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Grad Assistants Strike at U Illinois Chicago

March 20, 2019
 
 

Graduate student assistants at the University of Illinois at Chicago went on strike Tuesday over stalled contract negotiations. “Despite being highly educated professionals providing skilled labor for a multibillion-dollar institution, [campus] grad workers live on the edge of poverty,” the American Federation of Teachers-affiliated graduate student union, Graduate Employees Organization, said in a statement. “Grad workers’ low pay, high fees and often precarious employment negatively impacts their academic progress, professional development and overall health, which only undermines [the university’s] educational and research mission.”

Graduate assistants receive a minimum annual salary of $18,065, plus $13,502 in tuition and fee waivers. The university offered an 11.5 percent minimum pay increase over three years, according to the Chicago Tribune. The union is seeking a 24 percent increase over the same period and more tuition waivers. The Tribune reported that some 200 graduate assistants and supporters staged an on-campus protest over what they described as their lack of a living wage, with some saying they rely on food pantries or other assistance to eat.

Chancellor Michael Amiridis, Provost Susan Poser and Vice Chancellor Robert Barish said in a statement that the “work stoppage is not in the best interest of the university, or our students” and that all “members of the university community will be expected to meet for classes as usual.” During a strike, they said, “the university is committed to continuing normal operations to the fullest extent possible. Students and parents can be assured that educational objectives will be fulfilled, and grades should not be affected.”

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