We, the members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), are committed to the principles of participatory democracy. Thus, as graduate employees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (“the University”), we claim the right to participate in making decisions that affect our lives. This can only mean our bona fide representation in University governance. Formal recognition of the work of graduate employees generates due respect for our work and, moreover, ensures better working conditions for all of us. This can only enable the University in successfully fulfilling its mission, namely, to provide quality higher education. We envisage a working and learning environment at this University that is democratic, inclusive, non-discriminatory, and above all, just. We shall do everything in our power to materialize this vision.
In keeping with these basic principles, we give to ourselves and to future graduate employees this Constitution.
Article I: Name
The name of this organization shall be the Graduate Employees’ Organization, or in short GEO (“The Union”).
Article II: Objectives of the GEO
Organizing: To empower graduate employees on the job and within the wider University community.
Collective Representation and Bargaining: To act as the representative for graduate employees in negotiations with the University administration and any other relevant body over terms and conditions of employment.
Education: To promote quality instruction and research at the University.
Community: To foster a sense of community among graduate employees from all departments and backgrounds.
Cooperation and Social Justice: To cooperate with other working people on campus and beyond in order to promote social justice.
Article III: Membership
Any person employed by the University in a bargaining unit for which the union is the recognized bargaining agent is eligible to be a member of the union. Any person formerly employed in such a bargaining unit and expecting re-employment within one year is eligible for membership.
All graduate students at the University are eligible for membership in the union.
All officers, duly elected, shall be eligible for membership, for the academic year in which they hold office, by virtue of their election.
Members shall remain in good standing by paying regular dues to the union and by complying with directives of the union. The by-laws will specify dues. Officers must remain members in good standing of the GEO in order to retain their position.
No eligible person shall be denied membership. All members in good standing will have equal rights and privileges under this constitution.
Article IV: Organizational Structure
The GEO is a representative body, and its structure shall reflect the democratic values on which it is based. Members shall suffer no impairment of freedom of speech concerning the operations of the GEO. Active discussion of GEO affairs shall be encouraged and protected within the GEO.
The Coordinating Committee is the executive body of the union. Between meetings of the CC officers shall exercise such powers as are granted to them by this constitution or by the CC.
The Stewards Council shall exercise oversight of the Coordinating Committee, shall advise the CC, and may refer any action (or lack of action) or decision by the CC or an officer to a membership meeting.
Subject to this constitution, the by-laws of the GEO, and other decisions approved by ballot as laid out in Article VI, membership meetings, as regulated by article V, shall be the supreme decision making body of the union.
Members shall have the right to full participation in the decision-making process, through discussion and voting, and shall receive due notice of membership meetings and have access to any information necessary for the exercise of this right.
The enumeration in this constitution of certain roles or powers for a body or officer shall not prevent that body or officer from holding other roles or powers not so enumerated.
Article V: Membership Meetings
Regular membership meetings shall be held at least once during each of the fall and spring academic semesters.
Membership meetings shall be run in accordance with such rules of procedure (‘standing orders’) as may be specified in the union by-laws from time to time.
Any member may have any matter placed on the agenda either before the meeting or, by making a motion (subject to a vote), at the meeting, as regulated by standing orders, except where restricted by this constitution or by law. At any meeting, members shall have the right to make a motion on any topic being considered by the meeting.
Progressive Stack procedure may be evoked during any meeting.
Article VI: Ballots, Elections, and Referenda
Officer elections, and votes on contracts or to authorize industrial action shall be by secret ballot, and shall be called by the Coordinating Committee. Membership may also vote to have any issue put to such a ballot by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting at a membership meeting.
Ballots shall be free, fair, and democratic, and shall be operated by the elections committee. The election committee, in setting procedure, shall adhere to any directions from the Stewards Council, and to the following provisions:
Written notice of officer elections will be mailed and emailed to all members at their home addresses no less than 15 days before that election.
The GEO will comply with all reasonable requests of any election candidate to distribute by mail or otherwise, at the candidate’s expense, campaign literature in aid of such person’s candidacy to all members in good standing.
The GEO will not promote the candidacy of any particular candidate in an election
Each member in good standing shall be entitled to an equal number of votes.
Provision will be made for candidates to have observers at the polling place and the counting of ballots.
Voting will take place for at least eight hours on each of two consecutive days.
Ballots and all other records pertaining to officer elections shall be preserved for one year.
The conduct of elections shall be consistent with all relevant laws, including, in particular, the standards for such elections developed under Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).
The by-laws will specify the voting system to be used.
