RALLY! THIS FRIDAY (8/29)

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BACKGROUND: In May, GEU leaders attended a regularly-scheduled meeting at which representatives of MSU’s Office of Employee Relations unexpectedly informed us that MSU was intending to increase how much we pay for medical care by raising prescription drug co-pays, deductibles, out-of-pocket limits, and co-insurance rates for plan year 2014-2015. We have now met with the administration on this issue several times and want to make sure all GEU members are informed.

MSU and Aetna believe that they must make these changes because of certain requirements of the Affordable Care Act. We at GEU have researched the new ACA stipulations, however, and it’s clear that they are not applicable to our health care plan. Moreover, since health insurance is a benefit we have negotiated through collective bargaining, MSU cannot legally make the proposed changes unilaterally.

MSU believes that our health insurance plan is a student health insurance plan. According to the ACA, student health insurance plans are a type of individual health insurance coverage and therefore must have a certain “actuarial value”—an average percentage of the medical bills that the plan will pay for. Our current plan’s actuarial value is higher that what the law requires of individual health plans, so MSU and AETNA believe that the value of our plan must be reduced by increasing out-of-pocket costs for GEU members.

We have told the administration that they cannot make any changes to our health insurance for two reasons.

First, our plan is not an individual plan. Individual health insurance coverage is purchased by individual enrollees who do not receive job-based coverage. We, on the other hand, receive our health benefits as a result of our employment by the university. It is what the ACA calls a group plan, and under the ACA group plans are not required to conform to set actuarial values.

Second, the benefits levels that we all enjoy were negotiated and ratified by the GEU
membership after the last round of collective bargaining in 2011. As such, the university is
obligated to uphold the terms of that collective bargaining agreement. It’s a binding contract that can’t be changed by one side.

We have informed the administration that if they make any changes without our consent, we will file a grievance over the issue and charge them with committing an “unfair labor practice” (i.e. breaking the law by not doing what the contract says).

The administration may try to make the changes anyway, choosing to side with an insurance company rather than standing up for GAs. If they do this, we will see noticeable increases in the out-of-pocket costs on our medical bills. This would be a serious extra burden on us, and while we will challenge these changes on legal grounds, we will all also need to collectively respond to the administration’s actions.

We will keep you fully informed. If you’d like to become more involved on this issue, please contact the union office at geu@geuatmsu.org. Follow us on facebook and twitter for updates.

Take action by clicking here!

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Volunteer Opportunities with Workers’ Voice

As we all know, recently Michigan has been inundated with anti-worker, anti-education, anti-women, anti-LGBTQ and many other harmful forms of legislation. We now have to deal with cuts to university funding, right to work, no recognition of same sex partners, among many other issues.

The AFL-CIO in Lansing has organized under the Workers’ Voice program to fight back, and is looking for volunteers to make phone calls and canvass our neighborhoods to mobilize and inform voters about the attacks on labor and all of Michigan coming out of the Capitol.

If you want to help make Michigan a better state for all of us, you can sign up at the following link, email geu@geuatmsu.org to get into contact with our organizers, or come to a stewards’ council where a sign up sheet will be passed around. Michigan will have some of the closest races in the country this year! The state house, the state senate, the governor’s race, the senate race, and house races in districts 1, 7, and 8 are all expected to be close this year and may determine control of the entire federal government. Anyone, regardless of citizenship status, may volunteer to help!

http://miaflcio.org/volunteer 

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Need extra credits for Fall 2014?

Teaching Assistants needing additional credits for the fall 2014 semester should apply for the Tuition Waiver pool 

If you are a teaching assistant this coming fall (2014) your tuition waiver will cover 9 credit hours.  If you need to take additional credits, you are not out of luck, though!  During GEU’s most recent contract bargaining with the university, we negotiated 200 extra tuition waiver credits for our TAs to use.  So, if you need to take more than 9 fall credit hours, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity. Click on the following link for details:

GTA Tuition Waiver Pool Application and Details

Keep in mind, once you are awarded extra tuition waiver credits, they cannot be awarded to someone else.  So please be responsible and courteous to your fellow TAs when you apply.

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Grievance Committee Summer 2014

Are you interested in helping to enforce our contract and being a creative problem solver for your fellow graduate assistant colleagues? Join the Grievance Committee. Interested? Send us an email. We meet at the GEU office at 319 1/2 Grand River Ave.

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2014-15 Executive Board Election Results!

The Elections Committee is happy to welcome the new GEU officers:

Sylvia Marques (History) – President

Daniel Ritter (Agricultural Economics) – VP of Organizing & Outreach

Sophia Pavlos (Philosophy) – VP of Contract Negotiations & Enforcement

Kate Frederick (Anthropology) – Information Officer

Charles Loelius (Physics) – Treasurer

The Elections Committee would like to congratulate the new Executive Board and thank all candidates for their participation and dedication to the GEU. We look forward to working with you all in the upcoming year.

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Ask T.A. Dan (Ta-dahhh-n!): Workspace Issues

Dear TA Dan,

I wanted to gripe about my office space. While I see some TAs in other departments have access to their own work desks, bookcases, and filing cabinets they got us packed in like sardines in one little room! There’s barely enough room to move around when we’re all in here, much less hold office hours for our students. What’s up with that? More importantly, is there anything I can do about it?

Sincerely,

Squeezed in South Kedzie

——-

Dear Squeezed,

Of course there is something you can do about it! Never underestimate the power of collective action!  While we don’t have specific language in the contract for how much office space each graduate student should have, your employing unit is required to arrange access to work space for you for the performance of your T.A. duties. Moreover, it is one of our responsibilities as TAs to hold regular office hours. We need to be able to hold confidential meetings should our students want to discuss private information like grades.

