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

Solidarity Statements and Press Releases

External Communications

GEO Stands in Solidarity with the UAW

The Graduate Employees’ Organization at UIUC (IFT/AFT Local 6300) expresses our support and solidarity with the United Auto Workers (UAW), as their strike against General Motors (GM) enters its second week. With nearly 50,000 workers on picket lines across 19 states, this massive mobilization is the result of committed, dynamic organizing and the firm resolve of the UAW rank and file to get their fair share of GM’s record-breaking profits--which were made off the backs of its employees. The UAW’s demands include fair wage increases, better working conditions and job security, better healthcare premium payments, and an end to a tiered wage system that GM has used to prevent newer and temporary employees--who do the exact same jobs as senior employees--from being fairly compensated for their labor and advancing within the company. These workers, or as GM prefers to call them, “in-progression” workers, have been employed by the company since 2007, and some of the temp workers have been there for up to five years. 

GM’s first response to these demands was to cutoff healthcare for the strikers, forcing the UAW to provide temporary insurance coverage for its members. The fact that GM would resort to this inhumane measure is proof of two things: 1) GM does not care about the well-being of its employees. This act demonstrates that the company does not intend to bargain in good faith with the UAW, nor do they care about maintaining an amicable relationship with the workers represented by the union. GM clearly prioritizes its profit margin over the people that make the company run day to day. 2) GM is woefully out of touch with the political climate in the U.S., as skyrocketing healthcare costs and the odious debt it causes is consistently a top concern for voters. This is a severe public relations misstep, to put it lightly. 

GM claims to have given the UAW “a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways.” This claim flies in the face of the company’s actions since its bankruptcy in 2009 and subsequent government bailout, during which the UAW agreed to make serious concessions, such as wage-freezes and the tiered wage structure, to help stabilize the company. Since the bailout, GM has closed several of its U.S plants, and has outsourced many of their operations to Mexico and China. This has deprived thousands of workers of their livelihoods, and forced others to accept the company-imposed wage stagnation, making it extremely hard for them to keep up with the rising costs of living. This trend has only continued; just last November, GM announced it would close up to five factories in the US and Canada, cutting more than 14,000 jobs. Currently, GM is offering strikers a 4% raise over four years. This is a pittance considering the company has made $35 billion in profits over the last three years from its North American operations alone! Not to mention that GM’s CEO, Mary Barra, took home nearly 22 million last year, which is 281 times what a median GM employee makes. Finally, let’s not forget that GM’s “strong offer” was made only two hours before the previous contract with the UAW was set to expire. 

It’s high time that billion-dollar companies like GM start giving workers their fair share of the profits. The ongoing strike by the courageous members of the UAW--who are putting their bodies on the line to hold pickets and are risking arrest--is sending a clear message: they will no longer settle for the crumbs that fall from the overflowing plates of GM’s executives. As graduate workers who labor under administrators who also make enormously bloated salaries while we scrape by on poverty-wages, we empathize with the plight of the workers at GM. We stand in solidarity with them as they march on GM plants across the country. Even though we labor in classrooms and offices and they on the factory floor and assembly line, our struggle is a shared one. It is a struggle for the rights of the many against the avarice of the few; it is a struggle to preserve and enhance human dignity in the face of appalling austerity and rampant exploitation. Simply put, it is a struggle of the workers against the bosses. 

We know that the UAW does not have an easy road ahead of them, and its members are already dealing with the disruption that a strike causes in their daily lives. But we also know that the American labor movement has renewed wind in its sails, and that our cause is a righteous one. We know that the workers united can never be defeated.

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2,700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. In November 2009 and in February 2018, over 1,000 GEO members and allies participated in a strike to secure a fair contract and more accessible UIUC campus. With an active presence in the community, the GEO continues to work for high-quality and accessible public education in Illinois.

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