03 Nov

Dream On: A Movie about Inequality and the American Dream

Monday, November 7, 7- 9pm

dreamon_keyart

Richard E. Beaupre Center for Chemical & Forensic Sciences Room 100, 140 Flagg Road Kingston, RI 02881

What’s it like trying to climb the economic ladder out of the pit of the Great Recession? Find out in the new film DREAM ON featuring political comedian John Fugelsang. Then, join us for a discussion on how to revitalize the American Dream in our community. See the trailer at https://www.facebook.com/dreamonfilm

Cookies and refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to the event here.

20 Sep

GAU Intramural Sports Teams

Graduate Assistants,

Graduate Assistants United is sponsoring an intramural sports teams this semester. Kelsey James is our team captain organizing the intramural coed volleyball team. Below is some information about playing.
• Games Dates: Mondays & Wednesdays (6p or 7p)
• Game Length: About 45 minutes
• Cost: Upfront $3 (GAU will refund the team after the season)
• First Game: 9/26
• Season Length: About 4 weeks
• Who Can Play: All level of players, but need to commit to attending a majority of the games
Email Kelsey at kjames@uri.edu if you are interested or have any questions.
Go GAU Volleyball! #SpikeTownUSA #VolleyballFun #BumpSetSpike

03 Aug

Grad Village Pot Luck– All Grads and their families welcome!

Dear Fellow Graduate Assistants,

Here is some good and tasty news! URI Graduate Assistants United is hosting a pot luck event for you this Summer! You are welcome to join us for a pot luck gathering at the Graduate Village Community Center on August 6th, 2016 from 4-8PM.

Bring your friends and a dish to share, GAU will provide utensils and light beverages. Come relax with us and get energized for the upcoming semester!

You can RSVP via Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1035758153210981/

 

In solidarity,

Your GAU Team

30 Jun

Retroactive Pay Update

8/9/16 Update #5

 
It seems as though we’ve finally reached the point where all relevant departments have come together to resolve the issues revolving around our retro pay and we have a new anticipated date for payment.

We received the following email from Jim Cacciola from payroll a short time ago:

“A plan was developed at this morning’s meeting by representatives form Payroll, Human Resources, and the University Computing Systems to generate retroactive union increases next pay period.   Under that plan, checks and direct deposit transactions would be available on Friday, August 26, 2016.  The plan calls the the automation of some data and the requirement to manually enter other data.  Required resources in the three departments have been identified and notified.  Data entry will begin tomorrow and continue through the next two weeks under a planned and coordinated schedule.  At this time we are very confident that we can generate payments by the 26th.  I will keep you updated of our progress during the next two to three weeks.”

As always, GAU will stay on top of this and let you know of any developments between now and Aug. 26th.

 

8/9/16 Update #5 

What a week. We have two important updates for you.

Retro Pay Update: Unfortunately, it looks like Payroll and University Computer Systems (UCS) have encountered a number of technical issues that will once again cause us to miss the payroll deadline for the next pay period. We received the following explanation of the hold up from Jim Cacciola in payroll who has been working diligently to resolve these issues all week:

“The original estimated date (of the end of July) for generating Graduate Assistants’ retroactive payments was based on the time required to accumulate the data needed, and then to update our PeopleSoft system with this data via four Excel spreadsheets.  The required data was compiled and entered into spreadsheets on time.  The entry of data into the system via spreadsheets didn’t appear to be an issue since we have used this procedure in the past to enter large amounts of data. 

Unfortunately it was discovered during our testing that the process we used in the past no longer worked because of software changes that occurred during a recent upgrade .  We have been working on a solution to this technical problem and will meet again next Tuesday with University Computer System staff. 

The volume of data entry required for this project greatly restricts our ability to enter it manually since it requires the input of 3,265 entries consisting of job data, contracts, dues structure, and account distribution records.  Job data entry alone is time consuming because it consists of data entry into six different tabs.  The entry of data required to compensate Graduate Assistants would require approximately 163 hours of work.  That estimate is very conservative since it’s based on the ability of a data entry operator to complete each data element in a three minute time frame.  Because most of the job input in the In-house payroll is decentralized at the department level, the University HR office has limited resources to perform this level of data entry.  It would take two employees, doing nothing but entering GA data, over two and one-half weeks to enter the data. Clearly the automation of this data entry is the best and quickest solution.  However, at some point soon, possibly as early as Tuesday, we will have to explore other options. I will call you next Tuesday immediately after the meeting adjourns. 

