GTAs Produce Wealth – Admin Doesn’t

Have you ever considered the actual wealth created by our labor? We’ve did some math and it turns out that we’re the real cash cows of KU. So why do we make less than a living wage?

GTAC consists of around half of the teaching workforce at our University, including many instructors of record who independently teach our own courses, including six of our seven elected GTAC officers. Collectively, these seven GTAC officers are responsible for educating 229 students. We teach first year students, first generation students, Capstone courses, and Masters students. Graduate teachers who are not yet instructors of record independently lead discussions, directly teach labs, critique and grade academic work, and altogether labor as the immediate and frontline instructors of our students. All too often, we also create the curriculum, for which we receive neither compensation or recognition.

Calculating for both in-state and out-of-state tuition, these 229 students paid $351,974.56 in base tuition in exchange for the labor of our seven officer this semester. Of this $351,974,56, we will receive $53,250 before taxes, campus fees, course fees, and other imposed fees. After taxes, we will receive roughly $1,200 per month, which is considerably lower than the minimum cost of living and is less than 12% of the cash we generate.

The labor of our seven officers generated nearly a million dollars for the University over the last calendar year. There are 1,155 graduate teachers generating these levels of revenue, and yet we are facing houselessness, hunger, and loss of healthcare during a pandemic. Our International workers are especially harmed by these decisions because of their visa restrictions – if forced to return to their families, they may never be allowed back. If not allowed to finish their degrees, we will have stolen years of their lives and work.

Again, this cash – $351,974.56 – is the base tuition paid by our students specifically for our services. The University also collects from our students extensive course fees, infrastructure fees, and the additional fees paid by undergraduate students in many of our schools and departments which range from $25.00 to $332 per credit hour. It is clear that any necessary reallocation of financial resources should not impact any area directly relating to our GTAs, as we generate enough revenue in base tuition alone to pay for ourselves and for the needs of our entire departments in fulfilling half the teaching mission of our University.

As we consider this, we reflect upon the priorities shown in both the budget planning and actual expenditures of earlier administrations. We believe the cuts made to our Libraries, Schools, and the College did not serve the mission of our University. We have been concerned for some time about the differences between our budgets and actual spending, and the refusal of some administrations to release those financial records in violation of both state and federal law. We are also disturbed by the frequent and expensive reorganization of our administration, which makes it difficult for our students and Kansas taxpayers to determine if their tuition and taxpayer dollars are used responsibly over time. Additionally, we believe that if these deficiencies were to be considered by our Legislature, our funding would be negatively affected.

However, we are pleased to announce that within our own analysis of the finances of our University, as assisted by our Research & Strategic Initiatives Department at the American Federation of Teachers headquarters in Washington D.C., we have identified several opportunities to shift University expenditures rather than continuing to gut our Libraries and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. We hope to use these models to address the deficiencies caused by years of “austerity” cuts and to win a living wage for all Graduate Teaching Assistants.

We believe that lack of a living wage and affordable healthcare have greatly contributed to the deteriorating conditions being experienced by many GTAs. When every day of your life is a crisis, there are no reserves left for times like these. We’ll continue our analysis over the coming months and publish our results on our website at gtacunion.org​, on our Facebook Page​ to the general public, and within our private GTA-only Facebook group​.

Winter Break 2020 Steward Training

Are you interested in learning more about our contract? Want to help your fellow union members navigate potential issues in the workplace? You should become a steward: a member of the union who is trained to help workers navigate potential contract violations on the job. We are holding a winter steward training that will be spread out over 6 weeks. The steward training will allow you to learn more about the union, our contract, and the role of a steward so that you can work with and support workers who are potentially having issues on the job. The 6 hour-long sessions will be on Thursdays at 6pm from January 7-February 11. They will cover the topics of: What is a union and how does it work?; What is a steward?; What is our contract – the KU Memorandum of Agreement?; What is a grievance? 

You can attend any individual session if you’re interested in learning about a particular topic, or you can attend all the sessions (or a majority) to become qualified as a steward. If you are interested in signing up for our winter steward training session(s), please fill out the form below: https://docs.google.com/…/1FAIpQLSfSEgY8srY…/viewform… or email Grievance Chair, Hannah Bailey, at hbailey2013@gmail.com if you have any questions (or if this timeframe doesn’t work for you–we might be able to schedule alternate times if enough people have conflicts).

GTAC Newsletter 11/9/2020

It’s negotiations time! Our GTAC Negotiations Team is working hard to negotiate our salary, benefits, and working conditions with the University of Kansas. While GTAC has achieved four raises over the last two years, we still make over $6k less than the average GTA in the US.

The bargaining team’s success at the negotiation table is directly correlated to how well-informed and involved all of us as GTAs remain throughout the process. The negotiations team will keep you updated going forward so please make sure we have your most up-to-date PERSONAL contact information. If you don’t get updates from GTAC, send your PERSONAL email and cell phone number to bkeeper@aftks.org as soon as possible and we’ll get you on the list. For more information about how the negotiations process is going so far, check out our video summary.

Our Negotiations Team is fighting for affordable year-round health insurance, a salary increase to match average GTA pay across the country, and a waiver for campus fees. We can win if we stand together in union. All GTAs are members of our union, but KU admin judges our union power solely by our number of dues members. Will you stand with us and join our union today?

