On Thursday, September 17 at Old Queens TA-GA activists showed their frustration over the lack of transparency in the Professional Development Fund by taking action for all graduate student workers at Rutgers University. Thanks to all who joined this direct action and those who signed the petition demanding transparency, better timing, and respect for the bargained promises.
Our aim to be heard was fulfilled. President Barchi and Dr. Karen Stubaus, who as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Administration was active in the bargaining process, joined us outside the building to explain that they are working on the issue of the source of money to pay for the PDF awards and greater transparency in the process. The fund was promised to be paid by the central administration rather than being a burden to our schools and departments. Both Dr. Stubaus and President Barchi accepted that this was the case in bargaining but claimed there is a bureaucratic communication - or miscommunication rather- going on that they need to address. For other issues of timing and speediness in the reimbursement process, they were willing to work on improvements in the next cycle of applications, since this was the initial implementation.
After listening to them in good faith, we reminded them this fund is our main gain as graduate student workers from this round of bargaining and any problems regarding this fund affect our lives deeply since we need our summer funding and travel/research support. We also expressed that we expect to see progress over the source of funding shift from our departments and schools toward the central administration of Rutgers, as was intended in bargaining. We demanded that they improve the process and expect to make it as transparent as possible for every graduate student worker.
We also demanded more transparency over the criteria of selection. Dr. Stubaus told us that they can contact the deans and faculty on the selection committee to write up criteria for this fund but reminded us that they would like to keep it flexible. Yet, flexibility is good as much as it works for the graduate student employees, which was the intent and is the purpose of this fund.
We will continue to be actively involved in this issue and the administration stated that they are grateful for our involvement. Through our union, we have scheduled to meet with them on Friday, October 9.
The Collective Agreement for 2014-2018 contains a new Professional Development Fund for graduate students who work as Teaching Assistants or Graduate Assistants.
Funds are available in each year of the contract as follows:
- $525,000 for 2014-15;
- $625,000 for 2015-16;
- $725,000 for 2016-17; and
- $825,000 for 2017-18.
Any unused funds in a given year will be rolled over into the next. Since July 1, 2015 is the beginning of the second year of the contract, the initial application period will have $1.15 million available.
Click on the link below to find the application form as it was for the first round. The deadline was June 8, 2015. Completed applications should have been forwarded to your Graduate Program Director by that date: http://academiclaborrelations.rutgers.edu/taga-professional-development-fund-application
Rutgers AAUP-AFT has been notified that awards have been announced. We are monitoring the data and appreciate anyone who has contacted the union to comment on the results--or who will contact us. We need to hear from people in order to understand how the implementation is going.
If any TA-GAs have questions about the application, please feel free to contact the AAUP-AFT office, a TA/GA Steering Committee member, or reach out to the graduate program director. These funds do not replace funds already available through the TA's or GA's respective Graduate School.
Graduate student activism made this new fund a reality--in solidarity with other union activists! Vigilant monitoring of how the awards were made and how the funds are implemented will be part of the ongoing work of the union.
The TA-GA Steering Committee thanks everyone who helped by taking action during our contract campaign. Strong member support of the union effort made this gain (and others) possible. This new benefit is another step along the way to implementation of the new contract.
Minimum TA-GA salaries were increased under this contract (2014-2018), but the team realized that pushing for an overall Across-the-Board salary increase would not be advantageous because the increase would have pushed graduate student employees into the next higher income band under the State Health Benefits Plan and, thus, the increase would have been eaten up by the increase in health insurance premium costs.
The union contract does not place a cap on salaries, but we did raise the minium. This means, for example, that newly hired TAs or GAs will be hired at the same rate as returning TAs and GAs (the administration cannot pay them the old, lower minimums from the previous contract.) A department or unit can offer a salary higher than the minimum salaries specified in any of our union-negotiated contracts at Rutgers.