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.

Not Your Doctor, Not Your Lawyer, & Definitely Not Your Friend

Regarding the recent misinformation within an email from KU Provost Barb Bichelmeyer:

Instructor Reminder: If you learn that a member of your classroom or your department has tested positive and you’ve been following physical distance guidelines, adhering to classroom configuration and wearing masks, you and your students would not be considered a close contact. Please allow public health officials to perform necessary contact tracing. As an instructor, HIPPA [sic] regulations do not allow you to disclose a student’s status to others unless the student has given you permission to do so. “

1. Please be aware that GTAs are not covered entities under HIPAA. GTAs are under no obligation to comply with HIPAA standards regarding student disclosures related to Covid-19.

2. More importantly, KU administrators are not trustworthy sources for medical advice. If you believe you have been exposed to Covid-19 by a student or any other source, please seek testing and follow all best practices and guidance issued by trustworthy medical sources until you receive the results of your test. This may include quarantining, per the Kansas Department of Health & Environment:

“If you have been told by a public health professional or other authority that you are a close contact of a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19, you must quarantine yourself for 14 days after your last contact with the case. You are considered a close contact if you have been directly within 6 feet of someone with a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19 for 10 minutes or more.


See the full text of the Provost’s email below.

From: Office of the Provost <provost@ku.edu>
Date: September 16, 2020 at 9:58:20 AM CDT
To: “Active Lawrence and Edwards Students @ KU” <student01@ku.edu>, “KU Lawrence All Staff, Faculty and Affiliates” <kulsfa@ku.edu>
Subject: What to Do if You Need a COVID-19 Test

Five things to know.

Title: Office of the Provost - Description: Office of the Provost email banner
Sent on behalf of Barbara Bichelmeyer, Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor, and Dr. Pavika Saripalli, Chief of Staff of Watkins Health Services. 

What to Do if You Need a COVID-19 Test

Dear Students, Staff, and Faculty,

There is misinformation circulating about appropriate action if someone develops COVID-19 symptoms. This email is to ensure all members of the KU community have correct and consistent information available to guide their actions should they develop symptoms or learn they need a follow-up test for COVID-19. We have arranged for expanded testing capability with the University of Kansas Health System (UKHS), which will be working closely with Watkins Health Services to provide additional testing.

Symptomatic and Asymptomatic Testing
Call the KU COVID-19 Call Center, 785-864-9000, or your local health care provider for guidance as soon as possible if you notice the onset of COVID symptoms, or if you believe, or a public health official informs you, that you are a close contact of someone who is positive for COVID-19. For example, you would be considered a close contact if you have been within six feet for 10 minutes or more of a person who tested positive, or are a roommate of someone who is positive.
·        Arrange an appointment for a COVID-19 test at the earliest opportunity. You can do this through the call center or your local health care provider.
·        Quarantine, limiting contact with others, until you test and you receive results, and follow further instructions from health care providers.
·        Isolate, per instructions from public health officials, if your test is positive for COVID-19.
·        Stay home – do not attend classes, do not go to work – until after your quarantine or isolation period has concluded.

(Please remember that should you need to miss work, the federal Family First Protection Act provides paid leave for many COVID-19-related situations. Students, please contact your instructors as soon as possible to seek a course adaptation.)

Edwards Campus faculty, staff and students can take advantage of UKHS COVID-19 testing clinics in the Kansas City metro. In Lawrence, symptomatic individuals can be tested at either Watkins Health Services or the new drive-through/walk-up clinic operated by UKHS at the Naismith Hall parking lot, 18th Street and Naismith Drive. We’ve also created an additional testing clinic for individuals considered close contacts who aren’t displaying symptoms and for those individuals asked to take part in KU’s ongoing prevalence testing. This drive-through/walk-up clinic, in Lot 91 near the Spencer Museum of Art and the KU Football Practice Fields, will provide the COVID-19 saliva test. Please make an appointment for this clinic site, either through the call center or through the provided instructions if selected for random prevalence testing. Location information appears below. UKHS will work closely with Watkins Health Services to ensure that students who test at the drive-through clinic have their results communicated promptly to Watkins staff. 

Test Cost and Billing
Symptomatic and close contact individuals should not have to pay for any of the testing resources on campus.
·        Symptomatic COVID-19 tests will be billed to insurance if the client has health insurance. All insurance providers are required to cover these medically necessary tests in full when ordered by a health care provider, such as through the call center.
·        Members of the KU community who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 and who do not have insurance will not be charged to receive this test. The cost will be covered through alternate funding sources. 
·        All asymptomatic COVID-19 saliva tests for KU’s randomized prevalence testing and for testing of close contacts of positive cases will be provided for free to those who meet the criteria to receive these tests. 

Patient Records
Watkins will continue to maintain records for individuals seen and tested at Watkins. Symptomatic individuals who have an appointment at the UKHS drive-through testing site will need to create a patient profile with UKHS to have access to their results through the UKHS patient portal. The UKHS clinical team will call all individuals tested through the Naismith site with their results, and student results will be communicated with Watkins Health Services and KU Student Housing staff as appropriate. Positive results will also be communicated to appropriate state and local health officials. 

Instructor Reminder
If you learn that a member of your classroom or your department has tested positive and you’ve been following physical distance guidelines, adhering to classroom configuration and wearing masks, you and your students would not be considered a close contact. Please allow public health officials to perform necessary contact tracing. As an instructor, HIPPA regulations do not allow you to disclose a student’s status to others unless the student has given you permission to do so.  