The payroll office will process the payroll for the current pay period on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 for payments issued Friday, August 12, 2016.  Therefore, Graduate Assistant retroactive payments will not be able to be produced this (upcoming) pay period.”

Please know that we have been actively engaged with everyone and anyone that can help us to get our retro pay processed and disbursed to you as soon as possible, including the Dept. of Human Resources and the Provost’s office. They are all aware of the urgency of the situation at hand.

We will stay on top of this into next week and as always will report back to you when we have more information to share.

 

Parking: Despite parking passes becoming available for purchase this week, it seems that Parking Services have not updated their system to reflect the fact that part time GAs are now entitled to a discount on their parking pass. They will be addressing this issue in the coming weeks and will report back to us early next week. In the meantime, hold off on purchasing your parking pass. We’ll let you know as soon as the system is back up and functioning properly for GAs.

 

To end on a positive note, we’re having a Pot Luck over at Grad Village on Saturday at 4PM for all of you. Come on by, bring a dish and a friend, and let’s enjoy what’s left of the summer vacation with each other.

 

In Solidarity,
GAU

 

8/2/16  Update #3 
We have continued to be in frequent contact with Payroll and can confirm that all of the necessary data needed to process our retroactive pay is now in the hands of the Computer Center staff, who are tasked with automating the processes necessary for us to get our retro pay. All of the data must be processed by Monday if we are to receive our pay next Friday, August 12th.

We’ll send another update as soon as we hear back from the Computer Center and have something of substance to report.

In the meantime, we are happy to report that the Parking Services website now has semester parking passes available for the fall. Full time Graduate Assistants should be able to order them free of charge. If you are a part time Graduate Assistant, please let us know if you received a 50% discount on the cost of a parking pass in accordance with the terms of our new contract.

Lastly, thank you to so many of you who have reached out to us and offered to help in any way to get our retro pay finally disbursed. We may need your help if we experience any further delays, but for the time being we would like to give Payroll and the Computer Center enough time to process our paychecks rather than bog them down with a flood of phone calls. If this issue isn’t resolved by Friday, we’ll be filing a complaint with Human Resources.

 

7/29/16 Update #2
 A quick update on retro pay before the weekend. After numerous conversations with the payroll department, the head of payroll reports that he is hopeful that our retroactive pay will be disbursed in the next payroll cycle. We are awaiting confirmation that their back-end issues have been worked out and have been assured that we will receive an update on Monday morning. We will of course share that information with you as soon as we hear anything.

 

General Information about Retro Pay

Now that our new contract has been ratified, you are getting a raise! In addition to a significant bump in pay for the coming fall, you may also be eligible to receive retroactive pay. If you were a graduate assistant in either or both the Fall 2015 and/or Spring 2016 semester, keep an eye on your direct deposit account/mailbox. You have a check coming your way very soon. Here are the details:

 

When will I receive my check?

All retro pay will be disbursed at the end of July 2016 TBD. If you use direct deposit, your retro pay will go to the account you set up to receive your paycheck. If not, your retro pay will be mailed to the address you have on file on ecampus.

 

What do I need to do to ensure I receive my retroactive pay?

It is imperative that you update your banking information and mailing address on e-campus to ensure your deposit goes to the correct account. If you have closed your direct deposit account, please update your settings on e-campus to reflect this change and notify GAU so a paper check can be cut and mailed to you at your current mailing address.

 

How much money will I receive?

All retroactive pay will be pro-rated according to your assistantship and will apply to the raise for the 2015-16 academic year.

 

2015-16 Graduate Assistants will receive retroactive pay as follows:
Level 1: $800 
Level 2: $700
Level 3: $1000 

 

Questions?

Feel free to email GAU with any questions you may have at uri.gau@gmail.com.

