Graduate Workers File Unfair Labor Practice Charge
By Jeff Bossert
Graduate Employees at the University of Illinois have filed an unfair labor practice charge against the U of I, saying tuition waivers have been a cause for concern for about three years.
The Graduate Employees Organization says after a 2-day strike was settled in 2009, university administrators agreed to signing a ‘side letter’ in a new contract, ensuring that tuition waivers would not be changed.
But shortly after that settlement, the GEO says the College of Fine and Applied Arts withheld waivers from many graduate assistants.
Jon Nadler, a local field representative with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, says the problem was originally confined to that department.
"But this year, it's widespread," he said. "It's across many departments, and many of them are union leaders, which has us really concerned because who the grad students elect for participating in their union, and then they're getting singled out for losing their tuition waivers. That's a big concern for us."
This academic year, the union says more than 30 graduate workers in many departments not getting a tuition waiver this semester – and some aren’t receiving their paychecks as a result.
Nadler says the state’s Educational Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing on the matter next month. The recent unfair labor practice charge follows another last year, when Nadler says U of I administrators failed to follow the actions ordered by an arbitrator.
Nadler also alleges the university’s administration is retaliating against the GEO, interfering with the operation of the union. The university’s collective bargaining agreement with the GEO expired August 15th.
UPDATE: University of Illinois spokeswoman Robin Kaler says administrators want more information about the GEO's claims about problems with tuition waivers and paychecks.
But she says there could be a variety of reasons why graduate workers haven’t been paid, including an I-9 Employment Eligibility form that hasn’t been signed.
Kaler says with 5,400 graduate assistance jobs, some of them won’t get processed, but there are procedures in place to correct those issues.
She says the U of I runs pay adjustments weekly with both campus appointments and tuition waivers.
Kaler encourages graduates workers having trouble with the tuition waiver and pay to contact Academic Human Resources.