Talk with your fellow TAs in the department about the issue. If you are having a problem, they probably are too. If you and your fellow TAs feel that your office space is not adequate to do your jobs well, please speak with your supervisor or chair right away! They want you to be able to do your job well and will likely be receptive to your concerns.  Since space allocation decisions get made at the college level, be cognizant that they might not be able to resolve the issue at the departmental level. Contact the GEU, and we will help you set up a meeting with all of the relevant parties. We have recently had great success in increasing office space for teaching assistants in Statistics, and we are currently working with African American and African Studies TAs to improve their work spaces.

Yours truly,

TA Dan

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Stewards Council 2014

Interested in representing yourself, your colleagues and your department? Become a GEU Department Steward!

Stewards are an integral and important part of our ability to assist our members.  Stewards, once trained, function as union member representatives at work. The steward training is designed to prepare members to recognize potential grievances and investigate and represent bargaining unit members in lower-level grievance hearings and investigatory meetings. Stewards are GEU members who represent GEU and fellow members in their MSU departments.

Being a steward involves a bit more responsibility than just being a member, but the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made a big difference in someone’s life makes it worthwhile.

If you want to know more about how your contract works, how to interpret contract language, what constitutes a grievance, how to deal with management, how to investigate a possible grievance  or what rights you have in the workplace as a union member, Stewards Council is for you!

An active group of members can make the difference between having power and being powerless!

Click on the Flyer below for the full schedule of meeting dates and times.

2014 Stews Flyer

 

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WE WIN!

Boom!

SETTLEMENT

MSU agrees to pay owed wages from summer 2013 (Finally.) MSU PAST DUE 4Thank you to everyone who worked so hard for so long to make this happen: two years of meetings, petitions, rallies and events but we prevailed in the end. Thank you to everyone who helped us secure this important victory. Solidarity at Work!

 

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Ask T.A. Dan (Ta-dahhh-n!), Our Newest Advice Columnist!

Hi Ta-Dan!

I just realized I forgot to enroll my partner in our health-care plan this year. Is it too late? How do I do it? Do I have to pay the whole premium for the year up front? Help!

Sincerely,

Frantic Fran

Hey Fran,

It’s not too late, but the deadline for enrollment is right around the corner. You have until SEPTEMBER 30 to enroll your spouses, dependents, or OEI in your health plan. You can enroll your spouse or dependent online at this link for enrolling dependents. You have the option of enrolling on a quarterly, semester, or annual basis. It is important to remember the dates of enrollment if you choose the quarterly or semester options because AETNA will not remind you when you will need to re-enroll your spouse or dependents for the next quarter or semester. Here are the various enrollment deadlines for different periods of coverage:

Coverage Period                                                        Application Deadline

Annual (8/15/13 – 8/14/14)                                          September 30, 2013

Fall Semester (8/15/13 – 2/14/14)                              September 30, 2013

Spring Semester (2/15/14 – 8/14/14)                        February 15, 2014

Quarter 1 (8/15/13 – 11/14/13)                                    September 30, 2013

Quarter 2 (11/15/13 – 2/14/14)                                   November 15, 2013

Quarter 3 (2/15/14 – 5/11/14)                                     February 15, 2014

Quarter 4 (5/12/14 – 8/14/14)                                    June 30, 2014

It’s best to initially enroll your dependent(s) using the computers in the Human Resources Benefit Office in the Nisbet Building (1407 S. Harrison Rd., Suite 140A) where there are people to assist you, especially if you intend to enroll an OEI because it requires the filing of an extra paper form.

As always don’t hesitate to contact MSU Benefits at 517-353-4434 and/or us should any problems arise.

In Solidarity,

Ta-Dan!

[If you have your  own question, query, quibble, or quandary for TaDan!, please fire off a email his way to geu@geuatmsu.org!]

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MSU TAs Shorted Hundreds of Dollars of Pay

MSU has decided to short many of our members on several hundred dollars worth of pay. Several hundred dollars is a large amount to most people, but when almost all of us make well under $20,000 each year a cut of this amount from our paychecks is critical to our wellbeing.

Most graduate students who were teaching assistants over the summer are affected by this pay cut. During our most recent contract negotiations with MSU, the university wanted to change the summer teaching appointment period. We worked with MSU to make sure the dates of the summer appointment period accurately reflected when summer work occurred. Because of this, there was a three-day overlap between the spring appointment period and the summer appointment period. For those three days, if a teaching assistant had both a spring appointment and a summer appointment, MSU maintains that it is only obliged to pay those TAs for one of the jobs. Stipend rates vary from department to department, but losing these for days of summer pay amounts to around $200. With 330 TAs in this situation, that is approximately $66,000 that MSU is withholding from grad student paychecks. Similarly, there is a four-day overlap between the summer and fall appointment periods that MSU does not want to pay TAs for either.

GEU has been working with MSU since last year on this issue. Recently, we met with the university, thought this issue was settled, and that summer TAs would be paid properly. Two weeks later, with no explanation whatsoever, the university declined to do so. This lack of recognition for the work that we do is unacceptable.

GEU always fights for TAs, and we intend to do what it takes to make sure our members receive the compensation that they deserve and that the university agreed to pay them. While this is unfolding, there are several things you can do to help. First, if you had a teaching assistantship in the summer and another assistantship in the spring term, please contact us and let us know how this affects you. We can also help answer questions about exactly how much pay you are missing. Just email geu@geuatmsu.org . Also, everyone can go to the following link to sign a petition to let MSU know that what they are doing is not right: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/michigan-state-university-1 . The more of us the university hears from, the sooner this matter will be resolved.

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