Contract FAQs


What’s covered?

The packet mailed from the Benefits Office will give you a comparison of plans outlining coverage. We recommend UIGradCare, the union negotiated health insurance plan. Some highlights of UIGradCare include: routine physicals, free eye exams at UIHC (does not include contact lens fitting), free immunizations, free well-child care, physical therapy, chiropractic care, surgeries, and X-rays and labs. Prescription drugs (including oral contraceptives) cost only $7 or 25% of the drug cost, whichever is greater. For most treatments and procedures, the insurer pays 90% and you pay only 10%. There’s also an out-of-pocket maximum, so that you will never have to pay more than $1,000 for major medical expenses ($1,700 for family coverage). Dental insurance is also available which covers 100% of preventative exams and procedures.

Who’s eligible for coverage?

If you have at least a 25% appointment, you, your spouse/domestic partner, and your dependent children are eligible for coverage.

What about costs?

For 2015-2016, premiums will be $25.40 per month for a single person. Dental insurance is an additional $3.75 per month for a single person. For information about spouse/partner or family coverage, contact your departmental steward or the COGS office.

When should I enroll for UI GradCare?

A form will be mailed to you at summer’s end for enrollment for the upcoming year. The deadline for retroactive coverage (to September 1st) is early September. You can, however, enroll in the plan later in the year if you wish. If you do not receive this form or if you have other questions, call COGS at 337-5074 or stop by the COGS office at Old Brick, 20 E. Market Street.

Where do I receive medical care?

You select a Primary Care Manager from the doctors at Student Health Services (in the Westlawn Building on Newton Road) or from the UIHC Family Practice and Internal Medicine Clinics or UIHC Community Medical Service Clinics. The director of Student Health Services is automatically identified as the care manager for all graduate employees. Employees are, however, encouraged to develop a relationship with one physician at any of these clinics and to request her/him by name when calling for appointments. Information on Student Health physicians on staff is available at Assistance in selecting another physician in the UIHC system can be found through UI Health Access (

Female employees may also select an OB/Gyn specialist from Student Health or the UIHC OB/Gyn department. Spouses and children may select their Care Manger from Family Practice, Internal Medicine, or Pediatrics at the UIHC. Female spouses or dependents may also select an OB/Gyn specialist from the UIHC.

Emergency care must be at UIHC, unless you are traveling outside the area, in which case you can get emergency treatment anywhere and later notify the insurance provider by calling a toll-free number (listed on your insurance card). For non-emergency treatment, you must call the toll-free number on your insurance card first for approval. Or, if you live outside the Iowa City area for an extended period, you may make arrangements for care by a local provider, as approved in advance by contacting the university’s Benefits Office (335-2676).

For dental care, you have the right to select any dentist who accepts Delta Dental Insurance. See page 27 of our contract for details of your dental coverage. Costs are especially low at the UI College of Dentistry.

How did UI GradCare come about?

UI GradCare is a Union-negotiated healthcare plan. Modeled after the faculty health insurance plan, UIGradCare resulted directly from our organized demand for quality, affordable health insurance. It is proof that we can do as a union what we cannot do individually. Further specific information on UIGradCare is outlined in appendices A and B of the contract.


What’s the effect of the 2015-2017 contract on my pocketbook?

The ’15 – ’17 contract provides for a 1% increase in salary in 2015-16, a 3% increase in salary in 2016-17 and, beginning in 2015, a 25% fees scholarship worth over $250.00. We also won a 100% tuition scholarship at the College of Education rate as well as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences rate.


Can a department require an employee to work more than their percentage of appointment?

Hours of work must reflect appointment percentage (i.e. 50% = 20 hours per week) averaged out over the semester. The Union or an employee can file an overwork grievance. Hours worked are calculated as an average; it is recognized that the number of hours from week to week will vary. If overwork is found, the remedy is back pay or lessening the employee’s work duties.

Can the University or a department establish work rules or make changes in working conditions without negotiating with the Union?

The employer may establish reasonable work rules which do not conflict with the contract. Newly established work rules must be sent to the Union 14 days before going into effect. The employer may not change any written university policy which is a mandatory bargaining issue not covered by the contract. The contract supersedes any University policy regarding wages, benefits, and working conditions. Any new work rule or change in University policy is subject to the grievance procedure.


Can the University or a Department deny a vacation day or sick day?

NO. All employees are guaranteed no less than five working days per semester of paid leave for an academic year and no less than fifteen working days paid leave for a fiscal year. All employees are guaranteed eighteen sick days per year for fiscal appointment and 13.5 for academic year. A “sick day” is defined as a day that an employee had scheduled work but was sick. Additionally, an employee may use up to five sick days for family illness, birth or adoption. Employees may use up to three days of sick leave for a death in the family (including domestic partner’s family). Departments may also grant additional paid leave in above categories provided the employee can meet the time and effort obligations of appointment. It is the responsibility of the teaching assistant to make a good-faith effort to find a replacement for an absence.  However, the department is responsible to assure the coverage of classes.

Do we have to use our paid vacation time over the Holiday intersession?

NO. The Union and University signed a side letter which recognizes traditional departmental practices of extended intersession leaves. If the past practice of your department is such that graduate employees have never had to work over the intersession, then that practice is to be maintained and graduate employees do not have to use their paid vacation time for the Holidays.

What happens if a department requires a graduate employee to work on a holiday?

Our contract guarantees nine standard university holidays. If required to work on a holiday, a day off must be rescheduled. Departments will minimize holiday work and will provide 30 day advance written notice if holiday work is required.

I am pregnant. Can I take maternity leave?

