KU Works Because We Do
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.
Workers Picket in San Diego, CA – November, 2022. Photo courtesy of Fair UC Now.
Friday, November 25, 2022
Lawrence, KS – The KU graduate employee union stands in solidarity with the four bargaining units of precarious and contingent academic workers on strike at the University of California. Public agencies have a special obligation to negotiate in good faith for the people of their state, including the 48,000 residents of California that the UC system has refused to provide a livable wage and affordable housing. To our union sisters of underpaid and exploited workers at the UC campuses, we send you our unwavering support, and want you to know that tens of thousands of academic workers around the country are watching your struggle, drawing inspiration and confidence. Thank you for your sacrifices for the labor movement writ large and for the future of educational workers that we hope to one day realize.
For more information about this historic strike follow the UC Student-Workers Union UAW 2865 on Twitter or visit the Fair UC Now website.
The GTAC Executive Board
GTAC represents all GTAs at the University of Kansas. Visit www.gtacunion.org to become a dues-paying member of GTAC today.
November 10, 2022
The Graduate Teaching Assistants Coalition (GTAC AFT-Local 6403) is in solidarity with all Indigenous students, employees, and communities who are affected by the University of Kansas holding Indigenous human remains and funerary items. It is the responsibility of the university as an institution of knowledge, a public entity, and a community of teachers and learners to not only comply with federal laws, such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), but to seek reciprocity and healing for the harm caused by these neglectful practices and histories. Reciprocity can only begin with commitments to dialogue, to listen and learn from those affected by these actions, and to implement concrete community-driven responses. For students, instructors, researchers, and administrators, this conversation ultimately requires reflecting on the structures that enabled this negligence, which come from a long academic history we have yet to confront.
In light of the passage of Senate Resolution 2023-302, which marks an initial step in the process of reciprocity, the union supports the key demands for action by and in the University of Kansas. This especially includes the funding of graduate employee and faculty positions in the Indigenous Studies Program (ISP), which is an intellectual space historically underfunded and denied resources equivalent to other areas of study granted “departmentalization.” These asymmetries in institutional support reflect the environment and structure of anti-Indigenous research and teaching that extend across campus and into the local community.
As graduate instructors who hold the role of present and future leaders in academia, we must change these patterns of racism that animate the university’s current habits. We encourage instructors in every field to use their research and teaching to challenge the legacies of colonial knowledge and to center Indigeneity as a category of analysis. In order to ensure accountability for the disregard of Indigenous cultures and practices, we must adjust our syllabi, curricula, and pedagogy in response. While this conversation must continue for the long term, there are concrete steps to immediately take to repatriate Indigenous ancestral remains and funerary items, to prevent these harmful research methods from continuing, and to support Indigenous students and workers at the university.
The GTAC Executive Board
September 16, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lawrence, Kansas – On Wednesday, September 7, 2022, rank-and-file members of the Graduate Teaching Association Coalition (GTAC) AFT Local 6403 voted to ratify a new contract with the University of Kansas. This ratification concludes a rocky, years-long negotiations process between the GTA union and KU administration that first commenced in September 2020 and endured countless stall-and-delay tactics from the university’s expensive outside legal counsel. For background, after spending eleven months negotiating from 2020 into 2021, the university would not agree to any GTA salary increases for the subsequent three academic years.
During the contract vote held on December 2, 2021, GTAC’s rank and file rejected KU’s final proposed contract, which was without any guaranteed salary increases. Accounting for the historic inflation level, the university’s final salary proposal in 2021 in fact amounted to a substantial decrease in real pay. After our membership refused ratification, the administration held firm that they would not guarantee any wage increases. The university’s position led the union’s bargaining team to declare negotiations at an impasse on the subject of wages and salaries. As part of the statutory impasse procedure, a fact-finding hearing was held on February 18, 2022 before a neutral, impartial party appointed by the Kansas Department of Labor. At the hearing, the union emphasized the urgency of our unit realizing a living wage, while the employer’s lawyer attempted to rationalize a substantial real wage cut. Despite the employer’s misrepresentations, the neutral fact finder ultimately determined guaranteed salary increases were both necessary and deserved. The parties then continued to negotiate for several months, where the administration reneged on several agreements, before finally reaching a settlement at the end of August 2022.
The union’s rank and file has now voted to ratify the proposed post-impasse contract, which indeed brought some significant changes. The duration of the contract covers academic years 2021-22 and 2022-23 and is inclusive of a guaranteed—albeit modest—raise for the current academic year. Raises occurred alongside improvements toward a fairer grievance process, and new procedures for graduate instructors who are forced to work beyond their contracted hours. Among other changes, the union further negotiated that GTAs will no longer be required to pay fees for classes related to employment — i.e., orientation and job training. While this contract sadly failed to achieve a living wage for the vast majority of our unit, the enormous personal cost of historic inflation rates compelled the negotiations team and then the union membership to agree to the immediate financial relief this contract offers. With the expiration of the contract at the end of the current academic year, the union will soon resume bargaining with university administration for the living wage and fair contract we deserve.
