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!


23 Sep

Weingarten Biergarten Next Tuesday @ 6

Weingarten Biergarten

Hey GAs! It’s time to RSVP to the most rhymiest, craft-tastic union event you will ever attend. GAU’s first annual Weingarten Biergarten promises to be a crowd-pleaser, as:

-We’re holding it at the Mews, in their shiny new lounge area in the Celtic Bar** Because we are brilliant, our Biergarten coincides with both pizza night and Mews trivia. (Trivia aficionados will want to rub elbows with our very own college jeopardy champ for good luck beforehand.)

-GAU Members will get a dollar off drinks of their choice, plus union-themed drink specials!

Don’t get the pun? Of course you don’t. Weingarten rights*** are relatively obscure outside union circles. Hence the need to get your learn on while you beer!

RSVP on the face-booker to attend on Tuesday, September 30th at 6pm. (Trivia to commence at 8pm, FYI)

**Not familiar with the Mews? Ok. There are several different ‘regions’ in the tavern; you’ll want to head upstairs, to the Celtic Bar, take a right and walk aaaall the way back.

***Quick primer: your Weingarten Rights guarantee you the ability to have a union representative present at an “investigatory interview”. UMass has a nice overview of what that means, and when these rights do and don’t apply.

17 Sep

General Assembly Recap

Earlier this week we kicked off a new kind of event: the General Assembly meeting. Unlike the General Membership Meetings we hold each semester, Assembly meetings are casual, issues-driven events that provide an opportunity for GAs to meet, discuss their thoughts and issues, and provide the sort of collective member-driven direction to our organization that we couldn’t otherwise achieve. If you didn’t make it, we’re sorry we missed you! Look for our next assembly meeting on October 15th (location TBA).

Our focus this past Monday was twofold: first, as we’ve all learned the hard way, most of our first paycheck is consumed when we have to pay student fees. Second, parking services has begun issuing a $4.95 shipping fee when GAs apply for parking passes (which, reminder, full-time GAs aren’t supposed to have to pay for at all). One of our members rightly noted that the administration doesn’t recognize that most graduate students are not dependent children. We are largely self-supporting adults, and no small number of our members have families and children of their own to take care of. We can’t get by with nothing for the month of September.

The attendees reminded us that another issue is on everyone’s radar at the beginning of the semester: navigating our new health insurance. Regardless whether you are a new or returning student, you have a new insurance plan this year and you have to enroll to activate it and receive an insurance card. If you have not yet received a card, make sure you have filled out this form! There is widespread confusion on this point, and a lot of our GAs felt that health services and administration need to take a more proactive role in ensuring that GAs have accurate, timely and useful information about their health coverage. There was also an extended discussion of the ramifications for GAs, who largely remain on or near campus during the summer, of the closure of health services during that time. Our next assembly meeting (October 15th, mark your calendars!) will tentatively be focused on health insurance issues. Over the summer, our VP did an extensive investigation into the feasibility of dental and vision insurance that I’m sure will be discussed, so if you are equipped with teeth or eyes, you might want to catch this one!

Among the other issues raised during our open forum were the fact that orientations (grad school and departmental) are not adequately focused on grad assistant needs, and the general confusion that exists surrounding the mysterious two weeks of unpaid vacation GAs are supposed to take as per the contract. We’ll pick these issues up at our next meeting, too. In the meantime, if you have a suggestion for an issue-focus, or for the Assembly meetings in general, drop us a line.

13 Sep

General Assembly Meeting on Monday!

General Assembly Invite (1)Our first General Assembly will be held this Monday, September 15 at 6pm in CBLS 100 (that’s the Ryan Auditorium on the first floor of the building). What’s a general assembly? It’s a chance for you to speak your mind about what’s impacting you as a grad assistant, get questions answered, hear what we’ve been up to and weigh in on what we’re doing as an organization.

We’re especially focused on student fees right now, since it’s so darn timely. We all got our first paychecks of the academic year today. Did you notice that your student fee bill is almost three-quarters of your first check? If you are a new student, that proportion is almost your whole check. For those of us who came to the university without a lot of resources, that’s doesn’t leave any money to survive on for the first month of the semester.

GAU does not approve of charging grad assistants fees to work. Nor is it cool to pretend you aren’t increasing the financial burden on students when you’re really just being sneaky about it. We’ll be talking about this, and many of our other issues, at the meeting on Monday.

(Incidentally, if you are really strapped for cash while you wait to receive another paycheck the university will give you a small, short-term, emergency loan. Inquire at the student loan office in the basement of Roosevelt.)