University negotiators and the graduate student union bargaining unit reach a Tentative Agreement
After a year of negotiations, a Tentative Agreement has been reached between the chief negotiators of University and the bargaining unit of the Graduate Student Union. The TA, which has not yet been released, will be voted on by the approximately 240 members of the bargaining unit on Sept. 18. It is yet to be ratified by the University, but it is expected to pass both parties’ ratification processes.
In an interview with the Justice, Dominick Knowles, a member of the bargaining unit, described the contract as “a good foundation for people to fight for what they need.”
Though the GSU called for transportation subsidies, mental health care and maternity leave, these issues were not addressed in the TA, according to Knowles, and he elaborated on the issue of maternity leave. Since the University does not provide maternity leave for its tenured professors, negotiators argued, it could not provide maternity leave to graduate students.
“Mental health [care] was the biggest deal as far as things we had to sacrifice,” Knowles said. The bargaining unit had called for the University to “at the very least” cover co-pays for in-network counseling and therapy.
Recently, the Brandeis Counseling Center expanded its Community Therapist Program, making free therapists available to graduate students in the Brandeis International Business School and in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.
The University also created a Labor-Management Committee comprised of select administrators and some members of the graduate student bargaining unit, according to Knowles. The committee will meet on a semi-regular basis and aims to discuss proposed changes to health insurance and provide the graduate student workers with a place to voice their concerns in the future.
While not all of the bargaining unit’s requests have been met in the TA, “As far as compensation goes, it was a huge win,” Knowles said. He explained that the agreement includes a gradual pay raise, which provides the graduate student workers with a 15 to 45 percent increase in their pay. Under the agreement, Knowles himself would receive a 42 percent increase, earning about $1500 more per semester.
The graduate workers had the support of faculty and undergraduates especially that of the Brandeis Labor Coalition, which circulated petitions in favor of the GSU last spring. “I’m really proud of all the work that everyone did,” Knowles said.
The University and the Union will issue a joint statement “very soon,” according to an email to the Justice from Eric Chaslow, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.