Fellow Graduate Assistants, Once again our bargaining committee met with the FSU Board of Trustees to hear what proposals they had for us after a series of disappointing offers throughout the month of August. Although we always hope for the best, unfortunately FSU Board of Trustees always manages to live down to our worst expectations. The FSU Board of Trustees presented us with all four outstanding articles that they had. In order: Article 12, tuition waivers and fees: The university once again offered no solution to the fee and tuition waiver gap which burdens our international students. The only consolation they were wiling to offer us was the acknowledgement that this is an “established priority" for departments when they decide which GAs will get out-of-state tuition waivers. But discussion with the university during bargaining has established that they don't consider the current "established priorities" in the contract to be binding on departments! In other words, this is a concession that does absolutely nothing to fix the problem. The university knows this, they know that we know this, and yet they continue offering a meaningless gesture while leaving international GAs in poverty. Article 16, Health Insurance: Every single time we have presented the university with a new option for premium coverage they have returned with the same offer: an $82 increase to cover 76% of the health insurance premiums.They refuse to move on this at all. Article 19, Totality of Agreement: This article waives GAU's legal right to engage in collective bargaining with the university over issues not explicitly codified in the contract. This gives away a lot of power to the university for no reason. GAU has the legal right to unilaterally remove this, and we are exercising that right. However, we also want to insert language that explicitly asserts GAU's right to bring the university to the bargaining table over all labor issues permitted by state and federal law. The university accepts that we have the right to remove Article 19, but gave a counterproposal that also strikes our replacement language. Article 23, Stipends: The university continues to push their one-time bonus offer, refusing to even consider a recurring salary increase as they have every other year past since our union began. They generously increased their one-time bonus offer to $500 for all GAs on .50FTE ($250 for .25FTE). This is a $100 increase from their last offer. In counter to this, we responded during the same session to the FSU Board of Trustees’ intransigence. We calculated their meager $100 non-recurring bonus increase to cost the university roughly 240,000 additional dollars from their last offer, so we in turn lowered our demands by roughly the same amount. On Health Insurance, we refused to waver, and once again asked from 95% premium coverage. On Stipends, we dropped our minimum stipend ask to $18,000, and our salary increase to 3.25%. Many thanks go out to Sara Everson, an international student from the department of music who spoke in front of the FSU Board of Trustees on the financial inequalities between international and domestic graduate students and the additional hardships this creates for this valued group of GAs in our bargaining unit. We are grateful for her time and bravery. If any of you feel that you have stories you want the FSU Board of Trustees to hear, such as personal hardships or burdens brought on by the insufficient salaries and employee benefits FSU offers us as GAs, we’d love to hear from you. We are especially interested in hearing from GAs with children, financial burdens brought on by medical issues, or international students.
As always, you can help out as well simply by showing up. We had a wonderful contingent of music department GAs this time, and we truly appreciate your show of solidarity. Sitting in the room for even thirty minutes helps make our case to the university!
In solidarity, Vincenza Antonetta Berardo Chief Negotiator, UFF-FSU-GAU