UW-Madison Graduate School released a set of Graduate Assistant Policies and Procedures (GAPP) on May 14. This document, released at the end of the academic year, strips workplace protections for graduate workers and excludes thousands of research assistants and lecturers. Sign and share this TAA petition today to support graduate workers in our fight for a better working conditions.
Key inadequacies in this GAPP are a lack of protections guaranteeing:
- The right to shared governance. This GAPP does not guarantee the TAA or any graduate student representatives the right to be included in future shared governance for reviewing and updating graduate workplace policies and procedures. The 2009 graduate worker contract negotiated between the TAA and the State of Wisconsin lapsed after Act 10. In 2017, the TAA fought and won to be included in a GAPP work group charged with converting the contract into an updated policies and procedures document. This GAPP is not the version that the work group agreed to. This GAPP violates shared governance, invalidating two years of work that the TAA invested in the work group.
- Rights for research assistants (RAs) and lecturers (SAs). This GAPP unilaterally excluded RAs and SAs. The GAPP work group was charged with expanding policies and procedures to apply to all graduate workers. That charge was removed from the Graduate School website (before / after) before the release of this GAPP, which protects only teaching assistants (TAs) and project assistants (PAs).
- The right for supervisors to be trained in GAPP. This GAPP puts graduate workers at risk by failing to require that our supervisors are trained in our workplace protections. There is no mechanism to hold supervisors accountable for knowing and abiding by graduate policies and procedures
- The right to pay fees after earning 3 paychecks. This GAPP excludes language guaranteeing such a right. In 2017 the Bursar’s Office unilaterally changed a policy that required graduate workers to pay fees before receiving our first paycheck. The TAA fought and won to overturn the policy. This GAPP puts graduate workers in financial risk by allowing the University to continue making unilateral decisions regarding fees.
- The right for graduate workers to organize. Since Act-10, graduate workers at UW-Madison have lost collective bargaining rights, which has resulted in the slow degradation of our workplace conditions and rights. This GAPP further limits the ability of graduate workers to meet and communicate about our rights and how to improve our working and learning conditions.
This GAPP was released after a graduate worker Sit-in and an Occupation of Dean Karpus’ office that were part of the TAA’s escalating campaign for fair pay, fee relief, quality policies, and shared governance. These actions came after more than a year of asking for the Graduate School to approve the version of GAPP drafted by the work group.
Despite the inadequacies of this GAPP, there are some wins to celebrate, including
- The right to at least a 33.3% appointment. This is the minimum appointment necessary to for TAs and PAs to earn benefits.
- The right to appointment letters. These letters specify expected TA and PA work hours, salary, and benefits.
- The right to paid sick leave. TAs and PAs have 6 days of leave per semester for physical or mental illness and healthcare visits. It is the employer’s responsibility to find a substitute.
- The right to paid vacation. TAs and PAs with annual appointments earn a full time equivalent of 22.5 paid vacation days per fiscal year.
The only reason we have these rights is because the TAA fought for them decades ago. The fact that we could retain these rights is a testament to how hard previous members have worked and how strong a front current members put forth in the GAPP workgroup. We are immensely proud of the TAA Bargaining team, both recent and of decades past.
But these protections are not enough. The University continues to put graduate workers at risk every day by asking us to work without consistent policies. We ask that the Graduate School honor the GAPP committee charter and commit to:
- Approving GAPP as proposed through the GAPP committee
- Training administrators on policies and procedures for graduate workers
- Creating a standing committee that includes graduate workers for improving our policies and procedures.
The TAA is continuing to organize, but needs broad community support to keep administrators accountable for the working conditions and well being of graduate workers. Sign and share the TAA petition today! Follow our Facebook page for organizing meetings this summer!