UF Grad Labor Union reaches agreement with administration on health care benefit
May 15, 2006--University of Florida President J. Bernard Machen and Graduate Assistants United, the labor union representing UF's 4000 graduate employees, announced Friday they had reached an agreement to give the graduate workers at UF a comprehensive health care plan as part of the workers' benefits package. Beginning in January 2007, the University will pay the entire health insurance premium for the graduate employee insurance through Mega Life Insurance, a national company based in Dallas, Texas.
"This is something the graduate workers at UF have been fighting for since GAU was established in 1980," said GAU co-President Deeb Kitchen. "To finally win this benefit, to make our employers realize that graduate employees do indeed deserve health benefits, is a monumental achievement for grad workers in this history of the University of Florida."
Some of the features of this new plan include better women's healthcare, affordable prescription drugs, and an option for domestic partner benefits, among other things. "During the course of negotiations, GAU partnered with the UF administration and the Graduate Student Council to bring UF's grad student a package that makes UF more than competitive with its peer institutions" offered GAU chief negotiator Victor Romano. "I believe all parties can agree that this plan is arguably one of the best health benefit packages offered to graduate employees in the nation."
GAU Chief Steward Todd Reynolds attempted to put this victory into historical perspective: "This plan has been the result of the hard work of the University of Florida administration, particularly President Machen, Provost Janie Fouke, Vice President of Human Resources Kyle Cavanaugh, and Graduate School Dean Kenneth Gerhardt; the Graduate Student Council, particularly Mike Bowen; and GAU." Mr. Reynolds also said the graduate students at UF have to thank the tireless efforts of their predecessors -- the graduate employees who over the past twenty-six years refused to tire on this issue. He also hopes that this benefit, which is the culmination of decades of struggle, will serve as and is a testament to the idea that participating in the union really does help the graduate workers.
Because this health plan is part of the collective bargaining agreement between GAU and the UF Board of Trustees, the graduate workers must vote to ratify it sometime early in the Fall semester. "GAU and UF are in the middle of negotiating on pay raises as well," said Romano. "Obviously, we will recommend that the graduate employees vote yes on this plan."
For more information on Graduate Assistants United, write officers @ ufgau . org or call 352-392-0274.
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