UF graduate assistants protest rising health care costs – News – The Ledger


The union said the university’s proposed plan for GatorGradCare, the assistants’ health insurance plan, would increase deductibles to $300 and increase out-of-pocket maximums.

GAINESVILLE — About 65 University of Florida graduate assistants and supporters crowded the front of Tigert Hall on campus Friday to protest rising health care costs.

Graduate Assistants United, the labor union for graduate teaching and research assistants, hosted the rally while it continues negotiations with the university.

The union said the university’s proposed plan for GatorGradCare, the assistants’ health insurance plan, would increase deductibles to $300 and increase out-of-pocket maximums.

Alec Dinnin, co-president of the union and a political science graduate assistant, said the plan would make GatorGradCare too expensive to use for some graduate assistants.

“We are not going to accept their plan to gut our health coverage,” Dinnin said.

UF officials said bargaining would continue.

“Graduate Assistants United have the best deal for healthcare on campus and do not pay premiums,” UF spokesman John Hines said.

Dinnin said the number of graduate assistants who came to the Friday afternoon rally, many of them wearing T-shirts that said, “With love, Graduate Assistants United,” showed their dedication to the cause.

“All we gave them was crappy pizza, and they still came out,” he said.

More than 1,000 graduate assistants make at most $15,000 per year, the union said.

At the rally, Armand Kapllani, a graduate assistant in economics, held a sign asking, “President Fuchs, are shrubs more important than GAs?”

Kapllani said he would rather UF President Kent Fuchs budget more for graduate assistants’ benefits instead of campus landscaping projects.

“There’s more important things, and GAs are the fundamental pillar of this university,” he said.

At a Sun editorial board meeting, Fuchs said UF is requesting $75 million from the state Legislature to hire top researchers and to hire more assistant professors and lecturers to shrink undergraduate class sizes.

The student-faculty ratio of 21:1 is worse than other universities nationally, he said.

The funding request is part of the university’s pre-eminence plan, in which it aims to break through into the top 10 public universities nationwide.

In September 2016, U.S. News & World Report ranked UF 14th among public universities.

Taylor Polvadore, Graduate Assistants United’s co-president and a graduate assistant in anthropology, said it was ironic to depend on graduate assistants to teach while increasing their health care costs.

“We have to, as GAs, choose between rent and prescriptions, buying food or going to the doctor,” she said. “We can’t teach as effectively as we could if we had good health care.”

Dinnin said he wants the university to keep graduate assistants’ health care costs the same as this year.

“Maintain the status quo,” he said.

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UF graduate assistants protest rising health care costs – News – The Ledger

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