State

Voting continues on deal between U of Illinois, teaching assistants

Members and supporters of the Graduate Employees Organization occupy the area outside of the University of Illinois president's office on Tuesday, March 6, on the U of I campus in Urbana.
Members and supporters of the Graduate Employees Organization occupy the area outside of the University of Illinois president's office on Tuesday, March 6, on the U of I campus in Urbana.

URBANA – Striking University of Illinois graduate assistants held another day of voting Friday on whether to approve a tentative contract agreement with the school.

A tentative deal between the school and the Graduate Employees Organization members was announced Thursday morning after a marathon overnight bargaining session that lasted 26 hours from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning. A two-day ratification vote for union members began Thursday and continued into Friday afternoon.

The five-year contract would include three years of wage increases, expanded health coverage and guaranteed tuition waivers for any teaching assistant or graduate assistant, union leaders said. University officials said they wouldn't comment on the agreement details until all union members heard from their negotiators and voted on the contract.

"We got our two biggest priorities related to addressing financial stability and guaranteed tuition waivers," GEO co-president Gus Wood said. "We are super excited about that."

Provost Andreas Cangellaris said both sides were "fully engaged, very careful and diligent in their conversations." He said he thinks the deal is "a fair agreement."

The union represents about 2,700 teaching assistants and administrative graduate assistants. The strike started Feb. 26 after nearly a year of unsuccessful negotiations. The walkout forced the cancellation of several hundred classes. Instructors moved hundreds of other classes to buildings away from the school's Quad so students and faculty didn't have to cross picket lines.

Picketing was suspended about 11 a.m. Thursday when the deal was announced. If the contract is ratified, the teaching assistants will return to work Monday. If it isn't, the strike will continue.

The university's board of trustees would need to approve the contract if union members ratify it, school officials said. They are next scheduled to meet March 15.

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