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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​.

GTAC Stands in Solidarity with Niya McAdoo

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.

Signed,

GTAC Executive Board

GTAC’s Response to the Provost’s Statement issued on August 20, 2021

During the past summer, Graduate Teaching Assistants at the University of Kansas fought to survive another summer of unemployment amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the past month, areas across the United States, including Lawrence, have seen a resurgence of the virus, especially the more contagious Delta variant. In response to this ever-changing and increasingly threatening situation, GTAs have waited to hear from KU’s administration about the University’s plan of action. 

Instead, the semester began this morning without any real plan. Reasonable questions and concerns from GTAs, faculty, and staff about how KU plans to keep students, workers, and their families safe were dismissed as in-person learning began today. This dismissive attitude is prominently evident in the public relations statement sent from the Provost last week. This statement displays the open hostility and derision the KU administration holds towards the very people who fulfill the mission of this institution by teaching classes and conducting research at KU. Most alarmingly, it further demonstrates that the KU administration, in its commitment to profits over the well-being of its workers and students, is willing to risk the health of its communities for the pursuit of profits.

On August 20, after a summer of silence and lack of planning from KU, instructors eager for institutional guidance on how to prepare for the fall semester in the face of a surge in the Delta variant received “Thoughts on Preparing to Welcome our Students and Course Format Questions,”  an email statement from Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer. Her email, which should have included clear information about covid policies for the upcoming semester, instead consisted of unsubstantiated data meant to support their unilateral implementation of in-person teaching this fall. This policy stripped instructors of their ability to choose their method of instruction to best protect themselves, their families, and the broader KU/Lawrence community. It replaced it with an unworkable system of case-by-case accommodations that jeopardizes the well-being of the communities KU claims to serve. It is GTAC’s belief that amid a worsening global pandemic, in which breakthrough cases among the vaccinated are rising across the nation, KU failed to protect its workers. The KU administration leaves us no choice but to do what is necessary to protect ourselves. 

Bichelmyer’s suggestion that instructors who want to move their courses online due to personal covid concerns are failing undergraduates and risking the financial security of the university is a callous misrepresentation of the issues at hand. Many members of the KU community want to be in person, but want to do so safely. Yet, KU administration failed to provide safe and healthy working conditions. They not only refuse to give instructors the autonomy they need to protect themselves, they have removed many of the previous covid protections on campus. 

The administration’s “concern” about losing state funding—if they followed the advice of expert scientists and physicians—is not “appropriate justification” for then jeopardizing the health and safety of our community. GTAC calls on the KU administration to sue the state to change regulations around vaccination and online learning, and give instructors the right to choose our working conditions that best protect ourselves, our families, our students, and the wider Lawrence community. GTAC implores all campus workers and students to choose their own health and well-being over this institution’s bottom line.

Signed,

GTAC Executive Board

Proposed Bylaws Amendments Spring 2021

GTAC will be conducting a bylaws amendments election from Tuesday 4/27 at 9a to Friday 4/30 at 5p. The proposed amendments are technical corrections to the amendments passed in the fall of 2020. You can view the proposed amendments here. We will discuss these proposed amendments at the General Meeting on 4/22, and you can reach out with questions to gtacunion@gmail.com.

All current dues-paying members will receive an email link next week to cast your vote. There’s still time to join so you can vote – click here to become a dues-paying member of GTAC.

Title:                Amendment 1-2021

Subject:           Elections Timing & Methods

Submitted:      19 April 2021

The purpose of this amendment is to allow online voting methods and to move GTAC officer elections from the fall semester to the spring semester. Currently, all GTAC officer elections must be held in-person. This amendment would allow online voting methods and create a procedure for secure online voting which is accessible to the membership. Currently, the membership elects new officers in the fall semester, leaving GTAC with absent or appointed replacement officers during the summer and early fall months. While appointed replacements fall within our bylaws, it will be more democratic to have elected officers. Also, because the majority of annual work occurs in the fall semester, this will allow new officers several months over the summer to train and familiarize themselves with their role before they must begin secure operations such as contract negotiations and grievance handling.

