a contract.

To be very clear: Graduate Students United is still a union, and we look forward to meeting the UChicago administration at the bargaining table. The University of Chicago and other universities are using the NLRB as a vehicle to deny our rights and not respect our vote, our win, and our demand to bargain. In response, GSU is joining graduate unions at other institutions who have withdrawn from the NLRB process and are instead demanding recognition directly from their universities. Many unions across the country have reached private agreements with their employers independent from the NLRB. Through our organizing, GSU has built the power to wage a campaign to win such an agreement. Our union has the support of a supermajority of graduate employees at UChicago, whose work is necessary for the university to function.

We live in a moment when we all must do our part to fight back against the powerful interests that are working to undermine democracy. Accordingly, we cannot allow the Trump administration and UChicago to set an anti-democratic and anti-worker legal precedent for the entire country. However, we are equally determined to not allow Zimmer and Diermeier to ignore the results of our election, and we will continue to campaign until they recognize our decision and come to the table.

We are moving forward with our efforts to build our local in partnership with our affiliates, AFT/IFT/AAUP. In the coming weeks, we will hold officer elections and continue the process of setting up our union organization. If you are a member, we will be reaching out soon with more specific information about how to get involved in these processes. If you are not yet a member, sign a membership card today or reach out and we can answer any questions you have.

A union is a group of workers acting collectively to better their working conditions. Together, we will win recognition and a union contract that guarantees living wages, quality healthcare, and fair treatment for all graduate workers at UChicago.