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Graduate Assistants United celebrated new stipend increases, raises and other new employee benefits during its contract ratification party Thursday night in Ustler Hall.

The new contract includes a $1,000 stipend increase for graduate assistants who work part time as well as $550 raises and no cuts in the health care insurance plan. The benefits were tentatively approved by the UF Board of Trustees on Dec. 15, according to Alligator archives. The deadline for the contract was surpassed after June 30, according to Alligator archives.

Bobby Mermer, GAU’s bargaining chair, said graduate assistants will also have gender identity protection, an improved anti-discrimination policy and stronger protections over intellectual property.

“We won a lot in this contract,” Mermer said. “The bargaining team fought very hard.”

Although the Board of Trustees approved the agreement in December, the contract was not officially in effect until ratified by GAU themselves, which took time, Mermer said. They needed to wait while school officials drafted a finalized contract and sent the information on the contract change to union members.

Voting took place Wednesday and Thursday, and the contract was ratified unanimously, with about 4 percent — or 176 graduate assistant employees — voting on it, Mermer said.

While GAU is satisfied with the current provisions, Mermer said they plan to go back to the bargaining table with UF administration soon because it is an ongoing effort for them to monitor where UF is allocating funding.

UF Chief Negotiator Bill Connellan said he thinks the current agreement is satisfactory but knows future negotiations with GAU will occur.

As UF aims to become a top-five public university, money goes where the market demands it, Connellan said.

“We need to be competitive in a national marketplace,” he said.

New parts of the contract:

  • A $1,000 stipend increase for graduate assistants who work part time
  • $550 raises
  • No cuts in the health care insurance plan
  • Gender identity protection
  • An improved anti-discrimination policy
  • Stronger protections over intellectual property

Contact Elliott Nasby at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @_ElohEl.

Elliott Nasby is a staff writer who covers UF's administration.