Illinois grad assistants strike to get union rights

Associated Press

URBANA, Ill. — Graduate assistants went on strike at the University of Illinois to protest the administration’s refusal to recognize them as employees with the right to unionize.

The first-ever work stoppage at the Urbana-Champaign campus began with about 50 teaching assistants marching and waving handmade signs that read "No Union, No Teach" and "The U of I works because we do."

The Graduate Employees Organization voted earlier to hold a two-day strike starting Wednesday as part of their fight to form a union for about 5,200 graduate student employees.

"There is going to be more of this, longer strikes and bigger demonstrations, until we are recognized by the administration," said Dave Kamper, a union organizer. "This will not stop."

The organization asked teaching assistants in five of the school’s main buildings to cancel classes and halt all teaching duties for two days, including grading papers, holding office hours and preparing class work.

It was not known how many teaching assistants participated. There are about 500 graduate employees who teach in the buildings, and Kamper said at least two-thirds had agreed to join the strike.

The Illinois House passed a resolution Tuesday urging the university to respect the right of graduate employees to organize and bargain collectively. On campus, several faculty members either canceled classes or held them off-campus to show their support.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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