Berkeley, CA – UAW 2865, the union that represents more than 19,000 Academic Student Employees at the University of California, announced today that all Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs) teaching in the Online or On-Campus Masters of Public Health (OOMPH) program at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health will receive tuition remission and health care coverage beginning this Fall term. UC Berkeley had previously denied those benefits to these GSIs, even though they are specifically guaranteed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed by UAW 2865 and UC.

“This victory shows that when we stand together and fight, we win,” said Andrea Jacobo, a current OOMPH GSI and UAW 2865 steward for the Public Health department. “This agreement requires UC Berkeley to appoint the online public health program GSIs at percentages that ensure they all receive tuition, health insurance premium remission, and childcare benefits moving forward.” 

Last fall, the OOMPH program appointed some GSIs at 25% Full-Time Equivalent without providing health insurance premium remission and tuition remission, as required by the UAW 2865 contract. The GSIs were told that because the courses they teach are 8 weeks long, they must teach 2 online courses consecutively, or seek extra positions outside OOMPH, to qualify for these benefits. OOMPH GSIs are responsible for a comparable amount of content and grading as on-campus GSIs, but they were not provided with equal benefits.

UAW 2865 argued this practice constituted a violation of the union contract, and that the denial of benefits created an environment where GSIs feel pressure to take on extra work without equal benefits. A delegation of Public Health union members delivered a petition signed by nearly 150 graduate students to SPH Dean Michael Lu demanding that the school provide all OOMPH GSIs with tuition remission and health insurance premium remission and to ensure that all other GSIs are given the same benefits going forward.

Yesterday, both parties signed an agreement securing those rights.

“This victory is a credit to the strength and resolve of union members and allies who mobilized to right this wrong,” said Angela-Maithy Nguyen, a current OOMPH GSI involved in the union grievance filing. “We are proud to have corrected this issue and so that hardworking GSIs can access the tuition remission and health care benefits we need.”