24 May

Tentative Agreement Reached!

CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS ARE OVER! 

 In brief:

  • The negotiating team has come to a tentative agreement for the new 2014-18 Graduate Assistant contract. GAU-AAUP TENTATIVE AGREEMENTS SUMMARY 2014-2018 for details of the proposed changes.
  • Join GAU on Tuesday, May 31st at 11AM for a informational meeting to discuss the changes to the new contract, ask questions, and eat donut cake.
  • You must VOTE for the contract on May 31 between 10AM and 4PM to approve or reject the proposed changesso the new contract can go into effect.
  • If you are no longer on campus, send us an email to uri.gau@gmail.com by May 29th and we will make special arrangements so you are able to vote using a special ballot.
  • UPDATE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS on e-campus to ensure you receive your retroactive pay over the summer

 

The Details:

It is with great pride that I would like to announce that as of this afternoon, GAU has reached a tentative agreement for 2014-2018. Our new contract includes RAISES of 5-6% for 2015-16 and 3% for the following two years, retroactive pay for 2015-16, expanded parking waivers for part time graduate assistants, a clearer, more accurate grievance procedure, modernized language in regards to parental leave, validation of the right to external employment, stronger evaluation procedures, materials and resources to support teaching and research duties, and numerous other solutions that were reached outside of the contract to meet the needs of our members. See the attached PDF to read all of the proposed changes.

Retroactive Pay

If you approve this contract, you will receive RETROACTIVE PAY for 2015-16. This means over the summer, you will receive a check for the wages due to you given the raises we have agreed to. If you are a part time GA, you will receive half of the amount for your assistantship.

The stipend increases we have tentatively agreed to for 2015-16 are as follows:

Level 1: add $800 to 2014-15 stipend amount
Level 2: add $700 to 2014-15 stipend amount
Level 3: add $1000 to 2014-15 stipend amount

PLEASE UPDATE YOUR MAILING ADDRESS ON E-CAMPUS so you are able to receive your retroactive pay check over the summer!

The Most Important Part: RATIFICATION

We need you to vote on the changes to the contract so it can be officially put into place for the 2016-17 academic year. We will be holding a ratification meeting on Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at 11AM in the Memorial Union Ballroom where we will discuss the changes and answer any questions you may haveYou may vote on the contract any time between 10AM and 4PM in the Memorial Union Ballroom. 

If a majority of those who vote vote in favor, the contract is officially ratified and will be sent on to the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education for final approval. Retroactive stipends will then be processed and sent to you by mail over the summer.

Absentee Ballots: If you are no longer on campus, you may arrange to vote via a special ballot. Please contact us at uri.gau@gmail.com  to receive a special absentee ballot on May 31st.

In closing, I’d like to say that all of you have done an amazing job of building momentum and getting the best possible contract we could negotiate this time around. These changes will modernize our contract and set the stage for success in future negotiations. We have worked tirelessly for the last three years to get to where we are today, and our accomplishments in this round of negotiations speaks volumes about what we are able to accomplish by having an engaged, educated, tuned-in membership to help us to push further than we’ve ever done in GAU history.

Congratulations to all of you!
See you on May 31st.
–Danielle Dirocco
Chief Negotiator, GAU Executive Director
05 May

Bargaining Update #20

Contract Action Update: We had 20+ members attend the recent Council for Postsecondary Education Meeting at the Ryan Center on Wednesday April 27th. The Council for Postsecondary Education is the governing body that determines what the administration’s negotiating team is able to offer us, so it is crucial that they hear directly from us when the need arises. It was cathartic to share our concerns with the council, and several members shared personal testimonies to address our needs. We were warmly and graciously received. We hope our presence will assist the council to recognize our needs and to act accordingly going forward. If not, we should be ready to pay them another visit towards the end of the month if necessary to advocate for your needs directly to the people who hold the purse strings. Direct action gets the goods!

Bargaining Update #20: April 25 and May 2, 2016 Negotiating Sessions

We are now fully immersed in the final stage of negotiations: Financials.  We have received the administration’s counterproposal, and are continuing to go back and forth to come to an agreement that is fair and appropriate for all of your hard work going back to when our contract expired in September of 2014. We’d like to hear your feedback to guide us in the coming sessions, so keep the emails coming!

