Are international employees covered by the contract?
Yes, if you are a Teaching Assistant or Graduate Assistant. Research Assistants (RA) are not legally covered by the contract. Although the UIC administration has extended many of the same rights and benefits to RAs, those rights are not guaranteed.
Why should I join the GEO?
As a member, you may vote in elections and on important union matters. Because the GEO is a member-run union, it is as strong as its members. That is why it is important to have as many people sign up as possible. By joining the GEO, you strengthen the union and show support for its mission to provide support to graduate employees.
As an international employee, can I join the GEO?
Absolutely you can join! If you are a teaching assistant or graduate assistant with an appointment between 25% and 67% FTE, you are covered by our contract. Simply sign a yellow card, including your email and phone number so that we can keep you informed about issues the GEO is addressing and how you can get involved.
Does it cost anything to join?
GEO members pay dues in the amount of 2.4% of monthly income. Dues are deducted automatically by payroll. These dues help ensure the union protects graduate employees’ rights and bargains a solid contract. Last time, the union bargained for a pay raise in addition to a percentage contribution to health care fees. The union also has two full-time staff members who can answer your questions and ensure the contract is followed in your workplace.
I am here on an F-1 or J-1 visa; should I be worried about my visa status if I join the union?
No, you should not be worried. It is recognized by international, national, and state law that every person has the right to join a union. As such, there can be no legal ramifications for joining a union, and your visa status cannot be changed because of your union membership.
Can I work off-campus if I have an F-1 visa?
It is generally very difficult to receive permission to work off-campus. International graduate employees may receive permission due to emergency financial hardship (e.g. you came to school with enough savings but due to an unforeseen circumstance, your savings are depleted and you need another job) but this instance is very rare. It’s ultimately very important that, as an international employee on campus, you are part of the GEO. By being a member, you provide strength for your union that fights for the rights of graduate employees and is made stronger by having as many members as possible. With more members standing in solidarity, the GEO can uphold the contract and ensure all graduate employees are treated properly.
What are the major issues currently affecting international employees?
A major issue affecting international employees is tuition waiver taxation. As part of the GEO contract, each GA and TA receives a tuition waiver, which means that they don’t have to pay their tuition. However, the IRS taxes GAs’ tuition waivers because they are “fringe benefits.” Because international employees pay a higher rate for out-of-state tuition, their tuition waivers are taxed more. Tuition differentials have also been a major concern. Some departments, many with a high number of international employees, require additional tuition which is not covered by the tuition waiver; the university claims that this is due to higher operating costs in these departments.
Who do I contact to get involved in GEO?
GEO is run by graduate employees just like you who volunteer their time to help make GEO a strong organization. You can:
Become a departmental steward
Become a member of a GEO committee
Organize a GEO meeting in your department
And much more! Contact your department steward, or email the GEO Steering Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.