Dear fellow Graduate Assistants,
I am writing to let you know that our negotiations with USF have come to a close. As your USF-GAU Bargaining Chair I began this years collective bargaining process all the way back in May 2016 and have worked to secure the best contract for you possible. Given your input from the survey we conduct at the beginning of the Fall 2016 Semester, the experience of past years, and insight from our affiliates at FEA we designed a series of proposals that we felt were fair, reasonable, and necessary.
Or campaign began with a proposal that reopened Articles 10, 12, and 23 of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). These sections of our CBA pertain to Appointments and Leave, Fees and Tuition, and Stipends.
With regard to stipends, we initially fought to increase mandatory minimum stipends for MA and PhD students to be $13,000 across the unit. In addition, we requested a $500 bonus to every GA, a proposal that was disappointingly rebuked and refused by the University’s bargaining team. Our goal was to alleviate pay inequality and improve the take-home pay for everyone. The lofty goals we set paid off in regard to stipends. While unable to secure the universal $13,000 rate of the $500 bonuses, we were able to push the University to, instead, create a three year plan that raise the MA minimum stipends each year from the current $10,540, to $11,045, $11,850, and $12,500 by Fall 2019. We were able to push the University to create a three year plan that raise the PhD minimum stipends each year from the current $12,600, to $14,500, $16,080, and $17,830 by Fall 2019. These increases guarantee that graduate student minimum stipend will increases at rates anywhere between two and five times the rates even the faculty were able to negotiated. This indicates a powerful appreciation for our work as a unit. The impact you have on the University is unparalleled and the raises USF is offering are indicative of your efforts.
It was also GAU’s goal to return to previous language that guaranteed 100% coverage for health insurance premiums. I’m pleased to report that current USF negotiations indicate that next year’s health insurance premiums for GA will remain fully covered by USF. Multiple proposals were made from our end to improve the contract in a manner that would give us more leeway in futures years, in case health insurance costs skyrocket. Given the current climate in Washington DC it’s hard to predict what will happen with insurance costs and USF was unwilling to budge.
In our initial meeting with the USF Bargaining team issues regarding the existing release time allocated to GAU were discussed. I’m pleased to report that GAU secured the continuation of our release time appointments. If you are interested in being designated for units of release time please contact the GAU President.
For an additional year GAU bargained for fee relief, and yet again the University refuses to alleviate the serious burden of fees. In prior years USF deferred the discussion of fee relief due to ongoing legislative proceedings in the Florida Legislature, this year no justification was offered. Instead, we agreed that USF should provide every GA with improved access to USF’s resources for fee calculation. This agreement was not substantiated in the CBA, but the USF bargaining team, most importantly represented by the Associate Vice President of Human Resources and Assistant Dean of the Office of Graduate Studies, was entirely supportive of including the aforementioned information to GAs each time they are given an appointment letter.
Please keep an eye out in the coming weeks as GAU works to arrange a ratification vote. Bargaining is completed, but the agreement is temporary until the unit votes to ratify it. I firmly believe that there is no better proposal we can bargain for at this point in time. I encourage you to ask your peers who attended bargaining session for their perspective of the events. I would also like to extend a sincere thanks to those who attended any of our three bargaining sessions, you witnessed first hand the contentious and complicated nature of bargaining sessions.
It has been a pleasure to serve you as Bargaining Chair, and I while I would love to continue to fight on your behalf my time at USF is nearing an end with impending graduation. I wish for the best for my fellow GAs, regardless of degree you pursue, your field of research, or our type of assistantship. You all provide vital service to USF, and without you this institution would crumble. I hope the next Bargaining Chair finds as much joy as I have while serving you.
With love and in solidarity,
Jacob Abraham, M.A.
University of South Florida- Tampa
Graduate Teaching Associate, Doctoral Candidate
UFF USF GAU Bargaining Chair