On Tuesday the graduate students of Indiana University, calling themselves the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition, will vote on whether to continue the strike that participants hope will force recognition of their union by university administration.
“There is nothing in Indiana’s policies that says only workers of certain classifications are allowed to be paid a living wage,” said grad student Anne Kavalerchik, who said one of their demands is to be paid what is considered a living wage in Bloomington.
She said there are over 80,000 unionized graduate student workers across the country , at places lit NYU and Harvard, who have union recognition and who are able to bargain. She said that is the thrust of the strike.
Both Kavalerchik and grad student Nora Weber, both active in the coalition and leaders in the student group of about 1,000, say the strike is legal, though some legal experts say the students could be fired because they are technically students first, and workers second.
“I think it would be a terrible, terrible precedent for IU to become the first university to fire a graduate worker,” said Weber.
“The university would face many, many consequences if it took the initiative to actively retaliate against graduate workers,” said Kavalerchik. “We are engaged in a legal strike action. This is a purposeful work stoppage for union recognition.”
You may have heard about some classes being canceled because of the strike. Weber said she believes the university could have prevented that and still could prevent further cancellations.
“The IU administration has and has had the power in their hands this entire time to prevent a strike, to stop a strike,” she said. “We see that IU undergraduate tuition is going up. We see that enrollments are increasing. We see that the IU endowment is at an all-time high, a multi-billion dollar endowment. How come the only people whose salaries are going up are a few select members of the upper administration?”
Grad students received a five percent raise this year.
Weber said the IU administration said they would be putting together their own task force on graduate student concerns. The university released a statement saying they would continue engaging with grad students “to determine how we can continue to build on that progress together”.
Weber acknowledged that the administration had attended listening sessions, but said that the notion of a task force by the administration is tone deaf to concerns that have been building for three years.
“I would just say that’s really disrespectful,” she said of the proposed task force.
What she and Kavalerchik consider respectful and a solution is the recognition of the grad student union.