Majority of 2,200 UConn Graduate Assistants Vote to Ratify Historic First Contract
STORRS, CT—Graduate Assistants (GAs) have voted overwhelmingly to ratify an historic agreement as their first union contract between the Graduate Employee Union-United Auto Workers Local 6950 (GEU-UAW) and the University of Connecticut (UConn). The union’s bargaining committee unanimously recommended ratification as an agreement that makes important improvements for GAs while advancing social justice at UConn.
“We are thrilled by the overwhelming vote in favor of this agreement,” said Gayatri Phadke, a GEU-UAW bargaining committee member and GA in the Chemistry Department. “Our members, who come from all across the world to study and carry out quality teaching and research, worked very hard over the last 18 months to reach a fair agreement and they have spoken loudly and clearly in favor of a better UConn through this ratification vote. This agreement will help GAs’ economically, but it also gains ground in important ways that will make UConn more accessible for women and international student workers.”
Of the nearly 2,200 GAs on six campuses at UConn, 1,103 voted yes, while 10 voted no leading to a more than 99 percent yes vote. The robust ratification continues a strong tradition in GEU-UAW of majority participation in major decisions and actions on their campaign.
A summary and the full language of the agreement is available at uconngradunion.org. The agreement makes improvements and advances social justice in a number of areas, including the following:
- Improved health benefits with no premium increase; over the life of the three-year agreement; health benefits will track those of other state employees, restoring a benefit taken away in 2003.
- Path breaking relief from the rising cost of mandatory student fees; by the end of the agreement, GAs will receive nearly $900 per year in relief from the skyrocketing cost of mandatory fees
- Wage increases; minimum 9.3 percent compound wage increase over the life of the agreement
Advancing social justice at UConn; six weeks of paid maternity leave, child care subsidies, the first contract at UConn to include gender identity or expression as a protected category in the non-discrimination article, reasonable access to all-gender restrooms and lactation stations, and an expedited grievance procedure in cases where the termination of a GA may jeopardize their visa status.
After more than 70 percent of GAs signed up for GEU-UAW and the university administration recognized the union on April 17, 2014, a majority of GAs filled out bargaining surveys, signed a petition urging the administration to schedule more bargaining dates, and voted to authorize the bargaining committee to invoke interest arbitration if it deemed it necessary to get UConn to reach a fair agreement when the university continued to offer only short and infrequent bargaining sessions throughout last fall.
GEU-UAW members play a critical role in providing quality teaching for thousands of undergraduates and performing research projects that help bring roughly $150 million to UConn annually in grants and contracts.
Since January, the university and the union met intensively and, as GAs prepared for second day of sit-ins, the union committee and the university reached agreement on April 21.
“We’ve been continuously inspired by the high level of participation by GAs in this campaign and welcome GEU-UAW Local 6950 as part of the UAW,” said Julie Kushner, Director of UAW Region 9A, which includes New England, New York City and Puerto Rico. “The dedication of these workers to this contract campaign led to important gains that will not only make their lives better, but also will enhance UConn’s stature as a world-class research and teaching institution.
The United Auto Workers (UAW) represents more than 50,000 academic workers across the U.S., including graduate workers at the University of Massachusetts and New York University, as well as postdoctoral researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.