There were some proposed changes from the administration that the union did not agree to integrate. This included KU’s original proposal to strike all existing anti-discrimination provisions from the contract. The union’s negotiations team found these proposals not only contrary to the university’s stated values, but also to jeopardize high-quality and inclusive instructional opportunities for our unit members and our students. The union alternatively proposed expanded anti-discrimination provisions, which the administration did not agree to incorporate into the current contract. However, given the apparent institutional patterns of (1) racial discrimiation in access to employment, and (2) occupational segregtiation and wage discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, citizenship status, and gender, the expansion of anti-discrimination protections, as well as fair and equal compensation for equal work, remain the highest priorities for the union.
Approval of this agreement follows what was the longest negotiation process since the first contract was installed in 1997. Unfortunately, rather than provide graduate instructors the wage increases we earned (as corroborated by the impartial fact finder), the university administration spent lavishly on a team of anti-labor lawyers who work both internally and externally for the university, and who have a disappointing history of fighting against civil rights protections for public servants. While the money used to pay their team of excess lawyers could have supported a living wage for those who teach and produce at least $45 million of tuition revenue at a third of the cost, the university administration instead found suppressing the rights and salaries of graduate instructors to be a higher priority.
The outside counselor’s exorbitant billable hours included sending numerous cryptic and contradictory messages to the union’s negotiations team, often making fallacious allegations that the union violated statutory requirements for negotiations. Beside filling the pockets of the “MVP” law firm, the true reason for this long, continual pattern of baseless grandstanding is clear. The university’s representatives sought to elongate the process, fracture the union’s rank and file, exhaust the unpaid advocates who fought for improved GTA working conditions, and bypass the statutory good faith meet and confer process. Despite the university’s unjustifiably expensive attempts to derail the mandatory negotiations process, the union’s goals remain even clearer. We will continue to push the university administration for a living wage and fair contract.
GTAC’s president, Andrew Kustodowicz: “In this era of unprecedented inflation we are excited about the ratification of this new contract and to get the desperately needed $900 raise into the pockets of GTAs, but this is less than we fought for and deserve. GTAC remains steadfast in our mission to protect the exploited graduate workers at KU and are committed to fighting for the living wage.”
GTAC (Graduate Teaching Assistants Coalition, AFT-KS Local 6403) is the graduate teaching assistant union at the University of Kansas. GTAC was founded in 1992 and represents all GTAs at the University of Kansas. For more information about the ratification vote, the negotiations process, or the Graduate Teaching Assistants Coalition, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
All executive board present.
Finance: balance presented to members
Secretary: Nothing new
Political: Update on negotiations – 30+ sessions in total. What presenting new contract will entail. Exec-board takes neutral stance – we can’t recommend that people vote against it, but it isn’t what we fought for.
*Zoom audio malfunction – unable to hear updates
Present: All Exec board members
Updates carried out –
(Zach Madison) Contract negotiations going for over a year, basics of our contract and standard practice for unions in public sector.
Proposed changes –
1. We asked for a raise from 17,750 to a living wage.
2. Better healthcare
3. Grievance procedures that cover workplace abuse/violations of our contract
Discussion of HEERF II/III funds
President (AK) – emails and solidarity with other orgs right now
Treasurer (Kelsey Carls) – Report funds
Secretary (Zach G) – Nothing new
Comms (Rebekah Aycock) – New website, supporting organizing
Grievance (Katie Hinders)– handling some grievances brought so far this semester. Working with Korbin to set up steward program
Organizing – monthly organizing meetings, starting sept 23 for 5 pm; Supporting workers; Building grad worker community on campus
Political (Zach Madison) – gave report earlier in meeting
On February 18, 2022, a fact finding hearing was held between GTAC’s negotiations team and KU administration. This was the result of an impasse that followed GTAC membership’s rejection of the proposed contract by a vote on Thursday, December 2, 2021.
The Kansas Department of Labor impartial, neutral fact finder has ruled in favor of wage increases for KU GTAs. This does not mean these recommended increases will go into effect in our contracts, but this is a huge win for GTAC that gives credit to our claims and will hopefully lead to an improved contract. Below is the full fact finding report, including each side’s arguments. The fact finder’s recommendations begin on page 27.
Anyone questions can be directed at email@example.com. The fact-finding results and the new proposed contract will be discussed further at the upcoming general meeting on Thursday, April 7, 2022. We hope to hold a ratification vote that night.
GTAC emailed the following statement to GTAs at KU on Monday, March 7, 2022:
Dear fellow GTAs,
On February 17, 2022, a KC Star article revealed allegations of a culture of abuse within the Mechanical Engineering Department of the School of Engineering. This culture enabled an abuser to evade consequences, endangered the victim as they were forced to work alongside their abuser, and created an environment of such fear and distrust that fifty Mechanical Engineering students signed a solidarity letter addressed to the Department– anonymously, due to their fear of retaliation.
There is no place for abusers at KU. Up to this point, the Title IX process has been used to protect an abuser at this institution, and this is unacceptable. The fact that 50 students together were still afraid to sign their names to their solidarity letter points to an underlying issue of retaliation against the most vulnerable workers on this campus.
