International GA Strike FAQ
International GAs and the StrikeWhat is GA United?
As well as being SIUC graduate students all TAs, Administrative GAs, and RAs are also SIUC EMPLOYEES. GA United is the labor union that represents all GAs at SIUC- regardless of immigration status. Every few years GAU members, who are GAs like yourself, sit down with the university and bargain a contract that covers your working conditions at SIUC. This contract gives GAs at SIUC guaranteed minimum stipends, tuition scholarships, and ensures that GAs cannot be fired after a disagreement with their supervisor/professor etc.
What are the issues that GAU is fighting for?
GA United has been bargaining its second contract with the SIUC administration since Spring 2010. Our main goals have been to improve health insurance (including coverage for spouses, dependents, and pre-existing conditions) and to address the issue of skyrocketing fees. For more than a year the university has said NO to these.
Why is GAU considering going on strike?
After more than 450 days without a new contract, GAU members voted on the 30th September to authorize the GAU bargaining team to call a strike should no progress be made during negotiations. We hoped that sending a strong sign like that would bring some movement at the bargaining table. Unfortunately our contract is still not settled and a strike seems likely. Going on strike may be the only way we can force the SIUC administration to provide quality health insurance and end fees that take us months of hard work to pay.
Can I participate in a legal strike as an International GA?
Yes you can! It is illegal for the university to take away your assistantship, your tuition scholarship or cause you to lose your student visa. More information about your rights as an international GA can be found here: http://siucunions.wordpress.com/strike-faqs/.
Why is the university threatening to take away our waivers/stipends if we strike?
The university is hoping to scare GAs into not participating in a strike. It’s very unlikely that they would actually take away your waiver but they want you to think that they will. The university does have a right to not pay you for the days you don’t work but it must prove that you were on strike. Contrary to the emails sent out by the Chancellor you can only lose pay for the time they can prove you didn’t work- e.g. your scheduled teaching and office hours, not for the whole month. GAU will try very hard to negotiate a “back to work settlement” that would include make up pay for those who participated.
Will my professor get angry with me if I strike?
You are not striking against your professor, but against the administration’s resistance to provide quality health insurance and address skyrocketing fees. The Faculty are also engaged in their own labor dispute and chances are your professor will also be striking. During the strike you still have to make a good faith attempt to go to class, as jeopardizing your student status may put your visa at risk. If your supervisor does try to put pressure on you to work please let GAU know immediately.
Can I participate in a strike as a non-member?
Yes you can! Nevertheless only dues-paying members would be eligible for any strike loans that become available and get to vote on a “back to work settlement”. Only TAs, RAs, and Administrative GAs can legally strike. Those on Fellowship can join GAU but, because it’s not clear if GAU legally represents them, are strongly cautioned against participating in a work- stoppage.
Will GAU help me legally if I get into trouble?
Certainly! Punishing GAs for participation in union activity is illegal, according to both state and federal law. GAU will aggressively defend (free of charge) any GA who faces any retaliation, whether they are a dues paying member or not. GAU has access to a number of labor lawyers who have experience in using all legal means to protect union members.
Why should I join GAU?
Having a strong GA union at SIUC guarantees good working (and learning) conditions for GAs. Membership is voluntary but without dues-paying membership there can be no union. Joining GAU now sends a strong signal to the university that GAs are tired of paying more and more every year in fees and being offered inadequate health insurance (no prescription, no dental, no vision, and no coverage for their families). Membership is $20/month for 10 months. This pays for (free) legal services, full-time staff assistance with contract bargaining, and helps building GAU.
How can I help make a strike successful?
We don’t know how long a strike will last but strikes in Higher Education are usually of short duration. In order to make it successful we need as many GAs as possible to participate (members and non- members of GAU). That means not performing any of your assistantship duties- teaching classes, answering emails from students, running experiments or doing your AA duties etc. You will, if classes are still being taught, have to attend classes so that you remain “in status” as a student. During the strike we are asking that people come picket, phonebank other GAs and even help out in the four- union strike headquarters.