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ISU Graduate Workers Union Requests Mediation

Illinois State offers over 100 different graduate programs and has nearly 3,000 graduate students.

Illinois State University’s Graduate Workers Union has asked for a state labor mediator to step in to what it calls stalled negotiations on a contract.

Negotiations began in October 2019. The union said ISU took more than 14 months to respond to its initial offer. Now, the union has requested mediation from the Illinois Labor Relations Board.

“If ISU has something to offer us that actually addresses the severe crises TAs face—that ISU creates with low stipends, poor benefits, and high fees—we are ready and willing to hear it. But until that time, we have nothing for ISU except the notice that we request that the Labor Board impose mediation at this time,” the union said in a press release.

“We’re hoping to get in as soon as possible and to not interrupt our bargaining schedule,” added graduate assistant Steven Lazaroff, a Ph.D. student in the Department of English. “This is not a delay tactic on our part. If anything, this is an attempt on our part to put a stop on the delaying tactics that ISU has been employing.”

Graduate assistant Trevor Rickerd said what ISU has offered is not much more than compliance with the state’s minimum wage laws.

“If we had no negotiations, if we continue negotiating, if we settle on a contract right now as they’ve offered it really would not change anything,” said Rickerd. “So what they are doing is offering us the status quo as if it is negotiating.”

Rickerd and Lazaroff said the discussions are not just about money.

“We wanted to provide discrimination protections for workers based on certain classifications,” said Rickerd. “One of the classes which we wanted to have protected was on the basis of immigration status.”

Rickerd said there have been instances of supervisors discriminating against workers, specifically teaching assistants, on the basis of their citizenship status.

“In those instances, when those kinds of discriminations have happened, there has been no consequence for those superiors,” said Rickerd.

ISU spokesperson Eric Jome said negotiations are an internal matter, the details of which are better addressed at the bargaining table than through a public forum.

“Illinois State University would like to state that it disagrees with recent characterizations made by the Graduate Workers Union about ISU and the overall bargaining process. We respect the union’s right to request mediation and will continue to work with the Union in good faith, through the mediation process,” said Jome. “We remain optimistic that the parties will be able to reach an agreement that balances the interests of the graduate teaching assistants and the university.”

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