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Temple University graduate workers strike over ‘living wage’

Following the lead of University of California graduate workers, teaching assistants and research assistants at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania went on strike Tuesday morning.

The Temple University Graduate Student Association (TUGSA) announced on Twitter, “After bargaining for over a year, Temple still refuses to meet our demands of a living wage, dependent healthcare, longer leave, and better working conditions. We’re ready to bargain: is admin?”

TUGSA noted that they were “proud to have the support of unions across Philadelphia and the country” and listed AFT, AFT President Randi Weingarten, Teamsters Local 623, and AFL-CIO, while using the hashtags #TUGSAstrike and #TempleUnionMade.

Although the union voted to go on strike in November, it did not officially announce a strike date for two months. Also, similar to the University of California strike, TUGSA asked for donations to the strike fund and suggested that its supporters join the picket line during work hours.

Temple University administration’s statement from November noted their confidence in keeping up the “quality and continuity” of classes during a potential strike. The university said it took steps to ensure classes will continue uninterrupted, secure students’ grades, and provide access to classrooms, library, and other university facilities.

The union lists their demands on their website, which are a “living wage,” healthcare for dependents and families, more parental and bereavement leave time, and “better working conditions.”

Currently, the average pay for Temple University’s 750 graduate student workers is $19,500 a year, but the union demands a 68% increase to an annual $32,800 base pay. TUGSA cited graduate workers at nearby University of Pennsylvania, where the university raised graduate worker pay to $38,000 earlier this month. “Graduate employees,” TUGSA wrote, “should be able to live in the city where they work.”

TUGSA demands more than five days of parental leave, which is the current parental leave policy, and criticized the university for not engaging with proposals that “address widespread overwork and mismanagement of contracts and work assignments” that negatively affect students. The union also criticized the cost of graduate employee healthcare plans, where the cost of adding dependents “are prohibitively expensive.”

So far, there is no timeline for the TUGSA strike, but a prolonged strike could disrupt the current semester.

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.