Bargaining Blog Update #10

We have two sessions to recap with you in today’s blog post. Hold onto your hats, we have a whirlwind of progress to report!

Working Conditions

We have come to an agreement on the Working Conditions section of the contract in full. Take a deep breath, as this article covers a wide swath of your working experience as a graduate assistant.

  • Materials and Resources: In addition to what’s already covered (access to a printer/copier, storage, course, research or administration supplies, and a mailbox) you will now be entitled to desk copies of teaching texts, software approved by your supervisor to conduct research or grade assignments, and will be reimbursed in the event you are asked by your supervisor to purchase lab supplies and/or classroom materials for your assistantship.

  • Stronger Excessive Workload Protections: While you are not supposed to work more than 20 hours per week as a full time GA, many of us are frequently and consistently asked to do so. The contract now clearly states that No member of the bargaining unit shall be required to consistently work more hours than their contract stipulates.

  • External Employment: The university, your supervisor, and/or your department may not prohibit you from external employment if you are a domestic student unless it directly interferes in your progress towards your degree.

  • NEW! Training: Guarantees your right to be trained by your department for your position Departments and/or supervisors are expected to provide appropriate initial and continuing training for all Graduate Assistants as appropriate to their duties.

  • NEW! Holidays: You may be asked to work over holidays if you are deemed essential by your supervisor, (ex: you have live, ongoing animal experiments, your samples will be ruined, etc.) Otherwise you will not be required to work on a holiday, and will not be required to make up those hours in subsequent work weeks.

We also came to an agreement on the clause that allows GAU to meet with members without intimidation or discrimination.

We now have a Preamble!!

When we started researching peer institution contracts for this round of negotiations, we noticed that many Grad Assistant unions have a preamble that frames the intention of the agreement and thought that would be a wonderful way to start our contract, too. We are happy to report that the following preamble was tentatively agreed to at our last session:

The intent and purpose of this Agreement is to promote the quality and effectiveness of education and research at the University of Rhode Island, hereinafter referred to as the University, and to maintain high standards of academic excellence in all phases of instruction and research at the University.  The parties hereto concur that these objectives can best be achieved by means of amicable adjustment of matters of mutual interest. It is recognized by the parties that mutual benefits are to be derived from continual improvement in the position of the University as an institution of higher learning; that effective and harmonious working relationships between the Council and URI GAU are necessary in order that the cause of public higher education may best be served at the University; and that orderly, just, and expeditious resolution of issues which may arise as a result of the provisions of this Agreement are in the best interest of the members of URI GAU, the student body, the University, and the public which supports it.

Discipline and Discharge

If you are disciplined, you are entitled to receive a written statement of the reasons for disciplinary action. You may also appeal the decision to discipline you through our grievance procedure. This is a HUGE gain for GAs, who up until now could be disciplined without a written record and without any avenue to appeal. This new language ensures that disciplinary action is transparent, and must be accompanied with clear reasoning. You have a right to appeal if you believe the disciplinary action to be improper.

Academic Freedom

We struck subjective language that requires you “be careful” regarding material that could be “controversial” or “unrelated” to the subject area you are teaching, reducing anxiety over who decides on exactly what is appropriate for your classroom, regardless of their familiarity with the subject and your teaching style.

Sick Leave Procedure

If you get sick and are out of work for more five days, your leave should be documented with the office of Human Resources.  We’ve included this to protect your private health information, where desired, from the blurry boundary of personal/professional we sometimes hold with our advisors.

Where do I find info about my benefits as a GA?

Lastly, from now on, all contractual benefits that you are entitled to (health care, parking, HOPEFULLY, DENTAL/VISION insurance) will live on the grad school’s website, and human resource’s website will point to them. What benefits would you like to see linked on the grad school’s website?

Next Up: It’s DENTAL time

Our next negotiating session is on April 5, and we’ll be going in for a LONG, 4 hour session where we will finally begin to discuss financials. Specifically, we’ll begin by discussing parking/transportation, followed by one of our most important proposals-- DENTAL and VISION INSURANCE. Do you need dental/vision insurance? Send us a message and tell us all about your experience as a GA without having access to this essential resource. We’ll bring your stories to the table and share them with the council so they hear you loud and clear: Grads need EYES AND TEETH!