GSIs, TAs to receive retroactive fee remission from UC Berkeley

Allen Zeng/Staff

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After two years of negotiations, a union grievance has been settled that will result in significant compensation for some student instructors who were previously denied tuition and fee remission from UC Berkeley.

According to the payroll information available on the electrical engineering and computer sciences, or EECS, department website, teaching assistants, or TAs, and graduate student instructors, or GSIs, were previously eligible for tuition and fee remission if they worked at least 25% full-time equivalent, or FTE.

However, according to a press release from United Automobile Workers Local 2865, or UAW 2865, the union representing GSIs and TAs at the UC system, many campus classes — particularly in the EECS department — employed TAs and GSIs at below 25% FTE. The majority of these instructors were undergraduate student workers. The number of GSIs and TAs employed below 25% FTE has increased from 2% in April 2015 to 12% in April 2019, according to the press release.

The union filed a grievance in August 2017 alleging that this practice denied student workers contractually mandated tuition and fee remission, as well as child care benefits. On Monday, an arbiter ruled in favor of the union, directing campus to provide restitution to the aggrieved workers and end the practice of appointing GSIs and TAs below 25% FTE, according to the press release.

“While we are disappointed with the arbitrator’s decision, we accept the decision and will abide by it,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email. “We will work with the union to determine how to implement the decision.”

More than 1,000 TAs and GSIs were affected by the ruling, and paying restitution will cost the university millions of dollars, according to UAW 2865 president Kavitha Iyengar.

The decision only applies to the EECS department, however, according to Gilmore. She added that faculty members in the EECS department believe appointments should be limited to 20% FTE to ensure students’ academic performance is not compromised.

According to Nathan Kenshur, a head steward for UAW 2865, the union will work to ensure full compensation for affected workers moving forward. Kenshur added in the email that UAW 2865 will be investigating similar practices at other UC campuses.

“This victory sends a strong message – when working people stand and fight together, we win,” Iyengar said in a press release. “We will continue to advocate for fair and timely payment for every working person at UC, and we urge the University to remit restitution to those it under-appointed without delay.”

Alexandra Feldman is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_p_feldman.