Victory for Graduate Assistants United

by John Hames, GAU Co-President

Graduate Assistants United (GAU), the labor union representing all UF graduate assistants (GAs), continues to fight for the rights of those it represents. By initiating a public campaign against fees and standing up to the administration at the negotiating table, GAU has made significant gains on behalf of GAs in 2014.

At times, this year’s negotiations were tense. As GAU and the administration neared impasse over the issue of healthcare premiums and fees, the administration offered a 1 percent raise for all GAs and an increase in the minimum stipend from $11,000 to $12,000. Considering the significant increase in state funding for UF, GAU regarded this proposal as highly inadequate.

Led by chief negotiator Luis Caraballo-Burgos, a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department, GAU won a better offer consisting of a 3.25 percent raise for all GAs and an increase in the minimum stipend from $11,000 to $13,000.

Earlier this year, GAU held a major rally against fees with an impressive turnout of over 100 supporters. The event helped raise public awareness about the burden of fees on GAs. Though the administration refused to consider GAU’s arguments for ending fees, GAU succeeded in winning contract language acknowledging, for the first time, that fees are subject to negotiation by GAU. This is an important first step in ending fees.

GAU needs the participation of all graduate assistants, as well as the general public, in its campaign against fees. Some graduate assistants pay as much as $9,000 in fees during their graduate careers, which can be especially burdensome on GAs with families.

The university has also significantly increased healthcare premiums for the enrollment of spouses and dependents of graduate assistants, another burden that pushes many GAs below the poverty line.

GAU urges Iguana readers to participate in its campaigns on these issues during the new Academic Year.

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