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23 January

Bargaining Update #16: Happy Anniversary?

Bargaining Update #16: January 21st, 2016 Negotiation Session

Happy Anniversary? Today, January 23rd, officially marks one full year in contract negotiations. While we’ve been going at this for what seems like forever, we are making considerable progress and, if all goes well, the end will be in sight soon. The negotiating team is still going strong and remains focused and determined. As always, we need you to stay energized and engaged to keep this process moving forward. Talk to your friends about negotiations. Hook up with the Contract Action Team. Share this update on Facebook. Write an op-ed. Hire a sky writer.  Help us to help you get the contract you deserve!

On to business. Thursday’s negotiation session was full of energy with both sides truly looking for the best possible solutions to the proposals on the agenda. Thursday’s agenda included part-time parity, evaluations, pay periods, and materials and resources. Here’s the latest wrap-up.

 

Part-Time Parity

We all know about the financial inequality facing part-time Graduate Assistants. As it stands, half-time assistants are automatically billed tuition for a full-time course load regardless of how many credits they are registered for. They then receive a half-tuition waiver. This means a part-time Graduate Assistant enrolled in 6 credits is disproportionately charged full time tuition, leaving them poorer than if they hadn’t taken an assistantship in the first place. In addition, they do not receive a 20% student fee waiver, nor do they receive a parking pass fee waiver. In short, part-time Graduate Assistants are left out of their fair share of benefits to the tune of thousands of dollars.

Update: This issue is being looked into by many parties, under the direction of Dean Zawia. We’ll report back with any progress as we learn more.

 

Performance Evaluations

As you may recall, we signed a tentative agreement in a previous session clarifying that GAs should receive a written evaluation regarding their job performance each year.  We still need to agree as to whether a direct observation needs to be part of the evaluation process, as our contract currently states.

 

Pay periods

As it currently stands, we are paid for 36 out of 38 weeks, with two weeks of unpaid vacation over the winter break, divided into 18 pay periods over the course of the academic year. In practice, we receive a paycheck over the winter break, but we do not receive a “final” paycheck in the spring to account for the unpaid vacation time during winter break. However, we learned last week that 18 pay periods appear to be the best possible arrangement at this time, as adding a pay period would result in you losing money due to federal taxes. We expect the administration to draft clear language to be included in offer letters to articulate this up front for all Grad Assistants at the start of their contract.

Update: The administration provided drafted language to clearly state when you will receive your final paycheck and to explain how pay periods work. We also worked together to add language to offer letters to announce that student fees can be paid via the newly created “deferment plan,” which allows Graduate Assistants to pay their student fees in installments over the semester rather than all at once. These changes will appear in next year’s appointment letters.

 

Materials and Resources

We are looking to add a new article regarding the provision of proper resources and space to Graduate Assistants so you can do your job effectively. We have drafted language that states Graduate Assistants can expect to have adequate office space/lab space, appropriate supplies, access to a copier, etc. As far as we know, Graduate Assistants are not regularly lacking lab or office supplies or being prohibited from accessing the copy machine (if this IS happening in your department, please let us know immediately!), but we would like to see this right clearly identified in the contract. It is good for Graduate Assistants to know what they can expect in terms of departmental workspace, materials and resources to support their work, and it is good for departments to know what is expected of them. We would also like to see a sentence in the contract that states Graduate Asssitants will not be required to pay for lab or office supplies needed for their job out of their own pocket. This will continue to be discussed in future sessions.


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