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Bargaining Sessions #9 and #10

This past Wednesday (7/5) and Friday (7/7), GAU met with FSU's bargaining team to continue negotiating the stipends article. On Wednesday, FSU stated that they did not receive authorization from their leadership to agree to provide a hybrid approach where they raise the minimum stipend and also provide across the board raises. Their leadership includes Kyle Clark, FSU's senior vice president, as well as the Board of Trustees.

What they did bring to Wednesday's meeting was another proposal to Article 15 - Union Deductions. They previously opened this article to completely strike it out since a recent Florida law prohibits union dues from being taken directly from paychecks, essentially making the article defunct. In their new proposal, they added a provision saying it is unenforceable unless the new Florida law is retracted or struck down in court. However, we already have a clause in our contract that states that no provision in the contract is enforceable if it conflicts with state or federal law, so there is no reason to strike the article out. We simply do not see any benefit for us to agree to unnecessary language. Our response was to hold onto it until the stipends article was taken care of.

Mike Mattimore, FSU's co-chief negotiator, stated they would try to communicate with leadership again to see if they can give a raise to the minimum stipend. He stated that our meeting on Friday would be contingent on whether they could bring a productive counter. So it was our surprise when they came to Friday's meeting with no additional increase to the minimum. It was at this time that FSU defended their proposal. Lisa Scoles, who works in the office of general counsel, touted it as the biggest package given in her 11 years of being at FSU and that we should take the proposal so they can "get the money in GAs pockets as soon as possible". She may be correct when it comes to raw dollar amount, but that is not saying much compared to the putrid history of raises FSU has given during her tenure. In our bargaining survey, raising the minimum stipend was voted as one of the major priorities for bargaining this year. Furthermore, about a third of GAs said they were food insecure, over a half are housing insecure, and almost three-fourths struggle to pay for health insurance costs. The fact that this "record" amount of investment Lisa is touting does not fundamentally address any of these issues is a testament to how little FSU cares about us.

I will talk more about the contentious exchanges down below, but right now I want to go through our counter. Although it is frustrating, we have to continue to make movement. We lowered our minimum stipend demand to $20,000 a year with a TBD across the board raise and verbally committed to accepting their fee relief language if they meet us on the minimum. We believe this is a big concession and one that FSU should absolutely take so we can move onto the other articles.

Talks get Contentious:

This is the first meeting where our interaction with FSU got a bit heated. After Lisa's words in which she condescendingly implied we are impeding FSU from getting money into GA's pockets, we decided to come back with some numbers. First of all, this is not the biggest raise FSU has given as GAs got an effective 8% raise to the minimum in 2013-2014. Furthermore, the minimum stipend itself has been near stagnant the last five years. In the period of 2013-2018, it has been raised by $5,200 while it has only been raised by $2,250 in the following five year period of 2019-2023. Our buying power is diminishing and as the minimum stays low, FSU continues to dig itself into a hole where it backloads the required compensation in order to stay competitive. Things are getting so bad that the history department has been encouraging faculty to donate food and supplies to their GAs!

Lisa especially caught my attention when she described me and others who make above the minimum as "self-sacrificing" for advocating for a higher minimum stipend. I reject this loaded statement. It is important to remember that as the minimum goes up, so does the ceiling. If you are making above the minimum, that does not mean you are isolated from it. As a physics PhD student, I am well above the minimum stipend so raising it to $20,000 will not directly benefit me. But as long as the minimum is low, it allows other departments to keep underpaying. Low minimum stipends act as an effective method of keeping wages low everywhere on campus. If the minimum were to increase, physics would no longer be able to claim that their stipend is so much larger than the minimum. This is the same for any department.

We need to remember that we are all GAs and while our jobs may differ, we all contribute to the profits FSU is making. It serves no one but FSU and the BOT for us to squabble amongst ourselves deciding who deserves what when in reality we are fighting over crumbs. Having an understanding that we all share common interests that directly contradict with FSU's is essential for us to achieve collective gains. That is real solidarity that goes beyond the catchy slogans. It is looking at our position from a wider lens and understanding that keeping one GA down keeps us all down.

Allow me to step down from my soapbox and forward some important upcoming information. We will not be meeting again until Friday, July 21st, where we expect FSU to come back with a counter offer. Now is a great time to get involved with GAU's bargaining and organizing efforts. If you are interested, feel free to contact me at, our organizing chair Lee Robertson at, or for more general information, contact Also keep an eye out for future socials we put together where members can get free food and drinks (or both sometimes). These socials are a great opportunity to meet new people from different departments and backgrounds. I hope to see you around!

In solidarity,

Dennis Houlihan

FSU-GAU Bargaining Chair

Chief Negotiator

Physics PhD Student

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