GSIs in public health program at UC Berkeley win tuition remission, health care benefits

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The negotiations with the School of Public Health took about a year and were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Online or On-campus Masters of Public Health program GSI Andrea Jacobo.

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GSIs in campus’s Online or On-campus Masters of Public Health, or OOMPH, program will receive tuition remission and health care benefits beginning this semester as a result of negotiations between the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and United Auto Workers, or UAW, Local 2865.

Previously, OOMPH GSIs received a $4,000 stipend for one teaching appointment, according to OOMPH GSI Andrea Jacobo.

Jacobo added that she and her colleagues did not previously receive remission because OOMPH GSIs work eight-week terms while other GSIs work 16 weeks per term. The UC Office of the President did not respond for comment as of press time.

“In terms of hours worked and the number of weeks, it’s a very small discrepancy,” said OOMPH GSI Angela-Maithy Nguyen. “It’s the same amount of content, it’s just in a smaller amount of time, so we’re actually working in the same amount of hours as a normal GSI that gets that full tuition reimbursement.”

Jacobo said she did not know about the difference in benefits until her fellow union members told her.

The negotiations with the School of Public Health took about a year and were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacobo added. According to UAW spokesperson Brian Rothenberg, more than 150 GSIs organized around this issue.

According to Nguyen, OOMPH GSIs also petitioned the School of Public Health and kept track of their hours as evidence of their workload.

“This is definitely a group effort,” Jacobo said. “We had a lot of support from faculty, from the colleagues from the School of Public Health that signed petitions. … Administrators met with us to hear our stories. We had a town hall meeting that related to this.”

According to Nguyen, she and her fellow GSIs are happy about the remissions and health care benefits, and as a result of the decision, they do not have to seek additional jobs and can devote more time to their work.

It was “amazing” to win the remission and to “advocate” for future GSIs, Jacobo added.

“I just think that the remission reflects that the school is walking the talk,” Jacobo said “They’re looking at the students’ interest in mind and interests and well-being in mind and making sure that they’re being compensated as they should be.”

Contact Robson Swift at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @swift_robson.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Online or On-campus Masters of Public Health GSIs received a $164,000 stipend. In fact, they received a $4,000 stipend.