Safety for Everyone
Please maintain appropriate physical distance and wear a mask everywhere you go. Follow basic handwashing and hygiene guidelines. Use hand sanitizer when hand washing isn’t an option. Monitor your symptoms every day and use the CVKey app when entering campus buildings. Stay home and away from others if you aren’t feeling well. The Protect KU website has answers to your questions and information to address your concerns. Thank you to all who have taken these important safety precautions to heart to help keep yourself and others safe. We know there could be further challenges ahead, but basic precautions are very effective when used consistently.

Should you develop symptoms or learn you are a close contact of someone who is positive, it is imperative that you heed the guidance of health professionals to the letter. The additional testing capabilities of UKHS and its collaboration with Watkins Health Services will help ensure results are determined quickly and communicated promptly. 

Respectfully, Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor 
Pavika Saripalli, M.D.
Watkins Health Services Medical Director   

Lawrence Testing Clinic Locations
To help reduce risk of transmission, please use the call center to first make an appointment. Call center staff will inform you of which facility you should visit. Individuals selected for prevalence testing should follow appointment instructions supplied in their notification email. 

Watkins Health Services
1200 Schwegler Drive 

University of Kansas Health System satellite testing site
Naismith Hall parking lot,
18th Street and Naismith Drive 

KU Asymptomatic and Prevalence Testing Site
Lot 91, Between Spencer Museum of Art and KU Football Practice Fields
Follow the Spencer Museum service road off Mississippi St.  

COVID-19 Symptoms
·        Fever or chills
·        Cough
·        Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
·        Chest pain
·        Fatigue
·        Muscle or body aches
·        Headache
·        New loss of taste or smell
·        Sore throat
·        Congestion or runny nose
·        Nausea or vomiting
·        Diarrhea

Title: Decorative graphic - Description: Decorative graphic at the end of the message

Proposed Bylaws Amendments

At the upcoming 23 Sept General Meeting, members will discuss and vote on two proposed changes to the GTAC bylaws. Every unit member has the right to speak during the discussion but only dues members will be able to cast their vote. To become a dues member, click here. To find out if you’re a dues member, click here.

Title: Amendment 1-2020
Subject: Elections Timing & Methods

Submitted: 15 Sept 2020

Click here to view the text of the proposed changes.

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.

Title: Amendment 2-2020
Subject: Office & Committee Titles

Submitted: 15 Sept 2020

Click here to view the text of the proposed changes.

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.

Title: Amendment 3-2020
Subject: Local Dues Amendment
Submitted: 15 Sept 2020

Click here to view the text of the proposed changes.

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 receiving local dues from the state federation in the amount of $1 per member per month.
  2. This amendment shall take effect on January 1st, 2021.

GTAC Newsletter – 9 September 2020

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


Dear Friend,

Today is Labor Day, a holiday intended for workers like us to celebrate these victories and enjoy rest from work. Meanwhile, the rest of the world takes May Day to commemorate the martyrs of the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago, who died fighting for a balance between their labor, rest, and recreation. (Sound familiar to us at KU right now?)

Why do we have Labor Day instead of May Day? To isolate us from our fellow workers globally and from our own radical U.S. labor history. It’s been more than 130 years since our fellow workers gave their lives at Haymarket to achieve this balance, and right now, we’re once again forced to fight bosses who want to disrupt that balance. Right now, basic needs like fair pay, affordable quality health care, and fair functional work schedules are considered radical at the University of Kansas, and all over the county. How can we fight back?

By enforcing our right to fair duties and fair hours of work. GTAs should not be asked to create or develop course materials, to complete any duty which is not instructional, or (for .50FTE workers) working more than 20 hours per week. GTAs who are expected to create or develop course materials should click here to find out how to access compensation for that work. GTAs who have been or will be working more hours than agreed by their FTE should click here to find out about back pay and/or an increased FTE to cover actual hours worked.

In solidarity,
President Neill Kennedy


It has always been working people acting collectively who create change – on the streets and at work. It has always been our labor movement that fights for ourselves and our communities and better lives for all. Today we can see unionized grad workers all over the country fighting and winning, from summer healthcare and affordable housing for our union comrades in GEO AFT Local 6300 at UIUC to our own Fall 2020 pay raises here with GTAC AFT Local 6403, we continue to demonstrate that we can achieve together what would be impossible to achieve individually.

All wins begins with workers connecting. Because GTAs are transitory workers, it can be difficult to sustain our connections over cycles of admission and graduation. Time and again, KU admin have chosen to exploit this weakness to exploit our labor and our lives. How can we fight back?

By connecting to win!

  1. Communicate! Add your non-KU contact info to keep up with the latest news.
  2. Stand together! Level up to a full membership today to build our union power.
  3. Fight! Take action to win raises during our Fall 2020 contract negotiations.
  4. Win! Enjoy more raises, like the four raises negotiated in our 2018 contract negotiations.

Join our GTAC Slack by emailing Communication officer Katie Hinders and join our private GTA-only Facebook Group here!

In solidarity,
Katie Hinders


Labor Day Strike? On Friday, we sent an email endorsing the KU Labor Day Student Strike and asking all GTAs to sign their petition. Workers have reached out with questions about participation in this event, so we have put together an FAQ on strikes and absences. If you participated in the the KU Labor Day Student Strike, please click here for the FAQGlad 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.

In solidarity,
Graduate Teaching Assistants Coalition
AFT Local 6403


When we fight, we win!