If no re-appointment process is initiated to temporarily fill a vacant officership, as specified under Article VII.5, an election to fill such vacancy must be held within 30 days of the vacancy arising, except when vacancies occur after the end of winter semester or before fall semester of the academic year. In these cases, the 30 day window begins the first day of classes. If such process is initiated, an election must be held within 90 days of the vacancy arising.
All elected officials of the GEO may be recalled, subject to the conditions and procedures listed below.
Any member in good standing may circulate a petition requesting recall of a particular officer. Anyone desiring to recall more than one officer must circulate a petition for each officer s/he seeks to recall.
A petition that has received official endorsement from at least 10% of all members in good standing may then be submitted directly to any member of the Coordinating Committee or to one of the Stewards’ Chairs.
All action pertaining to a petition to recall and all action regarding sustaining recall shall be conducted at a special meeting of the membership called for that purpose. This meeting shall occur no more than two weeks after receipt of a petition to recall and membership shall receive due notice of the meeting.
Voting shall be in secret. Two-thirds of members present and voting are required to support the motion to recall in order for it to succeed.
Article VII: Officers
1. The officers of the GEO shall consist of two Co-Presidents, a Treasurer, a Communications Officer, a Grievance Officer, a Solidarity Officer, and up to three Officers-at-Large.
2. Officers shall be elected by a vote of the membership during the Spring semester, and serve until the elections in the following Spring semester. No person shall hold the same office for more than two (2) consecutive terms.
3. All members shall be eligible to run for and hold office, except that regular employees of the GEO, the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), or the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) may not become officers of the GEO. This section does not preclude the union from deciding to pay a stipend or wage to any officer. Any such wage must be approved by the membership at a membership meeting.
Article VIII: Officers’ Duties
Co-Presidents shall preside over meetings of the Coordinating Committee.
Co-Presidents shall make periodic reports to the membership regarding the state of the GEO.
Co-Presidents shall act as or designate a member or members in good standing to act as liaisons with affiliated organizations or any other relevant body.
The Co-Presidents shall nominate the chairpersons of Membership Meetings.
Co-Presidents shall meet regularly with staff to coordinate staff activities.
Co-Presidents may divide these duties as they see fit, but shall share responsibilities equally.
Co-Presidents may also assist the Treasurer in their duties by also signing checks on behalf of GEO.
The Treasurer shall be responsible for the accounts of the GEO. They shall receive and receipt for all monies of the GEO. They shall prepare checks for the payment of all liabilities of the GEO that are for purposes authorized or required by this constitution or authorized by the membership and none other. They shall sign all checks so prepared.
Any two members in good standing may run as a team to serve as Treasurer. As with all other shared officer positions, this team would share one vote in the Coordinating Committee.
Members shall have the right to a full and clear accounting of all GEO funds. Such accounting shall include, but not be limited to, periodic reports to the membership by the treasurer.
The Treasurer can call a Finance Committee to assist them in their work.
The Treasurer shall make regular reports to the Membership, and make the financial records of the GEO available for annual audit by officers selected for that purpose or by independent auditors not otherwise connected with the GEO. The membership shall have access to the financial records of the GEO in a manner specified by the by-laws.
Article IX: Committees
The Coordinating Committee
The Coordinating Committee will consist of the Officers and up to three Stewards elected by the Stewards Council.
A quorum of six voting members is necessary to conduct business. Definition of quorum subject to by-laws.
Coordinating Committee meetings will be open to the membership to attend on a non-voting basis.
The Coordinating Committee shall carry on the day-to-day functions of the union as directed by the membership.
The Coordinating Committee shall make recommendations to the membership for consideration and action.
In the course of carrying out the directives of the membership, the Coordinating Committee may authorize expenditures for organizing materials, office equipment and supplies, and other items necessary for the operation of the union.
The Stewards Council will consist of those stewards appointed by departments as laid out in Article X.
The Stewards Council shall develop and promote organizing and educational programs for Stewards and the membership.
The Stewards Council shall elect two or more of its members as Co-Chairs who may, but need not be, among the stewards appointed to the Coordinating Committee. The Co-Chairs will be responsible for ensuring the smooth operation of the Stewards Council.
The Stewards Council shall meet at least 3 times in each of the fall and spring academic semesters.
The Stewards Council may write its own by-laws to govern its internal operations.
The Communications Committee
The Primary responsibility of the Communications Committee will be the instigation and maintenance of all external communications, i.e. with the press and with the public at large.
The Communications Committee will be chaired by the Communications Officer(s) and its membership should include at least one Officer-at-Large. All other committee members will be drawn from the general membership by whatever means are deemed appropriate by the Coordinating Committee.
The Personnel Committee
The Primary responsibility of the Personnel Committee is the hiring and firing of all Union staff. Hiring procedures shall in no way discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, citizenship, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, marital/parental status, native language or dialect, disability, international or local organization affiliation, or status as a veteran.