Our main objectives are to negotiate for a living wage, to provide access to dental and vision benefits to reduce the stress of paying for an emergency root canal or broken glasses, and to offer part time Grad Assistants comparable benefits in terms of student and parking fees to full time Grad Assistants. 

Contract Structure: Traditionally speaking, we’ve negotiated contracts that last for three years. This time around, the council on Postsecondary Education is looking to synchronize contracts across all three state colleges so we’re all on the same negotiating schedule. To accomplish this, the administration’s negotiating team has proposed that we extend our previous (2011-2014) contract by a year, then begin a new three year contract that will cover 2015-2018.

Stipends: Given this structural change, the administration’s counterproposal covers four years. The catch is that their counter only contains three years worth of raises. This means the administration has proposed a 0% raise for 2014-15.  We are keenly aware of your need to be compensated for the work you’ve already done just as much as the work you are going to do in the future.  We are also fully aware of the fact that 2015 was a very healthy year, financially-speaking, for the University.  As such, we are doing our best to get both sides of the table to recognize that you need to be compensated appropriately for your work in 2014-15.

Dental and Vision: We have done all of the legwork and remain hopeful that the administration will contribute to a voluntary plan for the coming year. We will report back with any developments on this topic as they emerge.

Part Time Parity: As you know, we have been waiting for months to hear back about the committee that was formed to research issues related to the disproportionate financial burden that part time Grad Assistants often bear. At the negotiating table, we are pushing to extend the student fee discount and parking fee waiver that full timers receive to part timers to try to offset costs. We hope to see movement on this in the coming sessions.

Our next contract negotiation meeting is Friday May 6th at 3:30PM.
–GAU Contract Negotiation Team

19 Apr

Report from the Field: Liz Kohr visits the RI Council on Postsecondary Ed

Last Thursday (April 14, 2016) I had the opportunity to attend the board meeting of the RI Council on Postsecondary Education. I went prepared to implore the council to prioritize contract negotiations with GAU. We wanted to make sure that the council was aware of how hard it would be for us to ratify a contract come summertime when many of our members are not on campus.

Upon arriving, I signed up to speak during the open forum and took a seat. Several council members were kind enough to come introduce themselves and ask about why we were there. I was starting to feel a little bit self-conscious when I realized how many council members were there and that they were broadcasting the meeting on television.  Once the meeting began, they took a roll call and then immediately proceeded to the open forum. I gave the speech below and thanked the council members for their time.

Once I finished, Chairman Foulkes thanked me and said he appreciated us coming to speak to them. In addition he informed us that the GAU was on the agenda for discussion at their executive session which we had been aware of. He genuinely seemed to appreciate us bringing the matter to their attention. I think this can be a great jumping off point for us should we choose to attend their next open forum happening here at URI on Wednesday, April 27th at 5:30PM.

–Liz Kohr

Chairman Foulkes and Esteemed Councilmembers,

Good afternoon. My name is Elizabeth Kohr and I am a Graduate Assistant in the Department of Chemistry at URI. I am here today to speak to you on behalf of Graduate Assistants United, a chapter of the American Association of University Professors, which represents approximately 550 Graduate Employees at URI. Each year, Graduate Assistants serve as teaching, research, and administrative professionals. Our members teach thousands of students, conduct cutting-edge research, and provide essential departmental support that is vital to the health of the University.

Like you, we want the University of Rhode Island to continue to function effectively. As such, we need to ensure that contract negotiations wrap up before the semester ends. We have been working under an expired contract since I began grad school in the fall of 2014 and we have been in negotiations since last January. While contract negotiations have been productive, we have yet to receive the council’s financial counterproposal. We appreciate that the council has welcomed new members recently, and we understand that the council’s esteemed chief negotiator, Anne Marie Coleman, is overburdened. However, the final day of classes is May 2. Grades are due by May 17th, and a considerable number of our members are from out of state or from another country entirely. Our members will begin to leave campus as early as the final day of classes. Without them on campus, we will be unable to gather the majority of our members together to vote on a new contract.

