Rallying to support GEO
ON JULY 19, the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign held a mid-day rally calling for solidarity while they are engaged in negotiations with the school administration.
Members of a number of other unions, including the Service Employees International Union, AFSCME, American Association of University Professors, Campus Faculty Association and United Steelworkers, also attended.
A member of the bargaining team spoke briefly and told the crowd that GEO had to fight just to get the non-discrimination portion of the contract being negotiated to match the language used by the university with respect to students. This member also expressed frustration with the repeated assertions that the university is "out of money," despite the fact that former President Michael Hogan--who was shamed into resignation in March--is currently on paid sabbatical and will return to a job teaching two history courses with a salary of more than $280,000.
The mood at the rally was hopeful, as the GEO speaker told the crowd how demonstrations at the negotiation site were helping to overcome obstacles in negotiations and that this added pressure was helping to fight cutbacks. One organizer from SEIU spoke about how critical it was that the workers organize and work with one another as they go through negotiations this summer, as they are all in it together.
Following the brief but powerful rally, the crowd marched on the administration building and then around the quad chanting, "The U of I isn't broke--it's broken!"
The day before the rally, AFSCME nurses picketed outside of a student medical facility as part of a spontaneous demonstration organized by workers at the job site.
In addition to GEO, AFSCME, SEIU and CFA all have workers in negotiation now or in the very near future at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.