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UI COGS presents salary, fee proposals for 2013-2015

BY TIERRA SIMPSON | NOVEMBER 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Campaign to Organize Graduate Students at the University of Iowa is continuing to fight for more benefits, including a wage increase and the extension of full tuition scholarships.

Supporters and negotiators filled a room in the University Capitol Center Thursday night for an hourlong presentation that opened bargaining for the union’s ninth, two-year contract.

“Every two years, when we go into contract negotiation, we’re proposing new things that our graduate employees’ bargaining unit says they want, what we need to have,” COGS President Jason Whisler said.

Christopher Pickett, a graduate teaching assistant and the art and art history steward for COGS, highlighted the problems of being required to pay back mandatory fees. With their current salaries, some graduate employees are living below the estimated $24,000 per year cost of living in the state of Iowa, Pickett said.

“Grad workers are being asked, essentially, to take out more loans, to take on more jobs, and put extraordinary financial burdens on our partners in order to live and in order to work for the University of Iowa,” he said during the presentation.

COGS officials said some of their proposal focuses on a 5 percent increase in wages, lowering the cost of health insurance for graduate employees with families, reimbursement of fees, and extending full tuition scholarships to teaching and research assistants in any college.

Currently, full tuition scholarships cover students at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences rate, though other UI colleges may have higher tuition rates.   

“That 100 percent tuition isn’t to all of the colleges,” Whisler said. “We have a lot more members now in the College of Education because they are upset that they are paying thousands of dollars a year in tuition above the CLAS level.”

Sarah Eikleberry, a graduate teaching assistant and green area chief steward for COGS, felt the presentation went well.

“I think our proposal is fair and well justified,” she said. “I’m confident that the bargaining team for the Board of Regents will make movements towards many of our proposals, if not accept them fully because its always to the institution advantage to increase the working conditions and general welfare of its employees.”

Graduate Sara Shreve agrees that COGS put forth a strong argument.

“I think they made really great cases,” she said. “[The regents] will have to come up with something very solid to back up their position as well.”

The regents will respond with their proposal on Nov. 15.

Tim Cook, the regents’ policy and operations officer and associate counsel, looks forward to starting the bargaining process.

“We’ll go back and review it, and we’ll have our initial proposal in two weeks,” he said. “The relationship has been great; we anticipate reaching another voluntary agreement.”


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