Graduate Assistants United goes to arbitration with University over health insurance changes

by Taylor Polvadore, Graduate Assistants United

Graduate Assistants United (GAU), the official labor union that represents around 4,000 graduate, teaching, and research assistants at the University of Florida (UF), has decided to take the University to arbitration hearing with an outside neutral body over the unilateral changes it has made to graduate assistant health insurance. These changes were made by the University outside of bargaining and without negotiations with GAU. The changes made by the University included a significant increase in the cost of dependent premiums (a 22.8 percent increase from last year) and an increase in deductibles.

Not only are these unilateral changes a violation of the contract in and of themselves, they represent a significant change to the working conditions of all graduate assistants (GAs). For GAs who earn the minimum stipend of $13,000 for .5 FTE (full-time equivalent for GAs), extending health insurance to their partner and child(ren) will now cost 40% of their annual pay. How can UF expect its graduate students to choose between health insurance for their family and food/ rent?

In July, GAU filed a chapter grievance through the University. Although the University agreed not to change the deductibles for the duration of the 2014–2017 contract, it still refuses to acknowledge that it does not have the right to implement future unilateral changes. The University also refuses to acknowledge that dependent premiums are a bargaining issue and are continuing to implement the dependent premium increase. Consequently, GAU has decided to take the case to a hearing.

The hearing will be held on October 28, 2015. The time and place is still to be determined. Please come support GAU and help us ensure that all UF graduate assistants and their families can continue to have proper, affordable health insurance!

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