Part of a broader problem…
KU has repeatedly failed those who file reports of sexual harassment or sexual violence. In 2017, KU settled a lawsuit brought by two undergraduate students at KU who were also members of the rowing team. These students claimed that they were sexually assaulted in Jawhawker Towers by a football player and that they were retaliated against by their rowing coach after they reported the assaults, and they accused KU of mishandling their cases and the Title IX process. Last year, reports revealed that (now former) KU football coach Les Miles had been the target of complaints of sexual harassment at his former institution. It became clear that KU had invited an alleged predator to work with its student athletes and student employees.
This issue is endemic to KU. And rather than addressing their failure to protect the broader KU community from sexual violence, KU all but decimated its Title IX office with no transparency.
GTAC’s stance on this crisis…
The GTAC Executive Team
On Thursday, December 7, 2021, the following email was sent to all GTAs at KU regarding the recent contract ratification vote:
Dear fellow GTAs:
On Thursday, December 2, 2021, GTAC held a ratification vote for the proposed GTA contract. Thank you to all who attended, asked questions, and raised concerns during this meeting.
After over a year of contract negotiations, GTAC’s Negotiations Team presented the contract to the membership with a neutral recommendation. The chair of the Negotiations Team presented the contract to the membership. The membership rejected the proposed contract by a margin of 91%. At this time we await KU’s response.
In the meantime, GTAC will hold a worker solidarity rally this Thursday, December 9, 2021 at Strong Hall at 1 p.m. The rejection of the proposed contract represents a democratic mandate from the membership to fight for fair compensation for our essential role as educators at KU. We must say in one voice – not just for GTAs but for all essential workers on campus – that we demand a fair and living wage now.
See you Thursday. In solidarity.
The GTAC Executive Committee
GTAC represents all GTAs at the University of Kansas. Glad to be a part of a labor union? This is a time when our solidarity matters more than ever – visit www.gtacunion.org to become a dues-paying member of GTAC today.
This statement expresses GTAC’s solidarity with KU Student Body President Niya McAdoo who has faced racist and misogynistic abuse as a result of a retweet containing the message “Death to America.” GTAC unequivocally supports both McAdoo’s right to free speech and the statement itself. We want to acknowledge the broad historical context of this statement and consider the KU administration’s pattern of communication and priorities over the past few weeks that serve the same violent project.
After the withdrawal of the U.S. military from Afghanistan, the latest stop on the Trails of Tears, brings the possibility of a different future. Last week, university administrators wrote to express their solidarity to all those impacted by the twenty-year war. GTAC agrees with the university administration that these important matters must be brought to the attention of the KU community. As they said, we mourn both the murders and injuries of all those subjected to imperialism, including U.S. veterans, Afghan veterans, and the hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians. While the KU administration defines this conjuncture as an “unsatisfying end,” GTAC and the labor movement always look favorably upon the conclusion of illegal warfare. We express solidarity with the Afghan labor movement, and we support their struggle to again establish self-determined politics.
Recent events at KU display how the Indian Wars continue not only in Afghanistan but also here at our institutional home. The weekend before last brought a devastating episode of anti-Native racism as several Native art installations at the Spencer Museum were desecrated. Unfortunately, these violent attacks are part of a long history of anti-Native crimes at KU. As Barbara Perry writes on hate crimes against Native people, “The message is clear: that Indians don’t belong, that they occupy an outsider status, despite their being aboriginal inhabitants of the land. Thus it is important to note the tole hate crimes plays in punishing those Others who have attempted to overstep their boundaries by assuming they, too, are worthy of first-class citizenship.” GTAC unequivocally condemns this white supremacist violence and the message it sends to Indigenous people. This week, the university administration wrote to condemn these punctual events. Notably, the administration remained silent on this matter for over a week. It was only after the bold actions of Indigenous students and activists that the university community heard from Chancellor Girod. GTAC supports and affirms the accusations and organizing work by anti-racist movements on campus and off.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Girod did find the time last week to issue a statement criticizing a “retweet” by Student Body President Niya McAdoo on Twitter. This retweet contained the message “Death to America.” Considering the ambiguity and uncertainty of language, it is always important to define terms. America is a term derived from the name of colonizer Amerigo Vespucci, a contemporary of Christopher Columbus. To this end, President McAdoo clarified the retweet. “Please know,” McAdoo wrote, “that it is death to an America that was built on Indigenous genocide and the backs of Black slaves.” Since America is a word and concept that means many things, we understand the confusion some feel with the statement “Death to America.” However, if America is used to reference the histories of Indigenous genocide and slavery, then GTAC does not hesitate in supporting this stance. Given the ongoing incidents of anti-Native and anti-Black racism, sexism, and ableism at KU, many assumed the university administration would realize the importance of context. Instead, Chancellor Girod remains complicit with the widespread misogynistic and anti-Black violence President McAdoo has faced in response to the post. GTAC is outraged by the collusion of university administration with fascist rhetoric and media. Alongside countless KU student and worker organizations, GTAC demands accountability for the legacies of colonialism and slavery here on campus.
GTAC Executive Board