Dear Unit Member,
There’s a good chance that you’ve never met me, but I’m Jacob Abraham, your Bargaining Chair of UFF-USF-GAU. I am the person responsible for standing up for your rights, needs, and concerns when GAU meets with the University of South Florida representatives to improve the work and living conditions of graduate students employed by the University.
Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time meeting to express our concerns. Not because you haven’t participated – quite the opposite, so many of you filled out our survey to tell us what you need/want! Not because the Union hasn’t done its work – quite the opposite, your peers are doing great work to help fight for you. Not because I’ve fallen off the map and let things slide – quite the opposite, I’ve put in hours of time to make sure I’m prepared to work for you (I have even read through a 200 page Department of Labor Statistic reports to make sure I’m up to speed). Unfortunately, it’s our employer, the University of South Florida, putting roadblocks in our way.
As you may know, the GAU Bargaining Team last met with the USF representatives, led by private lawyer John Dickinson, on October 14th, 2016. We spent more than an hour explaining the following major proposed revisions to our Collective Bargaining Agreement:
- Raising the guaranteed minimum stipend for MAs and PhDs to $13,000
- Securing 100% coverage on health insurance premiums
- Adding dental coverage to the health insurance package
- Alleviating the burden of fees
- Extending the unpaid leave time from 6 to 16 weeks
You can find the direct language of our proposals at: https://www.usfgau.org/
Following the October 14th meeting, the University representatives proposed meeting again on November 22nd, 2016 at 11AM. We looked forward to continue bargaining, and were led to believe that USF would provide us a counter proposal prior to meeting in person. In preparation for the presumed November 22nd meeting the GAU Bargaining Team put together a series of potential ideas for how to proceed in these negotiations with whatever the University’s counter-proposal might entail, in addition to further justifying our initial proposals, expecting in good faith to continue our conversation. We are prepared to meet.
On Wednesday, November 16th, I emailed everyone on the USF Administrative Bargaining Team to confirm our November 22nd meeting.
While on campus Friday November 19th, I finally received a response. The first of two emails from the lawyer, John Dickinson, requested I call him, half an hour later, before I had even seen the first email, he emailed to inform me the University would need to reschedule.
This request to reschedule is within the University’s rights; however, for me, it is problematic. The attempt on our part to ensure bargaining meetings do not run too close to the end of the semester, where so many of us are dealing with the crunch time of papers, grading, research, and other deadlines, is vital.
The request to reschedule will make it harder for all of you to attend the next bargaining meeting. Rest assured, I will always be prepared on your behalf, as will the rest of the GAU Bargaining Team.
I finally was able to speak with John Dickinson on the phone, where he explained that USF is not yet prepared to offer their counter proposal. I asked for clarification and was given no response as to why the counterproposal is yet to be finalized. Our bargaining sessions are the only ones still on the University’s plate; bargaining with the staff and faculty unions were approved by the Board of Trustees in October. You can find the results of those bargaining sessions at: http://system.usf.edu/board-
I reminded the lawyer this was the second year in a row where the University has necessitated the rescheduling of a bargaining meeting into the time period between Thanksgiving and Finals week. You can read the details of last years rescheduling here: https://www.usfgau.org/
I am still optimistic we will succeed in bargaining and do so expediently and in our best interest. Hopefully we will hear back from USF and their lawyer soon. I have already proposed we reschedule the meeting no later than a week from the previously set time.
I will keep you posted. Thank you for your time and patience as GAU works to secure the best Collective Bargaining Agreement possible.
Jacob Abraham, M.A.
University of South Florida- Tampa
Graduate Teaching Associate, Doctoral Candidate
UFF USF GAU Bargaining Chair