From 11:30 a.m. until midnight today, bargaining teams from the University and the Graduate Employees’ Organization will make one final effort to reach an agreement on a new contract for graduate student instructors before their contract exprires and a planned two-day walkout starts tomorrow.

Negotiations between the University and GEO, the union that represents about 1,700 University GSIs, have been rocky since November. The most contentious issues still on the table are salary increases and improved health care coverage for GSIs in the three-year contract.

History GSI Colleen Woods, the lead negotiator for GEO, said the only way to avoid a walkout would be for both sides to agree on the GEO’s core contract demands, which include a first-year salary increase, expanded health care coverage, wage parity for low-fraction GSIs and a more flexible child care subsidy.

“There needs to be significant movement to our positions,” Woods said. “And in the past week, there hasn’t been.”

In a strike vote Tuesday, more than 80 percent of the union’s 900 members voted to support the proposed two-day walkout if a deal is not reached by the end of bargaining tonight.

“Essentially what the strike vote indicated is that unless we reach the strike platform by the end of our contract, then GSIs will be stopping work on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Woods said.

The University’s bargaining team, though, maintains that a work stoppage is unnecessary.

“We don’t see that there’s a need for it,” said Jeff Frumkin, the University’s senior director of Academic Human Resources. “The parties are continuing to make progress.”

According to a GEO statement released Saturday, the University’s bargaining team failed to present new proposals at three of the four negotiating sessions held last week.

In the case of a walkout, Woods said, “we’ll ask GSIs to not do any of the work that they do for the University, which includes teaching section, grading, meeting with students, holding office hours, anything like that.”

Instead, GSIs would be on picket lines outside of the University’s major buildings on Central and North Campuses.

Woods and Patrick O’Mahen, a GEO spokesman, said more than 500 graduate students are currently signed up to picket. That total doesn’t include other members of the community, such as faculty members or undergraduates whom GEO officials hope will join the picket line.

“We ask that people respect the picket line,” O’Mahen said. “We ask faculty to not teach class and undergraduates to not go to class.”

But O’Mahen made sure to point out that members of the picket line will not harass those faculty members and undergraduates who cross the picket line.

“We are not going to be intimidating people who do cross the picket line,” O’Mahen said. “We understand that people have complex issues to deal with.”

Woods said that any student or professor who goes to class on campus during the walkout will be crossing a picket line.

Frumkin said “interrupting teaching is unfair to the students,” and that “the University will be engaged in trying to resolve the issues with GEO tomorrow.”

Although they remain opposed to it, University officials have begun to make preparations for the walkout. Frumkin said that the University, through the Provost’s office, contacted the deans last week about the walkout. He also said that deans of some schools and colleges have released statements to their employees, saying that “they expect people to go to class.”

Bonnie Halloran, president of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization, which represents non tenure-track faculty at the University, said officials in her union have not encouraged LEO members to do one thing or another.

“We haven’t given specific directions to anyone,” Halloran said.

Halloran also said her union is committed to solidarity with GEO because lecturers owe a lot to the graduate students who help teach their classes.

“We have a very strong relationship with GEO,” Halloran said. “We’ve rented space off campus if lecturers want to hold classes and not cross the picket line.”

“It is all up to each individual lecturer,” she added.

Woods said that although GEO’s bargaining team doesn’t have any official negotiating sessions planned with the University tomorrow and Wednesday, it is open to negotiating so long as the talks take place in buildings that don’t force them to cross the picket line.

Frumkin said that the University’s negotiating team has also “indicated” that it would negotiate during the walkout.

O’Mahen said that a one- or two-day walkout has been commonplace throughout the last 15 years for GEO, which twice extended its current contract’s expiration date past its initial date of March 1 to allow the bargaining team more time to negotiate.

GEO members held short walk-outs in 1993, 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2005. The last time GEO members went on a general strike was in 1975, when they were negotiating their first unionized contract with the University.

GEO negotiates a new contract with the University every three years.

“The University doesn’t take us seriously until we do (hold a walkout) for some reason,” O’Mahen said. “We have extended our deadline twice and we negotiated for four months before planning the walkout.”

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