University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) graduate workers got a boost on their sixth day of striking from 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“I say to UIC: Sit down at the bargaining table. Negotiate in good faith. Pay your workers a living wage,” Sanders said in a tweet expressing his solidarity with striking workers.
More than 1,500 teaching assistants went on strike last Tuesday, bringing the university’s regular operations to a standstill with classes needing to be canceled or held online.
Jeff Schuhrke, co-president of the UIC Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) and a Ph.D. candidate in labor history, said the group wants to resolve the conflicts before it has an effect on students’ ability to finish their semester or graduate, but that the university has not budged in a dispute over rising student fees.
“We met two times since the strike started, and their position has not changed,” Schuhrke said. “They’re behaving recklessly at this point.”
According to Schuhrke, the university has been willing to negotiate over wages and health care, but will not discuss the fees. A statement on the university’s website says “the University remains willing to address the fee issues within its wage and health care proposals.”
Graduate employees receive a minimum $18,065 salary for two semesters of 20-hour work weeks, plus $13,502 in tuition and fee waivers. The union is asking for a 24 percent increase, and the university is offering an 11.5 percent increase.
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