Bargaining Blog Update #9

Greetings, friends and colleagues!

Despite mother nature’s apparent objections, we are making significant progress at the negotiating table. Since we last updated, we’ve had FIVE sessions- Jan. 24, Jan. 29, Feb. 6, Feb. 14, and today’s session. We’ve been busy, busy, busy, and making gains at the table for all GAs here on campus.

As of our session with the council on March 1, we have secured tentative agreements on Working Conditions and Terms of Appointment, expanded the Non-Discrimination Clause, established official Personnel Files, and more. We also have some info to share regarding our access to URI’s UPASS pilot program, and had the opportunity to highlight a number of your concerns to Campus Safety and Security related to transportation for those of us living in Grad Village and working at Independence Square.

Working Conditions and Terms of Appointment

BIG NEWS! The council has tentatively agreed to substantial improvements to the article related to Working Conditions. The new language insures that you will know what your duties are BEFORE you begin working, will be notified of your assistantship well in advance of the start of the semester whenever possible, will be provided proper training on teaching and on any special equipment you may need to use, and also ensures you will be reimbursed for any out of pocket expenses for lab materials, course readers, and other essential equipment so long as your supervisor approves. We have also finally secured clear language in the contract that explicitly states you cannot be prohibited from having a second job off campus, so long as you do not have visa restrictions or are failing to make progress towards your degree.

Non-Discrimination

Once our contract is ratified, it will now articulate that GAs cannot be discriminated against based on citizenship. The council was satisfied that our proposed language aligns with any State or Federal legislation.

Personnel Files

The Council agreed with our principle assertion that there should be a single location where Graduate Assistants can find information pertinent to their employment. The Contract will now stipulate that Human Resources maintain files that include employment-related documents such as letters of appointment, descriptions of duties, and evaluations. This means that information that previously had to be rounded up from a variety of sources such as academic departments, the graduate school, and even our supervisors will be centralized and easily accessible.

Transportation and Safety

As you may have heard, undergraduates on campus have been able to get a free RIPTA bus pass in lieu of a parking pass as part of the university’s U-PASS program this academic year. Unfortunately, grad students weren’t included in the pilot run of the program. . The University hopes to extend access to the entire campus community as part of an extension of the contract with RIPTA in the near future. This will provide greater accessibility, especially for folks coming in from Providence. As for the buses linking Bay Campus to Main Campus, the university will include extensions of this service in U-Pass negotiations between URI and RIPTA. The Flex bus will also be included in their negotiations.

Shuttle access and safety at grad village were also discussed. Many of our concerns about grad village seemed to be coming to the administration’s  attention for the first time. The Department of Transportation is scheduled to do repairs on 138, which will provide a safer crossing from Grad Village to the campus. The University also agreed to lobby for more bus and shuttle service. As for the cost of a shuttle pass, when we asked about waiving the cost for Graduate Assistants, the representative responded “I’m in favor of increasing the stipend.”

As for providing safe access to and from Independence Square, we learned that the Department of Environmental Management plans to extend  the bike path to that area, which will provide a much safer walking route from Independence Square across campus to Plains Road.

Our next negotiating sessions will be on March 13th and March 21st. We’re looking forward to finishing up the language portions of the contract this month, and will (hopefully) be looking at financial proposals come April. Stay tuned!