United States Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders voiced his support for Temple University Graduate Students’ Association’s strike in a tweet Wednesday evening.
“If Temple can afford to pay its football coach $2 million per year, it can afford to pay its grad student workers a living wage and decent benefits,” Sanders wrote.
Sanders’ tweet comes just one day after TUGSA declared a strike and hosted a rally, following stagnant negotiations with the university about issues like increased pay, longer parental leave and classroom improvements.
TUGSA wants their annual pay increased to $32,000 based on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator. Temple offered the union a 3 percent annual pay increase, a one-time payment of up to $500, double parental leave and additional bereavement leave and health care benefits without a contribution requirement from the employee.
Part of the rally took place in front of Sullivan Hall, where the Board of Trustees was set to meet Tuesday. At the end of the Board’s meeting, Patrick Eiding, a trustee and retired president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, a labor union, asked the Board about the status of strike negotiations.
“Do we see any end to this discussion?” Eiding said. “I had tried to find some help on both sides and wasn’t able to get anything back, but it’s kind of getting to a point where I think it’s not a good thing for Temple or for anybody else involved.”
Cameron Etezady, a member of university counsel, responded that Temple is continuing to speak with TUGSA and that a bargaining meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8.
“We’re going to keep trying to work for the best possible deal for both sides and get something resolved as efficiently as we can,” Etezady said. “We understand the concern.”
Local politicians have also endorsed TUGSA’s strike including Councilmember At-Large Kendra Brooks, State Senators Nikil Saval and Sharif Street and State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta.