Grad union to file case against MSU for wages
MSU’s Graduate Employees Union, or GEU, will seek third party-mediated negotiations after the university denied a grievance claiming more than 300 teaching assistants have not been paid their full wages.
Because of an overlap in the union’s collective bargaining agreement with MSU, which delineates the periods of employment for TA’s from semester to semester, the union and university are at odds over whether the overlap period constitutes pay equivalent to both positions.
The 2013 spring semester period took place from Jan. 1 to May 15, and the summer semester period took place from May 13 to Aug. 19.
Union members allege the university should have paid TA’s for both appointments during the three-day overlap from May 13-15 when they were only paid for one. GEU President Dan Clark said TA’s were, on average, paid about $200 less than many expected to receive.
The discrepancy is a total of about $66,000 for the overlap period for all TA’s, the union claims.
In GEU’s formal grievance disposition, MSU representatives said they disagree with the union’s assertion, which caused the union to seek mediated negotiations known as arbitration.
“We were contracted to do two jobs during that time,” Clark said. “The university has held fast to the position that they will only pay us for one of those jobs during that overlap period.”
According to the disposition, the university believes “teaching assistants were properly paid for performing the duties for which they were appointed.”
In an interview with The State News Thursday, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said the university is prepared for arbitration.
“Our position is that we have followed the letter of the contract. That may be subject to debate and discussion,” Simon said. “This year was treated like any other year.”
MSU spokesperson Kent Cassella didn’t provide any further information about the university’s rationale, noting in a statement that “it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment further until (the arbitration) process is finished.”
Teaching assistants receive appointments by the semester each academic year, consisting of an appointment in fall, spring and summer semesters. This overlap also occurred between the same semesters the previous year, but Clark said the university refused to acknowledge the issue.
Dan Beck, a graduate student in philosophy and a teaching assistant, knew about the discrepancy but didn’t realize the impact it would have.
“I wasn’t really aware of the extent that I was being underpaid,” Beck said.
Beck said he believed he lost $222 in pay he should have received during the overlap. However, there also is an overlap in appointment periods between fall and spring semesters, leading Beck to believe he is being withheld pay in excess of $500.
“For (MSU) to just unilaterally decide to not pay us for the days that they agreed… (and) not really give a good explanation why, it’s angering,” Beck said.
The overlaps in question will continue until 2015, when the GEU’s agreement expires.