23 Apr

Bargaining Update #5

The Negotiating Committee met with the administration for a productive round of contract negotiations this week. A wide variety of issues were covered, but one particularly enlightening outcome from the conversation included clarification of the University’s stance on external employment.

Before  negotiations began, GAU polled our members to determine our bargaining priorities. One of the biggest concerns of our members revolved around protecting the right for Grad Assistants to hold external employment to supplement their stipends. While we haven’t yet reached an agreement with the administration regarding what form that protection will take, the Vice Provost of Academic Finances and Academic Personnel made it explicitly clear that the University, the graduate school, faculty members and/or their departments do not have the right to restrict domestic students from seeking employment outside of the university. (Please note: International students remain restricted from seeking employment beyond what is permitted by their visa.)

The implication of this declaration by the administration is difficult to overstate. Many of you have been pressured to not seek jobs outside the University without risking your funding. A number of our members have had their assistantship withheld when it came to light that they were working a second job. Others have been told that they need to quit their second job to be eligible for an assistantship.  The Vice Provost made it clear: this practice is a fundamental violation of your rights.

If you have experienced this yourself, we need to hear from you. The administration has expressed a willingness to combat this issue, though they have expressed hesitation in codifying this right in your contract. We need your help to press the administration to secure that right in writing. In the meantime, we intend to seek immediate resolution for students who feel they are being prevented from seeking additional work to help pay their living expenses. You have the right to pay your bills and to make adult decisions about how to support yourself and your family without first needing to seek permission to do so from URI.

31 Mar

Bargaining Update #4

During today’s meeting, we began discussing the addition of a new clause to our contract that explicitly permits domestic Graduate Assistants to have a second job outside of the university. As you know, many Graduate Assistants on campus have been told that they cannot hold an additional job while they are working here at URI. This is simply untrue for domestic students, and goes against established policy here at the university. In fact, the Administration expressed that action has been taken in the past when departments have tried to limit students’ right to work outside of the University.  We are asking the administration to be crystal clear in their policy on external employment by codifying your right to work a second job in our contract. We look forward to making progress on this essential issue.

We also revisited the academic freedom clause where graduate assistants are incorrectly labeled as “apprentices” as well as our proposal to extend the grievance timeline to better accommodate the needs of our members. The Administration will be drafting alternative language for the academic freedom clause to reflect the dual role of Graduate Assistants as both students and employees which we hope to examine during our next negotiating session.

As far as the grievance procedure, the Administration has suggested that GAU provide members with additional resources such as the “Discrimination Complaint Procedures” from the office of Affirmative Action to alleviate our concerns that the grievance reporting window is too narrow for those who have suffered egregious offenses such as sexual and gender harassment in the workplace. This particular policy allows 365 days for victims to come forward and file a complaint with the university. We will continue to discuss how to best address our concerns regarding access to the grievance process so that you are protected from abuse in the workplace.

Our next negotiating session will take place on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 1:30pm.
06 Mar

Bargaining Update #3

Contract Action Team Meeting Reminder:

The CAT is going strong, and will be meeting on Wednesday, March 11 at 5pm in Swan 201 to discuss our plan of action to address the administration’s proposal to charge you more in student fees. We need to move forward, not backward, on student fees. We want to hear from you, so please make every effort to attend.

Bargaining Update

The Negotiating Committee addressed three main issues during negotiations with the administration on Thursday: the grievance procedure, “unofficial assistantships” and language changes to the academic freedom clause of our contract.

GAU has proposed that the administration extend the initial filing deadline for a grievance from 15 to 90 days. It is our position that Graduate Assistants should have more time to report concerns regarding working conditions that violate the contract. Furthermore, we feel that the contract should spell out any additional avenues a Graduate Assistant may pursue to address concerns regarding particularly egregious offenses, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, or retaliatory behavior. The administration’s reception to this proposal was lukewarm at best. Our proposal remains open and will be discussed further in subsequent bargaining sessions.

“Unofficial” Assistantships
We have proposed that the administration incorporate any graduate students performing the duties of a Graduate Assistant into our bargaining unit, as any person working as a Graduate Assistant should be entitled to the benefits we have under our contract. We determined that this issue will best be addressed as an independent contract clause in future negotiations rather than as a part of the Recognition clause as originally proposed.

Academic Freedom: “Apprentice” language
We have proposed that the word “apprentice” be struck from the academic freedom clause of our contract, as it does not accurately describe the position of all Graduate Assistants at URI and is inconsistent with language in other graduate assistant contracts. Our discussion was robust and remains open for further discussion.

Next up

Our next negotiating session will be on Thursday, March 12 at 11 AM. We will continue to discuss the issues above and also begin what we anticipate will be an extensive discussion about your right to have a job outside of the university.

26 Feb

Bargaining Update #2

First of all, thank you to so many of you who wore your buttons in a show of solidarity while we were in negotiations yesterday! We wore our buttons to yesterday’s meeting, and even offered buttons to the administration’s negotiating team.

As many of you know, yesterday (Feb. 24th) was our second session of negotiations. We finished presenting our initial proposals, including our proposal to raise stipends to $20,000 by 2017.

