Graduate student workers at the University of Illinois have gone on strike after 11 months of unsuccessful talks with administrators on a new contract.
Picket lines started Monday morning on the Urbana-Champaign campus, with a few hundred people gathering for a midday rally. The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports some undergraduate classes were canceled or moved to buildings away from picketing.
Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) leaders assured the crowd they would win a fair contract from the university administration and urged them to remain united in the cause.
State Representative Carol Ammons, an Urbana Democrat, says she supports the GEO’s fight for higher wages and guaranteed tuition waivers for all grad workers. Ammons says she’s also worried a prolonged strike may deter students from attending the state university.
“If we are on strike with our students here at the university it makes it very difficult for a new student to say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna make that my priority,’” she said.
U of I provost Andreas Cangellaris says the administration offered guaranteed waivers for current GEO members, but the administration wants more control over tuition waivers in the future.
“The university wants to continue having the flexibility to consider new professional degrees that respond to needs or trends in the world in terms of specialized education at the post grad level," he said.
The administration’s latest proposal includes increases to the minimum wage and contributions to health plans for workers.
Graduate Employees Organization co-president Gus Wood said daylong talks Sunday with administrators resulted in “absolutely no movement.'' The group represents about 2,700 graduate students who teach many undergraduate classes; the last time they went on strike was 2009.
- Illinois Public Radio's Lee V. Gaines and The Associated Press contributed to this report.