After 17 hours of negotiations this weekend the Graduate Employee Union (GEU) and the University of Connecticut appear to have reached an agreement about graduate assistant contracts, according to the GEU website. The agreement will be sent to the legislature to be finalized, according to a press release from union president Steven Manicastri.
“The agreement, which now goes to the legislature for final approval, codifies a number of improvements that will enhance accessibility and excellence at UConn,” Manicastri wrote. “GAs, who earn on average $20,000 per year, provide the critical face-to-face instruction that enables affordable, quality education to 20,000 undergraduates each year, and perform cutting-edge research that helps attract $150 million in grants and contracts each year.”
Though it is currently unclear what day the General Assembly will vote on the agreement, 2,200 graduate student employees are covered by the terms of the contract, according to a press release from UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz.
The process began in the fall, Reitz said, and came to a close this weekend following a sit-in protest held on Thursday by the union.
“Negotiating teams from UConn and the Graduate Employee Union-United Auto Workers (GEU-UAW) began discussions last fall in anticipation of the current contract’s expiration on June 30, 2018,” Reitz said in the release. “The parties reached tentative agreement early Saturday.”
On Thursday of last week, the GEU held a sit-in protest in the main hallway of the student union, while negotiations were handled by members of the union and the university. Graduate employees spoke out against actions by the university that included raising fees, doubling healthcare premiums and removing parts of the contract that dealt with sexual harassment and discrimination.
The vote was approved with a 99 percent margin in the union, with 1,304 in favor, two against and nearly 60 percent approval from all GAs, according to the release by Manicastri.
“We are thrilled by the overwhelming vote in favor of this agreement,” GEU-UAW Vice-President, bargaining committee member and GA in the Anthropology department Mary Bugbee said. “Our members, who come from all across the world to study and carry out quality teaching and research, worked hard for this agreement and have spoken loudly and clearly in favor of a more inclusive and competitive UConn. This agreement establishes groundbreaking expansions on sexual harassment protections, maintains strong family-friendly benefits and makes responsible improvements to stipends and relief from the skyrocketing cost of student fees.”
The parties reached an agreement regarding fees and sexual harassment policies, according to the release by Manicastri.
“The agreement includes ground breaking, enhanced protections against sexual harassment aimed at promoting gender equity in the academic workforce,” Manicastri wrote. “[This includes] an expanded 180-day deadline to file grievances regarding sexual harassment; interim measures to protect GAs against retaliation during investigation of a sexual harassment complaint; and a commitment by the university to hand out union material describing the right to representation and options for recourse to any GA who files a complaint in the Title IX office.”
Regarding economic grievances, the parties also reached an agreement. There will be a 2 percent annual increase in stipends for graduate employees for the next four years, according to the release by Reitz.
“The increases compare favorably to the SEBAC agreement, which provides 11 percent over five years (average of 2.2 percent per year),” Reitz wrote. “It also compares favorably with GA agreements at other institutions of higher education.”
Other provisions include lowering fees, access to Area 2 employee parking passes for GAs and maintenance of affordable health care coverage, according to the release from Reitz.
The main goal of the protests included being able to continue providing critical education to children and families, as well as performing important research that generates money for the university and the state, Manicastri said.
“The agreement includes reasonable economic improvements that will enable UConn to continue increasing its ability to recruit the most talented graduate students from across the globe to carry out critical research and teaching,” Manicastri wrote, “[These are] two percent annual stipend increases, relief from the increasing cost of mandatory student fees that cut into GAs’ modest annual compensation, maintenance of affordable health insurance benefits, and reduced parking rates.”
The articles agreed upon can be found at http://uconngradunion.org/
Miranda Garcia is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.