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Recapping the 2023 Bargaining Season

Graduate Assistants,

As voting has concluded with our unit ratifying the new contract, I would like to take the time to reflect on this past bargaining season. Our bargaining team’s objectives were largely influenced by our interactions with GAs as well as our bargaining survey administered in the Fall of 2022. These priorities included: strengthening the minimum stipend, fee relief, pay increases, increase to our health insurance subsidy, more preparation pay, among other things. Through the tireless preparation and work of our bargaining team, combined with the participation from general members, GAU was able to deliver on many of those objectives. I want to extend my fullest gratitude and thanks to all of those who helped in this bargaining effort! Whether it was showing up to meetings, submitting an impact statement, or organizing, our membership won the best contract FSU GAs have ever seen.

If you followed us at all during this bargaining season, you would know how much of a struggle it was. Our goals were simple: give us a living minimum wage, increase the preparation pay period so TAs actually get paid for the class prep they need to do, and give us adequate healthcare. To any working person, these are mundane demands, so why did we have to fight so hard? And who were we fighting against? The answer is FSU’s administration.

As bargaining chair, I am confronted very often and directly with the contradictions between GAs’ and the university’s interests. There is a reason why FSU fights hard on any and all attempts to distribute more money and benefits to GAs: it counters their goal of extracting as much profit from us as possible. Despite being a nonprofit public university with an operating budget in the billions, FSU claims it cannot operate without paying us poverty wages. So it was surprising to receive an email from President McCullough claiming that this settlement is a “reflection of the Administration’s appreciation of your commitment to excellence and your dedication to serving FSU”.

I did not feel appreciation when FSU’s bargaining team laughed at the “outrageous” offer of a $26,000 minimum stipend we brought forward in July ($8,000 less than our original offer) when a living wage for one person in Tallahassee is over $34,000. I did not feel appreciation when any proposed increase in preparation days or the health insurance subsidy was quickly shot down. I did not feel appreciation when FSU continually cried poor over increasing the minimum stipend while also spending millions on updating Doak Campbell Stadium. President McCullough has not once attended a bargaining meeting and refused to even mention the raises came from union negotiations in his email.

I am tired of FSU pretending they have our best interests at heart when they constantly fight against them. We can see this fight outside of the bargaining table as well. In the midst of the reactionary Florida government's attack on DEI initiatives and ethnic studies, FSU has done nothing to defend its educators and students. In fact, FSU almost immediately followed Ron DeSantis’s request for university students’ gender-affirming healthcare information despite his hostility towards trans people. When push comes to shove, FSU has shown that they will not have our backs.

This is not to say this behavior is unique to FSU. Every union and employee has to face similar contradictions with their employers. Our path moving forward is not to ignore these contradictions and “find a way for both sides to be happy” - it is to fight and win.

Let us take a look again at the CBA. We still do NOT have full fee relief, we do NOT have adequate healthcare, we do NOT have a living wage, we do NOT have full preparation pay - there is still a long way to go. The fact that a president who is making $810,000 a year can parade around saying he cares about GAs while also allowing his university to be overtaken by reactionary politics and have a minimum stipend around half a living wage for one person is absurd and should make every GA angry.

I am hungry! I want what is ours, and every penny this university produces belongs to us and all other workers on campus. It belongs to the sanitation workers, the teachers, the researchers, the machine shop workers, the landscapers, the food service workers, among others. It does not belong to the Board of Trustees, or the Board of Governors, or the President, or anyone else not setting foot in the workplace. “FSU works because we do” is not just a catchy slogan—it’s the truth!

The only way for our interests to be realized is for us to actively fight for them. GAU has been at the forefront of this fight and it is more important than ever to join and get your peers to join. Do not let the president and FSU administration trick you into believing they care when in reality they are the source of our exploitation and alienation. The president can omit us from his email and say how he “appreciates” GAs all he wants, but we know the truth: the major wins we got in this contract were the direct result of GA action, not FSU’s generosity.

You can join GAU via our website at and can email us at if you have any questions. The challenges GAU faces this year are monumental and we need all hands on deck. I hope to see a lot of new GA faces in the coming months, but most of all I want to see the faces of FSU’s administration when we blow away that 60% membership threshold!

In solidarity,

Dennis Houlihan

GAU Bargaining Chair

Chief Negotiator

PhD Student

Physics Department

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