Protest & Press Conference at USF President House
The time to step up is now! We need as many GAs as possible to come out to this event to show USF and the public that we demand a living wage, safe and healthy working conditions, dignity, and respect that we deserve. To ensure social distance, participants will stay in their cars during the event (except for those speaking in the press conference, etc).
Thursday, July 9, 4:00pm – Zoom meeting for all participants to review logistics and answer questions. Link will be sent to those who RSVP.
***Please RSVP if you think you can make it***: usfgau.org/july11
Press release below (article forthcoming):
On Saturday, July 11, 2020, at 3:00 pm, USF Graduate Assistants United (GAU) will hold a press conference in front of USF President Currall’s house on campus in light of the recurring disrespect and neglect of graduate assistants. Following our first bargaining date on January 24, 2020, the USF administration ignored GAU’s emails for months and canceled our March 27 bargaining date even though other universities were bargaining remotely. One-hundred and nineteen days passed between our first and second bargaining sessions. Our contract expires on June 30th, 2020, and the university still refuses to bargain over basic cost of living adjustments, student fee relief, and health care.
USF graduate assistants demand a living wage, safe and healthy working conditions, dignity, and respect that we deserve. According to United Way’s ALICE report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) the annual survival budget for a single adult living in Hillsborough County is $19,128. The current minimum annual stipend for PhD and Masters students is $17,800 and $12,500, respectively. However, this is before student fees. “After paying outrageous semesterly student fees and tuition, my annual income is only $16,200. We already receive stipends that we barely survive on, then on top of that, are required to give nearly 10% of our income back to USF, our employer. It’s embarrassing and a disgrace that the administration puts graduate assistants in this demoralizing position. USF works because we do.” – Samantha Shepard, graduate assistant and PhD student.
In the midst of a global pandemic, USF administration’s bargaining lawyer dismissed concerns about graduate assistants’ precarious financial realities. In the last bargaining session on June 23, graduate assistant and PhD student Kelly Osterman stated, “I personally think it’s not reasonable to expect a person to spend months on end not knowing if they’re going to be able to pay rent.” Dickinson, representing USF administration, responded, “Okay. Well. We just had our disagreement, then. Respectfully so.” We have no confidence in John Dickinson, USF administration’s attorney and chief negotiator, to bargain with graduate assistants in good faith.
Further, the administration’s COVID-19 safety plans are vague and are not being implemented across campus. “Since my building tests for symptoms and/or fever in the entrance, my low grade fever (98-99.8 F from forehead thermometer) was noticed; however since stated I tested negative for COVID-19, I was consistently let into the building despite showing symptoms… I was asked by the testing person whether I am comfortable working with a low-fever, and due to pressure from my department, I continued working. I wish there was more of a leadership decision made by USF and/or departments to keep GAs safe, rather than leaving it up to labs and students, which will almost always lead to GAs facing pressure to perform more work,” stated an Anonymous Graduate Assistant. This graduate assistant asked to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation.
During a global pandemic, graduate assistants are more financially vulnerable than ever. The administration will say they do not have money to pay us a living wage or provide us healthcare, as they do every session. However, USF has 7% in reserve funds. This is a pandemic; this is an emergency. Isn’t this what reserves are for? USF spent $700,000 on a campus fence in the last several years and spent $1 million on a redesign USF Bulls logo that was ultimately discarded but can’t pay the graduate assistants who keep the university running a living wage. Budget cuts should come from the top, not the bottom.
We demand USF to stop stalling and negotiate with their employees in good faith. We demand a living wage, safe and healthy working conditions, dignity, and respect. On July 11 at 3:00pm, we encourage all graduate assistants and members of the public to come to the president’s home and honk their horns in solidarity with the GAU. From USF Alumni Dr. we instruct participants to turn on to USF Sago Dr. honking their horns as they make a left on the side road to exit the premises. (Lifsey House 11820 USF Sago Dr., Tampa, FL 33620). Call (813) 974-2791 to contact President Currall’s office to demand that USF have direct negotiations with the USF-GAU every two weeks via video conference. USF graduate assistants demand dignity and respect.