Strike by UIC teaching assistants enters third week

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CHICAGO — A strike by graduate and teaching assistants at the University of Illinois at Chicago has entered its third week.

The Graduate Employees’ Union, which represents nearly 1,600 graduate student workers, went on strike March 19. The union has been without a contract since September; negotiations over spring break were unsuccessful.

Right now, graduate workers are paid a minimum of $18,000 for two semesters. They also receive $13,502 in tuition and fee waivers — for a total school year compensation of just over $31,000.

The university has offered an 11.5 percent pay increase over three years. The union wants a 24 percent pay bump in that same time span, plus more tuition waivers.

It’s something graduate workers said is desperately needed.

“I think it’s very clear these are people who are showing up to the institution, doing their labor and being compensated, so they’re employees,” Illinois state Rep. Will Guzzardi said. “The fact that state law doesn’t recognize them as employees is an error in the law, and we have to fix that.”

On Monday, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which has also been on strike for nearly a month, joined graduate students in a rally on campus. The orchestra will host a free concert in Pilsen at the Benito Juarez Performing Arts Center on Monday night.

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