We respectfully implore the Council prioritize the completion of negotiations with GAU. We must receive the council’s financial counterproposal no later than April 25th, if not sooner, to allow our members an appropriate amount of time to review the proposal and go through the process of coming to an agreement that is satisfactory to all parties involved.

We are prepared to negotiate immediately. The cavern between us is not wide. We should not let scheduling challenges stand in the way of the successful completion of this contract.

Thank you for your time.

18 Apr

Bargaining Update #19

Bargaining Update #19: April 8, 2016 Negotiating Session

Time is of the Essence: How YOU can help

As mentioned below, we are fighting the calendar in the negotiating room and have struggled to get a meeting scheduled allowing us an appropriate amount of time to come to an agreement on compensation satisfactory to both parties before the end of the semester. The RI Council on Postsecondary Education, who the administration’s chief negotiator reports to, will be holding a meeting here at URI on Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 at 5:30 PM, Location TBD, and we need YOU to be there to let the council know that we need a fair contract NOW.  

Are you willing to spare less than thirty minutes of your time to attend the council meeting and speak up about why you need a competitive wage with fair benefits and retroactive compensation for the four semesters you have gone without a raise? We need to hear from you!  Send us an email to let us know we can count on you to be there.

On to the blog update.

Our most recent bargaining session finally began to break ground on financials, albeit in an incomplete fashion that left the GAU negotiating team concerned. We went into this  session under the impression we would be receiving the administration’s eagerly awaited financial counterproposal. Unfortunately, their chief negotiator was not present for the meeting, so no such counterproposal was provided. The semester is quickly coming to an end, and it is imperative we get this new contract wrapped up before everyone leaves URI at the end of the semester.  Reread the first paragraph to learn how you can help expedite this process! 

Despite this setback, we managed to utilize the negotiating session productively in regards to dental and vision insurance and competitiveness with peer institutions.

Dental and Vision Insurance

We met with Ellen Reynolds from Health Services to compare research on dental and vision plans and explored the possibility of offering a voluntary enrollment dental and vision insurance option for next year. We will follow up on this with the administration now that we have done the comparative work and see if we can gain some traction on offering graduate assistants some sort of plan to protect their vision and teeth in the fall.

Competitiveness with Peer Institutions

The administration’s institutional researcher was also present to compare research on peer institutions. We want to be sure we are all on the same page when using comparative benchmarks, as this is an essential part of the puzzle in advocating for stipends and benefits that are genuinely competitive with our peer institutions. As you know, URI lags behind on many fronts, most especially in terms of stipend amounts and student fees. We are confident the data both sides are using are appropriate and accurate, which will assist us at our next meeting when we hope the administration will follow through and present its financial counterproposal.

Our next meeting will tentatively be held on Monday, April 25, 2016 at 10 AM in the AAUP Conference Room, 302 Roosevelt Hall.

07 Apr

2016 Election Details

Please take a moment to read through the current candidate biographies as well as the 2016 sample ballot for our election, which will be held on Friday, April 8, 2016 from 6-8pm at the former University Club. The agenda for the meeting can be found here: GAU April 8, 2016 Meeting Agenda.

Alternative Voting Locations

If you are unable to attend the Election Dinner on April 8, the ballot box will be available for in person voting at the following locations and times:

Monday, April 11th: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Nautilus Gallery on the Graduate School of Oceanography Campus

Tuesday, April 12th: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm in Room 007 (basement level) in Coastal Institute, Kingston Campus

Votes will be counted on Tuesday, April 12, 2016 at 9PM.

