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Second Contract —
'UE Works' for University
of Iowa Graduate Employees

IOWA CITY, Iowa

Delivering a message ...
Union members picket a meeting of the University Board of Regents (above). Local 896 Vice Pres. Julie Schmid addresses membership rally (below) while contract negotiations are underway.
... and making a point.

Negotiations for a second contract between UE Local 896-COGS and the University of Iowa/State Board of Regents centered on union demands for improvements for families, confronting the employer’s preference for the economic status quo and proposed language changes.

Local 896 succeeded in fighting off the most important language concessions while securing an agreement with improvements in salaries, health insurance, pay distribution language and a long-sought non-discrimination clause. Local 896 members — University of Iowa graduate employees — ratified the agreement overwhelmingly.

Salaries will increase by 3 percent each year of the two-year agreement.

Nearly half of the classes at the University of Iowa are taught by teaching assistants and a great deal of the University’s world-class research is performed by research assistants, giving power to the UE local’s claim: "UI Works Because We Do!"

Making the families of graduate employees a priority this year, Local 896 fought hard for increased child care assistance. However, the university refused to bargain, hiding behind Iowa state law which regards child care as a permissive, not mandatory, topic of bargaining.

DEPENDENT INSURANCE

The UE local took a hard line on winning an employer contribution to dependent health insurance coverage. Late into the night at the last bargaining session the University finally agreed to an employer contribution to dependent coverage similar to the benefit enjoyed by all other state employees.

Beginning in the first year of the contract, employees and their dependents will receive approximately a 70 percent contribution towards the purchase of health insurance. Mental health insurance will be added to the contract in the second year; dental insurance will be added at a monthly cost of $2.50.

Dependent insurance, said Local 896 Pres. Deborah Herman, "was a critical issue for our members this year. Graduate employees make, on average, only $13,000 a year. For many people who have children, that means that health care has been out of reach. We’re very pleased to have been able to negotiate this help for children and families."

NON-DISCRIMINATION

Another major gain is inclusion of a non-discrimination clause as a letter of understanding. Although this is also a permissive topic of bargaining, the local has been fighting for language to protect employees from discrimination. Though not yet part of the formal grievance procedure, individuals are now guaranteed union representation in such cases if they choose and the union is guaranteed accountability from the employer.

Throughout negotiations rank-and-file members played a key role in reminding the University that the "UI Works Because We Do!" Informational pickets and rallies received considerable coverage from local newspapers and television, helping to inform eastern Iowa citizens of the concrete needs of the people who do so much to make the University of Iowa a great institution of higher learning. As a result the University could not ignore the union’s issues.

"This second contract is a major step towards providing graduate employees with decent and humane working conditions," said Jason Duncan, a history instructor and the local’s political action chairperson. "One reason we achieved this is because of the strength and vitality of our union."

ORGANIZING CONTINUES

Though much was accomplished in this second contract, union members are continuing the pressure. "I am pleased with the progress COGS has made," commented Jane Simonsen, an American Studies instructor. "I think this contract has accomplished some of our goals, but there are still things to work for in the future."

The UE local has already launched a campaign for better child care. A week after contract ratification, members began circulating a petition in the community and organizing informational mini-pickets.

The UE Local 896-COGS bargaining committee consisted of Deborah Herman, Tim Bryant, Tom Comerford, Francois Geneua, Margaret Loose, Danhua Huang and Jon Rose. They were assisted by District 11 Pres. Carl Rosen and Field Org. Ryan Downing.

UE News - 03/99


Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

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