Subject: Grad Employees Stage Sit-In
Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 17:00:18 -0600 (CST)

Graduate Employees Organization Demands
Recognition of the Right to Union Representation

CHAMPAIGN/URBANA - - Demanding that university leaders meet with them,
fifty graduate employees, along with supporters from the faculty, student
government, local clergy and others from the Champaign-Urbana community
occupied the offices of the Board of Trustees at 3pm today.  Graduate
employees and their supporters sat down on the floors of offices inside
the building, while many others rallied outside the Henry Administration

Co-President of the Graduate Employees Organization Storm Heter
said, "The University has left us with few options.  Graduate employees
have demonstrated time and again their desire to choose their own
representatives.  President Stukel and Chancellor Aiken refuse to meet
with our union, and they have refused to allow union members to serve on
university committees dealing with employment issues."  Added Heter, "With
this kind of record, it is no surprise that graduate employees feel they
need a union."

In 1996, over 3,200 graduate employees requested a union
representation election.  The following year, GEO won an election by a 64
percent margin.  In 1999, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a
bill granting graduate employees union rights.  The bill died in the
Senate without a floor vote due to the vigorous opposition of the
university administration.  This month, a referendum sponsored by the
Illinois Student Government supporting graduate employee unionization
passed by a 77 percent margin.

The University of Illinois employs 5,000 graduate employees who
teach classes, perform administrative functions, advise students, grade
papers and conduct research.  Without a union, graduate employees have no
input into university policies related to their employment and are unable
to negotiate salaries and benefits.  For most graduate employees, their
university salary is their only source of income, many support families on
their university paycheck, and most international graduate employees are
barred by visa restrictions from taking on any other employment.

Illinois labor law is ambiguous about the status of graduate
employees.  However, in most other states, graduate employees have the
right to form unions.  Graduate employees are represented by unions at the
University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, University of Kansas,
University of Oregon, Oregon State, University of California, Wayne State,
State University of New York, City University of New York, University of
Iowa and Rutgers, to name only a few.  A decision yesterday by the
National Labor Relations Board affirmed the right of Teaching Assistants
to unionize in the private sector.  There are organizing drives underway
at Yale and New York University.

GEO Spokesperson Theresa Ferguson said, "Some people will say a
sit-in is a throwback to the 1960s.  But they're wrong, this is
reminiscent of the 1930s.  Just as workers in the 1930s had to stage "sit
down" strikes to get their employers to recognize the right to unionize,
we find it necessary to occupy our employer's place of business to get
their attention."

GEO is an affiliate of the 80,000 -member Illinois Federation of
Teachers and its national organization, the million-member American
Federation of Teachers.  AFT represents more higher education faculty and
graduate employees than any other union.

forwarded by:
Daniel F. Vukovich
Dept. of English; The Unit for Criticism
University of Illinois
Urbana, IL 61801

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