There are no specific provisions for maternity leave in the contract. However, you can take your 13.5 (academic)/18 (fiscal) sick days for maternity leave, as well as your paid time off. These days need only be taken for days you are scheduled to work. So if you teach or have to attend a lecture three days a week and have an academic year appointment, the sick time would give you about four and a half weeks off, and the five days of paid time off per semester would give you an additional week and a half, for about six weeks total time off with pay. Your department may be willing to give you additional paid or unpaid time off.

My partner is pregnant. Can I take time off after the birth of the child?

You can use up to five days of sick leave per year for Family Illness Leave, which can be used for this purpose. Additionally, you can also use your paid leave for this purpose. Again, these days only count towards days you are scheduled to work. So if you teach or have to attend a lecture three days a week and have an academic year appointment, the five days of Family Illness Leave would combine with five days paid leave to give you a little over three weeks off with pay. Your department may be willing to give you additional paid or unpaid time off.


When do departments have to post jobs for the following semester?

All jobs will be posted in departments prior to March 1 for fall and summer, and October 1 for spring, with information on how to apply. Posting will include course title, percentage of appointment, and qualifications required for appointment. Except for appointments intended for returning graduate assistants, departments and programs seeking to employ graduate assistants will post opportunities on the web site maintained by the Employer for the purpose of giving graduate assistants access to such postings:

When do departments have to send out appointment letters?

All employees will receive reappointment letters by April 15 for fall and summer, and November 1 for spring. Appointment letters will include salary, teaching or work schedule (if possible), effective date of appointment, name and contact information of a tentative supervisor, and notification that health insurance is available and has deadlines for enrollment.


How do we make sure our contract rights are not violated?

Our contract recognizes the UE-COGS stewards system and the union’s right to represent graduate employees. UE-COGS or an employee may file a grievance in our three step grievance procedure:

  • 1st step is with the Department Executive Officer or the Department Chair.
  • 2nd step is with the Dean of the College or the Vice-President of division.
  • 3rd step is with the Vice-President for Finance and University Services.

Emergency or general grievances may be raised at the third step. UE-COGS may send unresolved grievances to final and binding arbitration.

What is my department steward “area”?

In order to more quickly and easily deal with grievances, COGS groups departments into four areas, each designated by a color. It is simply an organizational scheme. There is an Area Chief Steward elected by each area to communicate with that area’s stewards and members on grievance matters. What area is your department in? Find out here.


In 1996, Before We Had a Union Contract….

  • Hours of work and appointment levels were at the whim
    of the University.
  • Salaries for RAs and TAs at the University of Iowa ranked
    in the bottom half of the Big Ten.
  • Health insurance was limited and few could afford adequate
    care for ourselves and our families.
  • Paid leaves including sick leave and bereavement leave
    were rare or nonexistent.
  • RAs had no protection against working on holidays.
  • Work rules were inconsistent and arbitrary.
  • If an employee had a complaint or was treated unfairly,
    that employee had little to stand on in seeking to right any wrongs.
  • Each year we took what the University gave us. We
    had no voice.

Now, With Our Union Contract….

  • We have a tuition scholarship that covers 100% of the cost of tuition for graduate employees (based on the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and College of Education rates).
  • We have a 25% mandatory fees scholarship.
  • We have protections against overwork. Hours of work must
    reflect an appointment percentage (i.e.. 50% = 20 hours per week).
  • RA and TA salaries rank at the top of the Big Ten.
  • UI Grad Care provides comprehensive, affordable health
    care for all graduate employees and their families. Mental health coverage
    began in July 1999, and dental coverage began in July 2000.
  • Paid leaves of absence including sick leave and bereavement
    leave are now guaranteed in our legally-binding contract.
  • Like other University employees, all RAs and TAs are
    guaranteed nine paid holidays.
  • Work rules must now be of a reasonable nature.
  • If an employee is wronged or our contract is violated,
    we have a grievance procedure with binding arbitration to ensure its effectiveness.
  • The Union’s right to assist with discrimination and harassment
    complaints is guaranteed.
  • Every two years we negotiate a legally-binding contract
    with the University to protect and improve our salaries, benefits, and working


UE and COGS practice

A unique type of unionism known as rank-and-file unionism. This particular
form of rank-and-file unionism is based on the active participation of members
in the union. The officers of the union (from the local level to the national)
are elected by the membership of the union and, in turn, are required to report
back to the membership on their stewardship of the union. This includes reports
on the policies, program, expenditures, and contract negotiations which must
have the prior consent of the members and their approval on all actions
taken, and contracts negotiated, on their behalf. The essence of rank-and-file
unionism is not democratic rhetoric, but democratic practice.

In other words, the members run this union!

What does this form

Of rank-and-file unionism mean for members of COGS at the University of Iowa?
It means that we, the graduate employees of the University of Iowa,
draft our own constitution and by-laws, elect our own officers, negotiate
and enforce our own contracts and defend our colleagues from workplace injustice.
In order for our local to embody the ideals of UE’s rank-and-file unionism,
our members need to actively engage in the happenings of the local and take
an active role in shaping the direction and operation of their union. There
are many ways that members can become active, including attending monthly
general membership meetings and bringing concerns and proposals to the floor
of those meetings. Furthermore, all members are encouraged to run for an elected
office in the union or serve on one of the committees that works to keep COGS

The effectiveness

Effectiveness of COGS is determined by the membership. By choosing a rank-and-file union,
previous leaders attempted to guarantee that members would be able to express
their views on the operation of the union and be actively involved in the
policy of that union. As the beneficiaries of previous struggles, we must
continue to keep the spirit of UE’s rank-and-file unionism alive at the
University of Iowa.

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