  1. Article III, Section 5, shall be amended by striking the word “fall” and inserting the word “spring.”
  2. Article III, Section 6, shall be amended by striking all instances of the words, “August”, “September, and “October”, and inserting the words, “February”, “March”, and “April”, respectively.
  3. Article III, Section 6 shall be amended to include procedure for online elections.
  4. Article III, Section 6(xii) shall read, “Any amendment to the timing of annual elections shall take immediate effect, and in no circumstance shall any officer serve more than fourteen (14) months between elections, except in such circumstances that may prevent the proper administration of elections.”
  5. This amendment shall take immediate effect upon adoption.

Overview of Proposed Changes

Article III: Election of Officers and Standing Committee Chairs

Section 5. Schedule & Term Limits

Officers and committee chairs shall be elected in the fall spring semester of each year. Terms of office shall be for one year from the date of assuming office.

Section 6. Elections Procedure

The intent is to begin this process in August February, to certify all nominations in September March, and to hold elections in October April. However, good faith efforts that begin later but adhere to notification minimums will not be considered out of bylaws. Elections shall be held as follows:

  1. The President shall appoint two members to the Elections Committee, said appointment being confirmed by the Steering Committee, by August February 1st of each year.
  2. The Elections Committee shall make a good faith effort to notify all unit members of opening of nominations, offices to be filled, date of the election, and of the eligibility requirements to vote, within thirty (30) no less than forty-five (45) days of prior to said election.
  3. Members may nominate themselves by giving notice of intent to run for office to any member of the Elections Committee within thirty (30) days of the notice of the opening of nominations.
  4. Committee members may seek out nominations from members. Any member of the Elections Committee nominated for or seeking office must vacate their position and be replaced by a member appointed by the president and approved by the Steering Committee.
  5. The Elections Committee shall certify all nominated members by checking their membership status with AFT-Kansas. Unit members shall be given a good faith opportunity to become members before being decertified.
  6. Once certified, and at least ten (10) fifteen (15) days before the election, the Elections Committee shall notify all unit members of the candidates, the position for which they are running, and of the election time, date, location, and eligibility requirements to vote. Such notice shall be provided by email and by U.S. mail to members’ most recent home address.
  7. The election shall be held at a general membership meeting. The vote shall be by secret ballot. At least two members of the Elections Committee will hold a table with a complete list of members in good standing, unit members, secret ballots, and membership sign-up cards. These members shall certify all members of their standing before passing out ballots. Members who sign up at the table will be allowed to vote.
  8. The ballots shall be counted at the meeting, in view of the general membership. Questionable ballots shall be set aside and certified by the consensus of the Elections Committee prior to the final calculation. All elections materials, including decertified and/or runoff ballots, will be kept in a secure location for one (1) year.
  9. The election shall be held at a General Meeting. The vote shall be by secret ballot. The Executive Board shall choose to vote in person or online, whichever method is least restrictive and most accessible to the membership.
    1. When elections are held in person:
      1. At least two members of the Elections Committee will hold a table with a complete list of members in good standing, unit members, secret ballots, and membership sign-up cards. The Elections Committee shall certify the standing of each member before passing out ballots. Unit members who sign up to become dues members at the table will be allowed to vote.
      1. The ballots shall be counted at the meeting, in view of the membership. Questionable ballots shall be set aside and certified by the consensus of the Elections Committee prior to the final calculation. All elections materials, including decertified and/or runoff ballots, will be kept in a secure location for one (1) year.
    1. When elections are held online:
      1. The Elections Committee shall review available services to determine which is most appropriate. The most appropriate shall be the least restrictive service which is accessible for all dues members and allows for anonymous voting with a certification of member standing process overseen by a third-party or AFT-Kansas.
      1. The results will be announced as soon as possible, based on the limits of the service. Questionable ballots shall be set aside and certified by a third-party or AFT-Kansas prior to the final calculation. All elections data will be kept in a password-protected drive for two (2) years.
  10. A simple majority shall determine the outcome of the election. In the absence of a majority, a second vote will be taken between the two candidates who have received the most votes for the office in question. Any run-off ballots cast for other candidates than the two in runoff status shall be invalidated. Results shall be announced at the election meeting as soon as possible based on voting method.
  11. The election results will be published in writing within three (3) days following the election. Challenges and objections to the election must be submitted in writing, with a statement of supporting reasons that includes specific facts as well as any documentation, to the Elections Committee within five (5) days of this notification. The Elections Committee shall issue its written opinion regarding the objections no later than seven (7) days after receipt of such objections, notifying members and the signatories to the objection by First Class mail to their last known address. If there are no challenges, the election results stand.
  12. Successful candidates shall assume office within fifteen (15) days of the election.

