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.
GAU is making moves. After a successful “Spring Broke” Rally on March 13, we’ve kept up the pressure on administration by directing our action towards the Board of Trustees.
On Thursday April 2, the first day of their meetings, our co-presidents Kevin Funk and John Hames did an excellent job representing Graduate Assistants during the public comment portion of Board of Trustees Meeting. They spoke eloquently about the issues GA’s at UF face, due to the impact of having to pay fees, and made a strong case for why UF should provide Fee Relief as a way of reaching our collective goal of making UF a Top 10 research institution. Several trustees approached them afterwards to congratulate them on their presentation.
The next day, we held a tabling event called, “A seat at GAU’s Table” outside of Emerson Hall, as the second day of meetings continued to invite trustees to join us in crafting a collective solution to improve the lives of GA’s. We believe the easiest way to achieve this would be to provide us with Fee relief. Simply put, this would alleviate the financial burden (average of $1,400 a year) for many GA’s who are already struggling to make ends meet. We’ve made our voices heard, now it is up to the University of Florida to join in the conversation and propose a meaningful solution to improve the working conditions of some of the hardest working members of the Gator Nation.
By: Kevin Funk, Co-President, Graduate Assistants United (GAU)
Every semester, the University of Florida’s 4,000 graduate, teaching, and research assistants are responsible for paying exorbitant university fees. This spring 2015 semester, most of us will pay around $700 back to our employer. For many, this is more than the amount of their biweekly paycheck.
That the university would charge its graduate assistants such a significant amount in fees—hundreds of dollars higher per semester on average than its peer institutions—is especially ironic given the recent campaign, which Graduate Assistants United (GAU) supports, to turn the University of Florida into a Top 10 public research institution.