The Personnel Committee will also be responsible for establishing all terms of Union staff employment, including, but not limited to, wages and benefits.
The Coordinating Committee will convene the Personnel Committee as the need arises. Its membership will include three people elected by the Stewards Council, one member of the current staff – except when conflict of interest makes such inclusion inappropriate – and the two Co-Presidents who will serve as co-chairs of the committee.
In the event that the GEO staff chooses to unionize, the Personnel Committee, will act as the contract bargaining committee and will work with the staff to establish and renew employee contracts.
The Grievance Committee
The Primary responsibility of the Grievance Committee is the handling of grievances between the employer and employees in any bargaining unit represented by the union.
The Grievance Officer(s) shall chair the Grievance Committee.
The other members shall be appointed by the Coordinating Committee, subject to approval by the Coordinating Committee. Terms of appointment shall be as determined by the Stewards Council.
The General Membership and Constitution of the GEO recognize that active cooperation between the GEO, other unions, and groups engaged in the struggle for social justice is vital to the organizing mission of the Union and the welfare of its community.
The primary responsibilities of the Solidarity Committee are to: engage in activities and seek out opportunities to promote the social justice mission of the GEO; determine the allocation of “solidarity” funds as approved by the General Membership in GEO fiscal year budgets and in accordance with the constitutional objectives of the GEO; work with the Coordinating Committee, the Stewards Council, and the general membership on endorsements; work with the Steward’s Council and Coordinating Committee to ensure that the GEO maintains active and mutually supportive relationships with local, state, national and international labor organizations; and to generally engage in activities to promote the social justice mission of the GEO in cooperation with and support of local, state, national, and international struggles for social justice, including but not limited to economic, racial, gender, and sexual justice.
The Solidarity Officer(s) shall chair the Solidarity Committee.
The other members shall be appointed by the Coordinating Committee. Terms of appointment shall be as determined by the Solidarity Committee in their bylaws.
A quorum of four Solidarity Committee members who are also members of the GEO is necessary to: allocate “solidarity” funds as approved by the General Membership in GEO fiscal year budgets; write Solidarity Committee by-laws.
The Solidarity Committee may write its own by-laws to govern its internal operations.
The Stewards Council shall appoint and convene, as and when necessary, an Election Committee to conduct elections and secret ballots. The Election Committee shall be responsible for publicizing elections, taking nominations, and overseeing voting and vote counting. Officers and candidates may not sit on the Election Committee in the case of Officer elections.
Strike committees shall be appointed prior to any industrial action undertaken by the GEO.
The membership of a strike committee shall be declared in the motion approving the taking of such action, and shall include the members of the Coordinating Committee. Members of a strike committee are subject to recall in the same manner as an officer of the union.
Strike committees shall assume executive control of such aspects of union activity, including powers delegated by this constitution to the SC and CC, as are deemed necessary for the successful operation of the action. Such powers may be enumerated in the motion appointing the committee, or may be delegated by a later motion, or by a decision of the SC or CC as appropriate.
Members shall follow the directions of the strike committee in the operation of the strike.
Ad hoc committees may be appointed as the need arises, under such terms as the Coordinating Committee, Stewards Council or other appointing body shall determine, and the powers and duties of such body may be delegated to such committee, except where such delegation is prohibited by this constitution.
Committee Membership: The meetings of all GEO committees are open to all union membership. If you would like to have voting rights on the committee, procedures for formally joining will be established in the bylaws of each committee.
Article X: Stewards
Departments shall select Stewards who will coordinate organizing within departments, participate in union-wide organizing and education, and handle grievances of members within departments.
The Stewards Council may, from time to time, issue guidelines as to how stewards should be selected (including definition of departments and grouping as appropriate or useful) and governing departmental representation in the Stewards Council, including outlining procedures for removal of stewards where necessary. Such guidelines will be subject to approval and/or amendment at the general membership meeting following the adoption of the guidelines.
Guidelines for the selection of Stewards shall not infringe any Department’s right to exercise democratic control over the selection and removal, and method of selection and removal, of that Department’s Stewards.
Article XI: Contracts
The union may enter into a contract or other agreement covering the terms and conditions of employment of its membership, or part of its membership.
At such times as the union decides to enter negotiations with the University regarding a potential contract or other agreement, the union will form a bargaining team to undertake such negotiations. Members of the bargaining team will be members in good standing, and shall include at least one of the Co-Presidents, two representatives chosen by the Stewards’ Council, and one member-at-large chosen by the membership at a membership meeting. Other members may be appointed by the Coordinating Committee, subject to the approval of the Stewards Council, or be elected by the Stewards Council or the membership following a decision by that body. Additional members may be appointed by these various bodies from time to time.