Election Rules

from GAU By-Laws, Section 2: Elections

2.3  Only in-person voting shall be allowed, except in special circumstances where research or employment as a graduate assistant will make the eligible voter unavailable during the voting period. In such cases, the Election Committee shall make special arrangements for advanced voting, or other voting options. Ballots from such a process will be segregated in a separate ballot box, in the case of a dispute.
2.4   All ballots shall be placed in a ballot box, which shall remain sealed until the end of an election period. Ballots shall be counted as soon as possible after the close of an election period. The Election Committee has responsibility for counting the ballots, but may enlist the assistance of any other individuals who are not candidates in the election. The time and place for the counting of ballots shall be included within the instructions for voting, and any interested member of the Local Chapter shall be allowed to attend.
2.5  Following certification by the Executive Committee, results shall be posted on the website and an official transmittal of results shall be made, in writing, to the Executive Committee and to all candidates. All ballots, signed envelopes, tally sheets, transmittals of results and other records incidental to the election shall be retained by the Local Chapter for a period of no less than one year.

C. The Election Period:
All voting shall be in-person, except where noted in the By-Laws or Constitution. As mentioned, the voting period shall last for at least 24 hours, said period being at the discretion of the Election Committee.

D. Eligibility for Voting:
In order to be eligible to vote in a Local Chapter election, an individual must meet the requirements of membership under the constitution and by-laws of the Local Chapter and be a member in good standing. Any bargaining unit member who qualifies for Local Chapter membership becomes eligible to vote immediately upon joining or rejoining the Local Chapter. There is no waiting period for eligibility. (See URI/AAUP Constitution, Article I, Membership.)

E. Challenges to Elections:
1. Any Local Chapter member who wishes to file to an election shall do so as soon as possible after the election period, but no later than 7 days following the certification of election results.
2. Exceptions shall be presented, in writing, to the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee shall schedule a meeting to hear exceptions within seven days of receipt of a complaint. The Executive Committee shall conduct the meeting in such a manner as to give all complainants opportunities to present their arguments and evidence. This will be done during the Executive Committee meeting that certifies the election results.
3. The Executive Committee may take whatever action it deems necessary to remedy a complaint, including the ordering of a new election.”

Nominations can be taken from the floor at the election dinner with the consent of the nominee.

01 Apr

Bargaining Update #18

Bargaining Update #18: March 28, 2016 Negotiation Session

Brothers and Sisters,

We are coming to the end of the road on non-financial issues, and will rapidly progress through financials in our next session on April 8. That date should stand out to you, as it’s the very same day that GAU will hold its Election Dinner. If you haven’t RSVPed to attend that event yet, head on over to Facebook and let us know that you’ll be there. In addition to electing our 2016-17 Executive Committee, we will discuss the administration’s financial counterproposal. In short, please join us on Friday. We have very important issues to discuss.

Our most recent negotiating session secured tentative agreements on our two remaining non-financial proposals:  Leaves and Materials and Resources.

 

Leaves

We have overhauled Article XXI- Leaves (now titled “Employment-Related Leaves”) in three ways to make the article considerably clearer. First, we added language to address what happens when a Grad Assistant actually utilizes one of the leaves articulated in the contract. The article will now indicate that employment-related benefits will remain in place if a Graduate Assistant takes any of the leaves guaranteed by our contract, and that contractual benefits will be suspended in the event a Graduate Assistant takes an academic leave of absence. (See Bargaining Update #15 to learn more about academic leaves of absence)

Second, Article 21.4- Family Leave had numerous problems that we wanted to address. The article formerly stated that Grad Assistants are “entitled to apply” for RI FMLA leave. However, Graduate Assistants do not meet the minimum requirements set by the state to qualify for the benefit. As such, the article has been removed from the contract.

 

Lastly, we agreed to an expanded definition of who qualifies for parental leave to include childbirth, the placement of an adopted child or foster child, or complications related to pregnancy.

 

Materials and Resources

We also signed a tentative agreement articulating that all Graduate Assistants are entitled to reasonable access to materials, work space and resources related to their assistantship. The contract will now clearly state that Graduate Assistants will be provided with shared work and/or lab space, supplies needed to do your job, a mailbox and printer/photocopier access.

 

We spent the remainder of the negotiating session discussing the rationale for our financial proposals, and expect to dive in to those proposals at our next meeting at 11AM on April 8th, 2016. As mentioned earlier, we will discuss the content covered in our next negotiating session at length at our annual Election Dinner on that same day, April 8, at 6PM at the (formerly known as) University Club.