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Friday, June 02, 2023

GAU unsatisfied with UF’s proposed pay increase

UF will enact original offer despite counterproposal from Graduates Assistants United

<p>Graduate students protest current wages on the corner of 13th Street and University Avenue May 17, 2022.</p>

Graduate students protest current wages on the corner of 13th Street and University Avenue May 17, 2022.

UF’s latest offer to graduate assistants could be final, whether they agree to its terms or not.

The offer does not address Graduate Assistants United’s demand for an increased stipend and a clause in the bargaining agreement allows the university to move forward without their approval. 

The current bargaining period, which started in October, ends June 28. If UF and GAU have not made an agreement by then, they will reach an impasse. 

The university’s previous plan, which UF’s labor lawyer called a tentative final offer May 29, prompted a protest. Its newest offer introduced a 3% raise and one-time payment of $1,000. 

The current plan is the best UF could offer, labor lawyer Ryan Fuller said, because the university’s income decreased by 4.3% from last year as it battles rising costs. 

Donors also ask the university to use money for a specific department or purpose. UF cannot repurpose earmarked funds to pay graduate assistants. 

The raise, which would begin retroactively from Jan. 1, will be implemented as soon as logistically possible, Fuller said at a bargaining session Wednesday, and the one-time payment would only apply to graduate assistants who make less than $18,500. 

The offer is still a paycut, GAU’s chief bargainer Esteban Rodofili said. They made a counterproposal that dropped the $1,000 bonus and increased the minimum stipend to $20,925 for nine-month contracts and $27,900 for 12-month contracts.

The university’s plan reflected earlier negotiations; $16,000 to $17,000 for nine-month contracts and $21,333.33 to $22,753.85 for twelve-month contracts. 

A single adult should make $31,748 per year to make a living wage in Gainesville, according to the MIT living wage calculator GAU referenced during negotiations.

Spencer Murphy, a third-year doctoral student in the Counselor Education Program, said he currently makes $1,200 a month under his contract. His rent is $1,300 a month. 

Murphy said UF’s negotiators bargained in bad faith and that the contract’s stipulation that he cannot look for outside employment is predatory; it encourages students to pull out loans to survive. 

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“There will come a time when you are not continuing to bargain with us,” he said. “You will have a strike, and that’s not fun. You don’t want that.”

The union plans to protest again in front of Tigert Hall June 17 at 4 p.m., Bryn Taylor, GAU’s co-president wrote in an email to the Alligator Wednesday night.

Taylor asked Fuller whether he could personally survive on $18,000 in Gainesville. 

“I don’t know the answer to whether that’s a viable situation,” he said. 

Fuller said he was a graduate assistant in the early 2000s and made the equivalent of this; He did not respond after Rodofili said $18,000 in 2000 is equivalent to about $30,000 today, according to the CPI Inflation Calculator.

The Board of Trustees will discuss further investment into graduate assistants at its June 16-17 board meeting, Fuller said, although it was unclear whether that would be an additional raise or another form of support.

Contact Sandra McDonald at Follow her on Twitter @sn_mcdonald.

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Sandra McDonald

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.

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