We also received the administration’s proposals which will be examined closely in the coming weeks and discussed at length in future updates. We’d like to bring your attention to one proposal, however, in regards to student fees. The administration has proposed that full time Grad Assistants pay more in student fees by reducing the 20% fee waiver you currently receive to 10%. This would result in you paying an additional $144.20 of your stipend (on top of the $1153.60 you already pay) back to URI.

Join us at the next Contract Action Team (CAT) meeting on ThursdayMarch 5th at 5:00pm in CBLS 100 to discuss the administration’s proposals and how we intend to respond to them.

Our next negotiating session is scheduled for Thursday, March 5th at 1:30PM, where we will begin to discuss changes to the grievance procedure and “apprentice” language in our Academic Freedom clause.

25 Jan

Bargaining Update #1

GAU’s Negotiations Committee (NegComm) successfully survived our first official negotiation session with the administration.

Our first order of business was to establish ground rules that both parties agreed to follow for the duration of negotiations. Since these were previously submitted to the administration, they were discussed with ease and amiability. Once those were squared away, we were able to establish dates for our next two meetings: Tuesday, February 24, 2015 and Thursday, March 5, 2015.

Through the span of a productive 2.5 hour meeting, NegComm held the floor to deliver our initial proposals. Danielle Dirocco, Executive Director of GAU, explained numerous grammatical/linguistic as well as substantive changes that we are proposing to the administration. This provided the administration with an overview of our proposals and the opportunity to ask for clarification on any sections that needed further explanation. Language changes ranged from correcting previous spelling errors to suggesting a change to the term “apprentice” currently used to describe a Graduate Assistant in the contract. The substantive changes introduced included the elimination of student fees and the addition of dental and vision insurance to the GA compensation package. Next negotiating session will involve further financial proposals including providing Grad Assistants a competitive living wage.

We look forward to further productive meetings as we get into the nuts and bolts of our proposals.

25 Jan

GAU is coming to visit!

First, welcome back! We hope you have all had a relaxing and rejuvenation holiday. With the start of the semester lining up almost exactly with our first negotiation meeting we thought it would be a great time to get out among our membership and say hello!

Representatives from Graduate Assistants United will be running around campus on MondayJanuary 26, visiting our fellow grad assistants to check in on how things are going for you in your assistantship and to update you on our progress in negotiating our next contract.

Be on the lookout for us. We look forward to seeing you all on Monday!

In Solidarity,

Sara Wigginton,

URI GAU Vice President

20 Nov

Join the CAT, come to the Strat…egy Meeting!

On the heels of our ridiculously awesome Harvest Fest*, we will be holding our first ever Contract Action Team (CAT) Strategy Meeting (Strat). Why the CAT Strat? We’ve been working hard on the back-end: researching and writing a new contract. Now we need all the help we can get rallying the troops to the undeniably just cause of better wages and treatment for GAs. If we want the best contract, we need people to turn out.

So: hardcore people person? Passionate and creative? Then we need you for this. The CATs are going to gather on Monday (the 24th) at 6pm in CBLS 100 to strategize how to best engage and energize the membership, and to come up with fun, compelling direct actions.


*Seriously: we had great attendance, we passed our budget, ratified the CGEU Constitution, were delighted to present our top negotiation proposals, and of course, we rolled out the CAT. And then there was Howard, who rocked the house. If you missed Howard Bunsis’s enlightening presentation on URI’s financials, check back soon for a run-down of the highlights.

03 Nov

The Harvest Fest is Cometh!


If you make it to only one GAU event this year, a) that’s a bummer, and b) it really, really ought to be Harvest Fest!

Harvest Fest will feature:
-A free dinner (that’s what’s up, grad students)
-A presentation on URI’s budget** by Howard Bunsis, Chair of the AAUP CBC
-A vote on GAU’s budget
-An update on Contract Negotiations priorities and progress

**Spoiler alert: URI can afford to give a nice, healthy raise. If you haven’t noticed, our current wages are kind of substandard, existence-wise.

Join us on Thursday, November 6 at 6pm at the University Club! The event is free to members, and if you aren’t a member yet you can sign a card at the door.

11 Oct

Oct 15 General Assembly: #CoverMe

10.15.14 General Assembly InvitationPaid for a filling recently?  How about a new pair of glasses?  Shelled out a crazy co-pay on a medical procedure?

Did you ever think, hey, maybe #URIShouldCoverThat?
If you liked our first GA meeting (or sadly missed it), you’ll love #CoverMe, GAU’s General Assembly to fight for comprehensive healthcare for graduate assistants at URI. Mark your calendars for Wednesday, October 15th at 6pm in the Memorial Union Gallery (room 233). 
Overwhelmingly, attendees at our first GA meeting had questions and concerns about their health coverage. Put them to Ellen Reynolds, Director of Health Services, who will be our special guest at this Assembly! We’ll also be doing some brainstorming on how to raise visibility on this issue (and possibly some en masse tweeting–oh and hey, if you aren’t following us at @URIGAU, get on that!).  We’re pushing for better coverage in our next contract, and URI needs to hear loud and clear that grad assistants need their basic health needs met. We’ll also be feeling out the topic of our next Assembly, so if something is furrowing your brow even more than the fact that you can’t afford a dental filling, let us know at the meeting!