Title:                Amendment 2-2021

Subject:           Office and Committee Titles

Submitted:      19 April 2021

The purpose of this amendment is to bring our language in line with AFT-Kansas and AFT national (and make it easier to say) and to replace a reference to an ad hoc committee with a standing committee to improve the functionality of our procedures.

  1. All instances of the phrase, “Steering Committee”, in the Bylaws, are hereby struck, and the phrase, “Executive Board”, is inserted for all such instances.
  2. All instances of the phrases, “Negotiations/Legislative” and “Negotiations Committee”, in the Bylaws, are hereby struck, and the phrase, “Political” and “Political Committee” is inserted for all such instances.
  3. Strike the phrase, “negotiations teams” and replace it with “Negotiations Team” in Section 2d.
  4. Strike the words “who will” in Section 2ai.
  5. Strike the word “go” and replace it with the word “Go” in Section 2dii.
  6. Strike the words “Elections Committee” and replace it with “elected officers” in Section 2dvi.
  7. This amendment shall not be construed to affect any powers or duties of the offices so re-titled.
  8. This amendment shall take immediate effect upon adoption.

Overview of Proposed Changes

Section 2. Negotiations/Legislative Political Committee

The Negotiations/Legislative Political Committee shall consist of three or more members, including the elected chair, with the intent to represent the diversity of the bargaining unit. The Negotiations Political Committee shall:

  1. Survey the membership on a yearly basis;
  2. Recruit members to represent the diversity of the bargaining unit;
  3. Be responsible for starting contract negotiations every two years;
  4. Create a negotiations teams Negotiations Team who shall:
    1. Assemble a team of members, including the President as an ex officio member, who will
    1. go Go to the table”, with the intent of representing the diversity of the bargaining unit;
    1. Elect a spokesperson;
    1. Generate consensus over negotiation priorities and strategy;
    1. Negotiate with management for favorable terms and conditions of employment for all members of the bargaining unit; and
    1. Work with the Elections Committee elected officers for contract ratification.
  5. Monitor local, state, and federal government actions that may affect the membership;
  6. Develop political campaigns with the Organizing Committee and affiliated organizations;
  7. Regularly attend/monitor student union and student senate meetings;
  8. Regularly report to the Steering Committee Executive Board; and
  9. Work to ensure a smooth transition of duties and knowledge to new members and chairs.

Title:                Amendment 3-2021

Subject:           Local Dues

Submitted:      19 April 2021

The purpose of this amendment is update local dues to one dollar ($1) and clarify the procedure for receiving these dues from the state federation.

  1. Editing Article VII, Section II to clarify procedure for set local dues in the amount of $1 per member per month, and to strengthen quorum requirements for setting dues.
  2. This amendment shall take effect on August 18th, 2021.

Overview of Proposed Changes

Article VII: Revenues

Section 1. Membership Dues

The dues of this organization shall be in accordance with KAPE/AFT guidelines, plus mandated increases in required affiliation fees, including the AFT, state federation, and AFL-CIO local and state affiliates. Dues shall be automatically increased to equal any increase in national and/or state federation or regional per capita dues or insurance premiums.

Section 2. Local Dues

Local dues are $1 per month. The membership can vote to increase dues for local use; a simple majority vote at a general meeting in accordance with Article VIII shall be required to charge local dues or change the amount of local dues.

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.