CGE at Penn State joins a long and illustrious history of graduate employees demanding a say in their working conditions. In Pennsylvania alone, we join Temple University, who won their case at the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board and were officially declared employees in 2001. As we continue striving for representation, better working conditions, and solidarity at Penn State, we’d like to take a look at the victories of other successful graduate unions across the country.
Contracts (University of Iowa)
- Graduate employee union contracts cover a number of benefits for their members, and the graduate employees at the University of Iowa’s benefits have increased substantially since their union formed in 1996. In their first contract in 1996, they won a base salary increase, legal grievance procedure, health care plan, and clear policies regarding sick leave, family illness leave, bereavement leave, and time off over breaks between semesters. In the following years, they bargained for affordable dental care, mental health care, transparent summer pay rates, and legal representation in cases of workplace discrimination. The contract also protected salaries and health insurance against the nationwide university budget cuts in 2002-2003. Since then, their contract has continuously evolved to better protect and serve graduate employees.
Health Care (University of Missouri)
- Just last week, we heard from a former Nittany Lion and current Mizzou graduate student about her struggles during pregnancy regarding healthcare and childcare before graduate student unionization. In 2015, just thirteen hours before their coverage expired, the university announced that it would no longer be providing healthcare for graduate employees. After an organized walkout and multiple protests, graduate employees won back their benefits and a further pay increase. They have since successfully unionized to continue the success that their solidarity engendered.
Representation in the Case of Sexual Harassment (University of Connecticut)
- The graduate employee union at the University of Connecticut recently saw a success with regards to legal representation in a case of sexual harassment. After going through the university sanctioned process to report sexual harassment from a professor, one graduate student was told that she could not be believed because there was not sufficient evidence. Lacking both university and departmental support, the woman could not imagine continuing grad school, nor did she have job prospects if she were to quit. She turned to the graduate employee union. The union provided legal support, an outside grievance process, a third party for mediation, and the solidarity necessary for the woman to continue her studies at UConn.
Tuition Waiver Protection (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
- After first seeing their tuition waivers threatened in 2009, the unionized graduate employees of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign won protection for tuition waivers in 2013, guaranteeing that graduate employees won't need to pay for the education necessary to teach and research.
Recognition of Labor (University of Michigan)
- The graduate employee union at the University of Michigan agreed on a contract with the university just last week. After three sit-ins and months of negotiation, the graduate employees have won a number of benefits including pay for the labor they do for the university’s diversity programs and an annual wage increase of 3.35% for the next three years.
These victories show that solidarity works in demanding fair treatment from the university. CGE continues to celebrate the successes of our fellow graduate employee organizations, and we hope to see similar victories for Penn State in the future. As united graduate employees across the US have already demonstrated, a better university is possible.