22, No. 11, Dec. 6, 2002
Graduate students OK unionization
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; email@example.com
In a landmark election,
eligible graduate assistants and graduate teaching assistants on the
Urbana campus voted in favor of union representation.
In a 1,188-347 decision, graduate students elected the Graduate Employees’
Organization (GEO/IFT/AFT/AFL-CIO) as their collective bargaining representative.
An additional 85 votes were cast that were excluded from the final tally
because the voters’ names were not on the eligible voters list
composed of graduate assistants and graduate teaching assistants for
the fall 2002 semester.
Approximately 2,800 graduate assistants and graduate teaching assistants
were eligible to cast ballots in the election, which was run by the
Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) and was held Dec.
3 at the Illini Union and Dec. 4 at Assembly Hall.
"I am glad that so many graduate assistants chose to vote in such
an important election," Chancellor Nancy Cantor said. "The
completion of this election is an important step. We look forward to
working with our students through their elected bargaining agent to
move forward in our common effort to enhance the graduate experience
Although GEO President Rosemary Braun said the timing of the election
was not optimal for many students, the GEO was pleased with voter turnout,
the running of the election and its outcome.
The GEO had requested that the IELRB postpone the election until the
spring semester on the premise that some graduate students might be
too busy preparing for the end of the semester to take time to vote.
Braun said, however, that the union supporters made a "very hard,
concerted effort" to contact all eligible voters in order to answer
their questions and help voters make informed choices.
The next step will be for the university and the GEO to develop proposals
and begin contract negotiations.
The GEO is surveying grads to determine the fundamental issues affecting
their constituents as they formulate contract proposals, Braun said.
Preliminary results, however, indicate that among graduate students’
chief concerns are compensation, class sizes and health-care benefits
with coverage for dependents and prescription drugs.