A cloth banner blocked the doors of UF's administration building after graduate assistants protested on campus, hitting a money bag piñata filled with fake Monopoly bills and coins on the way to the edge of campus at 13th Street. Graduate Assistants United union members painted the banner that would hang on the doors of Tigert Hall Friday.
The words "We can't live on UF Pay” blocked patrons' paths inside the building; if they wanted to enter, they had to remove the sign.
The organization spent $300 on four local artists who each played for 15 minutes while protestors sat in front of Tigert Hall. The demonstration marked the culmination of GAU’s ongoing protest of low wages for graduate assistants at UF; they claim they cannot comfortably live off their salaries.
About 40 people gathered to pressure UF into increasing graduate assistants’ wages.
City Commissioner and mayoral candidate Harvey Ward attended the protest to support GAU’s cause.
“If we’re not paying the folks who teach the classes and sweep the floors and cut the grass and do all the things that get done at the University of Florida a reasonable living wage, then we all lose as a community,” he said.
To get results, he said, they have to get UF President Kent Fuchs’ attention.
“The only way it’s possible is when it becomes one of the top two or three things on the president’s desk every day.”
Bryn Taylor, GAU co-president, said the union will shift its focus to the Board of Trustees, which it believes will result in more immediate action. She said the union plans to post contact information of individual trustees on social media and encourage its members to advocate for GAU’s demands directly to the board.
“These people should not sleep in comfort while GAs struggle,” Taylor said.
She announced a “work-in” at Tigert Hall Thursday-Friday and Jun. 27-28. Graduate assistants will work inside the building until the last day of the bargaining period.
At a Friday morning bargaining session, Esteban Rodofili, GAU’s chief bargainer, reminded UF labor lawyer Ryan Fuller they were hurtling toward a Jun. 28 deadline. If UF and GAU don’t come to an agreement by then, they will reach an impasse.
Sandra McDonald is a third-year journalism major and the Student Government reporter for the University Desk. This is her first semester at the Alligator. When she's not reporting, she's probably reading fantasy novels and listening to Taylor Swift.