GEO holds Rally for a Living Wage

GEO Holds Rally for a Living Wage Costs of Natural Gas on the rise Costs of Electricity on the rise UIUC administrators’ salaries on the rise Graduate Employee wages frozen! Turn up the heat on Frozen Wages!!! The University of Illinois Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO) held its "Rally for a Living Wage" at the University of Illinois Alma Mater at noon on Wednesday, December 6. The rally encouraged a living wage as part of a timely conclusion to ongoing contract negotiations between the GEO and university administrators, who will meet again on December 13. In the November 29 Daily Illini article entitled "Graduate employees, University continue to negotiate earnings," the administration's lead negotiator, Steve Veazie, said "Graduate students are also getting a fee waiver, $12,500 added to the tuition fee waiver" (Daily Illini, Nov 29), which he classified as "a pretty good deal." By the university's own standards, however, the "good deal" amounts to less than a living wage. The standard minimum stipend for a graduate student-worker is $12,220. The University's Office of Administration and Records estimates graduate level expenses at $13,572. Worse, Mr. Veazie mischaracterizes the university's fee reduction as a "waiver," even though incoming graduate students must pay $1,432 dollars for academic and health fees, as well as a university maintenance assessment, above and beyond the expenses estimated by the university. A graduate student-worker receiving the standard minimum stipend earns $2,784 less than the $15,004 it costs to live, work, and study in Champaign-Urbana for two semesters. For student-workers paying health coverage for spouses and children, or for non-residents whose travel and bureaucratic costs can be higher, the "good deal" amounts to a weak bluff. University administrators have proposed a 2.5 percent raise and an increase of the minimum stipend to $12,586 – well short of the university's own estimated living expenses, which don't include fees. A true living wage would require a 19.2 percent increase. University administrators themselves estimate yearly inflation at 3 percent , which would make their offer of 2.5 percent a net loss of income! The GEO has included a modest wage increase as part of a comprehensive proposal since bargaining began in April of this year. Administrators were not willing to talk about wages or health care until November, three months after the previous contract expired. Late November and early December make up a particularly heavy period for graduate student workers, who are both writing and grading papers non-stop. Nonetheless, the GEO continues to work toward a timely and just conclusion to negotiations. The December 6th "Rally for a Living Wage" was open to the public and attended by members of the GEO, the UI student body, and members of other campus and local unions. 1 2 ### GEO Rally in support of living wages Wednesday, December 6th 2006 12 Noon at the Alma Mater (Green & Wright streets) Article source: GEO press release
Lead negotiator for GEO, Christopher Simeone, speaks before the crowd gathered in front of the UIUC Alma Mater on Dec. 6th, 2006

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