GEO Local 6300 IFT/AFT AFL-CIO at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Janus vs. AFSCME FAQ, Senate Bill for RA/PGA unionization and more!


***May 27th, 2018***

Table of Contents:

  • FAQ on Janus vs. AFSCME

  • Senate Bill 2546 & RA/PGA Testimonials

  • Back Pay and Raises - How to Inquire

  • Staff Evaluations

  • Connect with GEO


FAQ on Janus vs. AFSCME

Janus vs. AFSCME is a Supreme Court case that could affect the fate of all public sector employee unions in the United States. A decision on this case could come as early as Tuesday, May 29th, so here are some FAQ on it. This case could significantly affect our union so please make it a priority to give these a read.

What is this case about?

Janus vs. AFSCME is a case that originated in Illinois and was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in the current session. Mark Janus is a state employee represented by AFSCME (in the Bargaining Unit) but is not a member of the union so he pays Fair Share Fees. He alleges that all activity by a public sector union is inherently political so the requirement for him to pay dues to AFSCME to bargain and enforce his contract violates his First Amendment rights. A decision will come down by the end of June 2018. You can read more about this case in this piece by UIUC professor Dan Gilbert. Here are some definitions in case you're not familiar with the jargon:

  • Bargaining Unit: TAs or GAs covered by the contract

  • Card-signed member: Has signed a GEO membership card (may or may not be in the bargaining unit)

  • Fair share fee payer: non-card-signed TAs/GAs that pay fees equivalent to normal union dues to cover the cost of collective bargaining and contract enforcement. In return, WE must represent them in bargaining and grievances.

  • Right to work: Laws that prohibit unions from requiring employees covered by the protections of the contract to join the union or pay union dues.

If the case is against AFSCME why would it affect the GEO?

At issue is several decades of case law that govern all public sector unions (including GEO). If the U.S. Supreme Court makes it illegal to collect fees from non-members who benefit from GEO's collective bargaining agreement (TAs and GAs), it could seriously hurt GEO's ability to organize strong bargaining campaigns and legally enforce our contract through our grievance procedure (like the one we just had to provide a much needed raise to the grad employee pay, and the ongoing grievances to ensure that everyone is being paid properly). These kinds of laws are called Right-to-Work laws and have a long and racist history. Bargaining collectively and pursuing grievances requires money and a decision that results in the loss of all Fair Share Fees would be a worst-case scenario that reduces GEO’s budget by up to 50%. There could be compromises that merely restrict the use of Fair Share Fees, similar to the U.S. Supreme Court case Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education (1977), which is the current precedent in this matter. The new decision will be the federal precedent for all public sector employee unions in the United States. You can read the case proceedings in detail here.

What can we do to maintain a strong GEO no matter the decision in the Janus case?

  • Organize, organize, organize! Tell other graduate employees about the benefits of a strong union (here is a great summary and an informative podcast!). Tell them why you are a proud union member, and ask them to sign up as a member as well. 

  • GEO will form a new bargaining team to bargain the impact of the changes to the law to our contract. Any member is eligible for election to the bargaining team. Please tell us if you’re interested!

We will release more FAQs on how GEO dues benefit grad employees, what benefits GEO (and unions in general) have won over the years, and the history of Right-to-Work laws. Stay tuned!



Senate Bill 2546 is current being debated in the Illinois State Legislature. This bill would amend the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act to allow all graduate employees to unionize. This would allow RAs and PGAs to organize as part of a union. Such organization would allow for RAs and PGAs to have the following benefits, among others:

  • A greater say in negotiations involving wages, healthcare, and other essential benefits of employment

  • The ability to more directly address overwork

  • Access to union grievance procedures.

Most importantly, RAs and PGAs are workers! We believe that they should be allowed to unionize just as TAs and most GAs are.

The final action deadline for Senate Bill 2546 is this Thursday, May 31st. We encourage members to attend this this legislative session in Springfield so that lawmakers can feel the presence and see the human face of graduate labor as they consider this bill. We are also looking for more RA and PGA testimonials to highlight on social media in the days leading up to the final debate. If you are an RA and PGA, tell us why being able to unionize is important for you! Email if you’d like to share your story.



The GEO Grievance Committee is currently compiling a list of members who have reported not seeing pay raises and/or backpay in their May paychecks. The contract stipulates that eligibility for back pay and/or pay raises in the first year of the contract is determined on the basis of belonging to the Bargaining Unit (TAs and GAs) at the time the contract was executed—April 2, 2018.

According to grievance procedure, the committee has sent University HR a list of names asking for clarification on these issues and will be responding to emails as quickly as possible.

If you are unsure of your eligibility, or believe that you are owed a raise and/or back pay for your assistantship(s), please email and include: (1) your appointment letter(s) from the past academic year, (2) your May NESSIE statement, and (3) tell us whether you were “reappointed" in Spring 2018. Reappointed, according to the language in the contract, means that assistants held "the same job in the same unit [department] as the assistant held in the previous semester (summer excluded) or within the three previous academic years."



GEO needs your input for our staff evaluations! Your feedback helps elected GEO Officers (who are members) make informed decisions about personnel matters, and it helps GEO staff understand the needs and interests of members.

Please help us by sharing your opinions and feedback on this form!




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In Solidarity,

Graduate Employees’ Organization

809 S. 5th St., Geneva Room

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: 217-344-8283



This is a newsletter for members about our recent news and events. The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), IFT/AFT local 6300, AFL-CIO, is a member-run labor union and represents Teaching and Graduate Assistants (TAs and GAs) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  

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