Members of the bargaining team are subject to recall in the same manner as officers of the union. When a contract is successfully agreed and approved by the GEO membership the committee shall be dissolved.
Any contract or agreement negotiated by the bargaining team must be ratified by the membership in ballot as outlined in Article VI. Eligible voters shall be those members in good standing. A simple majority of votes cast by eligible members shall be required to ratify a contract or other agreement with the University.
The union may not negotiate, nor enter into a contract or agreement, with the University covering academic practices and policies as they relate to graduate employees in their capacity as students, salary maximums, or limitations on employees’ rights to choose the time and manner of their work.
Article XII: Work Action
A ballot of the membership, as outlined in Article VI, will be necessary to authorize work action.
Such motion will vest authority in the strike committee to initiate the action, and to suspend the work action pending a vote to end the action.
Work action may be ended by a simple majority of votes cast by eligible members at a meeting called for that purpose by the Strike Committee overseeing the action. Such meeting shall be called by the Strike Committee upon its own initiative or upon receipt of a petition signed by 10% of the members in good standing involved in the action. The Strike Committee need not consent to hold a meeting in response to such a petition within seven days of the start of the action, or within seven days of the last such meeting. The time and place of the meeting will be widely publicized to the membership.
Only members in good standing who hold current employment may vote on a motion to initiate or terminate work action.
Article XIII: Affiliation
The GEO shall be affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations.
The treasurer shall transmit necessary membership dues to all organizations with which the GEO is affiliated.
Article XIV: Amendment
Any member or members seeking to amend the constitution shall present in writing a copy of the proposed amendment to a member of the Coordinating Committee no less than 10 days prior to the meeting at which they wish the amendment to be considered. The Coordinating Committee shall immediately be notified of such proposed amendment and it shall be published and placed on the agenda for the membership meeting no less than 7 days before the meeting.
If a majority of members attending and voting at the membership meeting vote in favor of the proposed amendment it shall be put to a ballot as outlined in article VI.
Article XV: By-laws
The union may write by-laws to this constitution.
All changes to the by-laws must be voted on at a Membership Meeting. Proposed changes to the by-laws shall be placed on the agenda for the membership meeting no less than 7 days before the meeting.
A simple majority of those attending the Membership Meeting shall be necessary to amend the by-laws.
Amendment to Article VII: Officers
4. Any two members in good standing may run as a team to the positions of Communications Officer, Grievance Officer, or Solidarity Officer. Teams elected for these positions will share a single vote, decided through consensus, in the CC.
If one of the members that ran as a team is unable to fulfil their responsibilities, the remaining member can continue to fulfil their elected position. The remaining officer, if they choose, may select choose to another member to fill the role as defined in Section 5b. The replacing officer will help with fulfilling the duties of the officer for the committee. The original officer can choose to either hold the voting power themselves or place their vote, through consensus.
Processes for re-appointing Officers:
If a currently elected Treasurer, Officer-at-Large, or Co-president is unable to fulfil their responsibilities, they may suggest that someone else fill the role. The CC will then hold a meeting to appoint, via a vote, a member in good standing to fill the position, taking the recommendation of the current officer into account. Officers appointed in this manner will serve primarily to fill the duties of the position; they will not have voting rights on the CC.
If a currently elected Grievance Officer, Solidarity Officer, or Communication Officer is unable to fulfill their responsibilities, the officer may convene a meeting of their respective committee to determine who could suitably fill the role. The committee will then nominate a member in good standing subject to approval by the SC. The new officer will serve primarily as the chair for the committee and will not have voting rights on the CC.
If any officer wishes for reappointment under (a) or (b), the CC should inform the general membership, at least one week in advance before the committee for whom the member will serve as leader will vote on unelected officers. The communication should contain detailed information about the positions to be filled, about candidates, and about member’s right to attend the committee meeting in which voting takes place.
Amendment to Article VI: Ballots, Elections, and Referenda
3. An election to fill a vacant officership must be held within 25 days of the vacancy arising.
3. If no re-appointment process is initiated to temporarily fill a vacant officership, as specified under Article VII.5, an election to fill such vacancy must be held within 30 days of the vacancy arising, except when vacancies occur during after the end of winter semester or before fall semester of the academic year. In these cases, the 30 day window begins the first day of classes. If such process is initiated, an election must be held within 90 days of the vacancy arising.
Amending Article VI: Ballots, Elections, and Referenda, replacing Section 1 with the following language: “Any vote requiring the general membership may be performed in-person or through a secure online voting platform, and shall be called and decided on by the Coordinating Committee. Membership may also vote to have any issue put to such a ballot by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting at a membership meeting.”