University of Illinois at Chicago Teaching Assistants Strike for What Should Have Been Theirs: A Livable Wage

(Photo Credit: UIC GEO Facebook Page)

By Alfonso Gonsalez

With the support of over 1,500 graduate and teaching assistants, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) graduate students began their strike on March 19 in hopes of reaching an agreement on a new contract. While performing many tasks in their everyday routines as teaching assistants, many individuals felt as though they were not being compensated well enough for the actual amount of work they do. Along these lines, TAs also had to pay the university fees that took up a large sum of the money they were being paid for their work, leaving them with little to no money for themselves.

Living and working within one of the largest cities in the U.S. is not something that comes at a cheap cost, and because of this, many individuals that are teaching assistants at UIC have to find other forms of employment to support their educational path.

(Photo Credit: UIC GEO Twitter Page)

Due to the lack of compensation and constant increase in university fees, became the birth of the March 19 UIC TA strike that was not taken lightly by university officials.  “A more comprehensive communication will be forthcoming outlining in more detail what the University has offered and what the GEO demands.“  stated UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis, in a statement released to the university in regards to the strike and assured students and faculty that progress was being made.

While his statement may have been written to ease the worry of students and staff as they wondered when they would return to their classes, the strike would last an overall three-week period. During this time, many UIC staff members stood in solidarity with their fellow colleagues of TAs and did not cross the picket-lines to show their support for this cause. This strike did not only receive attention from local city media outlets, it also caught the attention of the U.S. 2020 hopeful candidate, Bernie Sanders.

In a tweet published on March 25th, 2019, Bernie writes “I say to UIC: Sit down at the bargaining table. Negotiate in good faith. Pay your workers a living wage.” With this tweet creating a lot of media attention and pressure on UIC, how is it possible that outside individuals see the worth and dedication of teaching assistants but their own employers do not? At the time of this editorial being written, as the end of one strike for the UIC campus comes to a close, the assumed strike of the tenure UIC professors was expected to soon follow but was avoided before things became chaotic , making the spring semester of 2019, for UIC a costly and memorable one.