The University of Iowa has promised to maintain all of our benefits for the next academic year. This is a huge victory. We achieved this together: we pressured university administrators and forced them to respond. This win shows how we build and maintain power.
The graduate assistant employment policy sent by the Graduate College is a word-for-word copy of the COGS contract provisions governing every employment benefit that COGS members have won over the past twenty years. Our efforts this year have saved our health insurance, our 100% tuition and partial fees scholarship, our sick leave, our holidays, our overwork protections, our health and safety, and our workplace training and evaluation for all graduate students.
This victory was not without loss. The University refused to copy and paste 14 pages of union protections for graduate students. They cut provisions of the contract giving the union the right to information about graduate employees and to communicate with graduate students. They cut our presentation time at graduate student orientation and the meet-and-confer clauses that prevent mid-year changes to our benefits. They even cut the union’s guarantee of bulletin-board space.
So this is not the copy-and-paste job we were promised. It is a cut-and-paste job.
We take exception to these cuts. Backpedaling on promises breaks trust. These broken promises demonstrate how critical our union is in preventing cuts. We must organize in order to fight back against attacks on our well-being. But these cuts should not and will not intimidate us. Together we will continue to build upon and maintain power. We will continue protecting graduate students. We will remain an independent organization run by and for graduate students. We will continue to check abuses and promote democracy and transparency in our workplace.
Critically, the university only promised to retain our benefits for the next year. This is a year less of security than COGS could have achieved had the Iowa Board of Regents bargained in good faith. And the 50% fees coverage is less than the 100% fees coverage COGS could have won. But uncertainty remains as to what the University wants to do with these benefits after next year. In the next year, we must fight for NO CUTS to our benefits.
So we are not done fighting. We are not giving up on restoring the provisions the Board of Regents cut and the many other provisions of our contract that were allowed to lapse when the Board of Regents refused to meet and bargain with us–“because we can,” as they said.
In the coming days, we must force the University of Iowa to preserve our benefits beyond spring 2018. To win this and further victories, and to preserve our very union in the face of a retention vote in fall 2018, we have to organize–and we will.
The Coordinating Committee, UE Local 896 – COGS