First, on behalf of all of the USF-GAU leaders, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to all of the new graduate assistants at USF this year! Christy and I attended the Graduate School’s orientation yesterday, and we were really inspired by all of the new energy that the incoming Graduate Assistants have about USF, and about their union! The truth is, there’s a lot to be excited about this year, and the GAU has a lot planned.
Of course, I don’t have to tell you that GA’s are the heart and soul of USF — we teach a large proportion of the courses, and work tirelessly on research grants. You would be hard-pressed to find an undergraduate at USF who hasn’t interacted with a Graduate Assistant during their tenure as a student. We love our work, and USF works because we do!
Last year was a fantastic year for USF-GAU. In bargaining, we secured across-the-board raises, extended healthcare subsidies, and were even able to give GA’s some better parking options. When we ratified our contract re-opener this summer, a record number of you came out to vote unanimously in favor of ratification. USF-GAU is more active than ever, and we have each and every member to thank for our success.
Speaking of members, last year we also saw unprecedented growth in our membership rolls, and we now have a completely full executive board of passionate and effective leaders. Are you a GAU member who wants to get more involved in your union this year? Become a steward and represent your department! Departmental stewards are crucial to protecting the rights of GA’s, and are usually the first point of contact when issues come up.
The growth of our union means that this year we will be tackling even more issues. We’ll be engaged in “full book” barging this year, which means we have the opportunity to make substantial improvements to our contract over and above what we could accomplish with annual contract re-openers. Specifically, this year we will be focusing on extending Family Medical Leave for GA’s. As it stands now, GA’s are only permitted to take 6 days of leave in the event that your or a loved one becomes ill, or when a GA is having a baby. What’s worse, GA’s who take more than 6 days of leave are at risk of losing their health insurance, tuition waiver, and stipends! Can you imagine only taking 6 days to have a baby and, at the end of your stay in the hospital, facing expenses that weren’t covered by our insurance? GA’s deserve at least 6 weeks in the event of an emergency, and they shouldn’t be at risk of losing their tuition waivers or health insurance.
We’ll also be focusing our attention on fee increases for GA’s, which have increased dramatically over the last several years. Moreover, average wages for GA’s haven’t caught up with these fee increases, making the cost of living more and more expensive every single year.
This week and next week GAU representatives will be attending first-year orientations at several different departments across campus. If your department is having an orientation and that you would like us to speak at, please get in touch with us!
Let’s start this semester off the right way! Come to our first social event on Thursday, August 29th from 6-8p. There will be free food and drinks for all (as always!). Please come out, and bring someone with you who isn’t already a GAU member.
I’m looking forward to an active year, and I’m grateful to every single member who supports this union. Make no mistake about it — USF’s continued growth as a top-tier research university is a direct result of our hard work and dedication. We are stronger when we speak with one united voice and as one union!