Want to help us continue to grow membership and raise our voices in solidarity for a more equitable KU? Come to our Organizing Committee Meeting this Tuesday, where we will be discussing membership outreach, our direct actions for November (protests/social media campaign), and the future of GTAC. You can also join our private GTA-only Facebook Group or email Andrew Kustodowicz (andrew.kustodowicz@gmail.com) for more information about this meeting.

At our last general meeting on September 23rd, GTAC began the process of having deliberate, open, and frank conversations about how racism, especially anti-Blackness, is ingrained in GTAC and KU more broadly. GTAC leadership is committed to transparent, tangible, and material actions that work to establish and promote an anti-racist framework within our union. While it is not the responsibility of GTAs of color to lead this effort, we certainly appreciate their labor, time, and energy given to making our union one that is committed to anti-racism.

The executive board received a list of grievances and recommendations from a group of Black GTAs, as a product of The Black GTA Community Space. We will be discussing these recommendations in our General Meeting – please email me, Neill Kennedy, if you have specific ideas on how to engage in this process or bring them to the general meeting.

Mark your calendars for our General Meeting on Thursday, November 19th at 6 pm. We will be discussing structural racism in GTAC, updates in negotiations, and the results of our organizing campaign.

GTAC Newsletter – 17 September 2020

“The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor.” ―AFL-CIO

Dear Comrades,

It’s negotiations time! Starting on Wednesday afternoon, our GTAC Negotiations Team will begin to directly negotiate our salarybenefits, and working conditions with the University of Kansas. While GTAC has achieved four raises over the last two years, we still make over $6k less than the average GTA in the US.

This year, we’re fighting for affordable year-round health insurance, a salary increase to match average GTA pay across the country, and a waiver for campus fees. We can win if we stand together in union. All GTAs are members of our union, but KU admin judges our union power solely by our number of dues members. Will you stand with us and join our union today?

General Meeting on Wednesday! Join us on Zoom at 6pm on Wednesday, September 23rd for our Fall 2020 General Meeting. We will be reporting on contract negotiations, updated Covid-19 info for GTAs, and voting on three proposed amendments to our bylaws. Every GTA should join us! But remember that only dues members can vote on our bylaws, contracts, or other official business.

Did you know? Right now, International GTAs are being forced to learn and teach in-person with no active health insurance. Our student health insurance plan became effective on August 1st, 2020 for everyone except International students. Why? No one knows and KU refuses to say. We demand an explanation, a written plan of action, and immediate access to health services for all International workers and students. Stand with International workers and students by signing this petition.

Oh and by the way? GTAs aren’t subject to HIPAA and KU admins are not trustworthy sources for medical advice. Read more here.

Want to hear more GTA news sooner? Join our private GTA-only Facebook Group and join the GTAC Slack by emailing our Communication officer Katie Hinders.

In solidarity,
Graduate Teaching Assistants Coalition
AFT Local 6403

Glad to be a part of a labor union? This is a time when our solidarity matters more than ever – click here to become a dues paying member of GTAC.

2020 Contract Negotiations Team

Patrick Gauding is a GTA in the Department of Political Science and is in his 11th semester of teaching. Patrick works as an Instructor of Record teaching courses in American politics and public policy, and has taught over 400 undergraduate and graduate students. Patrick has previously served as a union steward and as a Negotiations Team member in 2018.

“My favorite GTAC ‘moment’ is actually the growth of our union over the last few years. Watching my colleagues learn to see and grasp the power we hold together as a union has been truly inspiring. Every time we stand together to create safe and fair working conditions for GTAs and other KU workers, every time we utilize our strength to build a better University for our students, I know that’s the real power of our union.

Katie Hinders is a GTA in the Department of Film and Media Studies, and is in her 7th semester of teaching. Katie works as an Instructor of Record and has taught over 250 students. Teaching a broad range of topics in the FMS department has challenged Katie to expand her horizons and demonstrated the importance of standing together in union to ensure that all GTAs are protected from exploitation.

My favorite GTAC moment happened during a statewide union training. So many kinds of workers were there – from Steelworkers to Teamsters to K12 teachers – and it was affirming to see how much everyone truly cared about our work as GTAs. At the same time, learning about our union history and strategies to achieve our goals cemented my resolve to stand in solidarity with my union comrades.

Zach Madison is a GTA in the department of American Studies. This is his second year teaching at KU. Zach serves as a Negotiations Committee member for 2020 and is a proud member and supporter of GTAC and the labor movement.

Neill Kennedy is a GTA in the Department of American Studies and is currently in her seventh semester of teaching. Neill works as an Instructor of Record for multiple American Studies courses, all of which are part of KU’s core curriculum. She has taught over three hundred students. Neill has previously served as a union steward, the Organizing Co-Chair, the Vice-President, and now as the President of GTAC. As GTAC President, Neill is a de facto member of the Negotiations Team and is available as an alternate.

My favorite GTAC memory isn’t a single event, but rather the camaraderie and the friendships I’ve built with my colleagues since joining my union in our efforts to make KU a more equitable institution for all.