Philadelphia City Council passed Councilmember at-large Isaiah Thomas’ resolution standing in solidarity with Temple University Graduate Students’ Associations’ demands for increased pay and improved health care, leave and working conditions.
The resolution, cosponsored by several other council members, calls on Temple to meet the graduate workers’ demands, according to a statement from a Thomas spokesperson.
“To see Temple University fail to reach an equitable resolution with the Temple University Graduate Students’ Association is highly upsetting and shows a lack of respect for the teaching and research assistants that keep Temple functioning,” Thomas wrote in the statement.
The average graduate student worker earns approximately $19,500 a year and TUGSA members have been advocating for their pay to be increased to $32,800. Temple has offered the union a 3 percent annual pay increase, a one-time payment of $500 to certain individuals, double parental leave and additional bereavement leave.
“No one can live off of $19,500 a year in this city,” Thomas wrote. “It is upsetting that Temple would suggest otherwise when they know educators put in hours on and off the clock to ensure good outcomes for their students and the university. I stand with TUGSA in their fight for this livable wage and fair benefits.”
Thomas also expressed displeasure with Temple’s recent decision to revoke striking TUGSA members’ tuition and health benefits.
“This retaliatory and cruel move is an attack on unions not just at Temple or in education, but unions everywhere,” Thomas wrote.
Since declaring their strike on Jan. 31, local and national politicians including United States Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, United States Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman and former City Council member and mayoral candidate Helen Gym have voiced their support for TUGSA.
TUGSA and the university met with a mediator on Wednesday to “discuss a path forward”, wrote Provost Gregory Mandel in an announcement to students.
“We appreciate the more than 80 percent of TUGSA members who have remained on the job and continue to teach and conduct research. We understand your concerns and hope to reach a fair and equitable agreement with the teaching assistants and research assistants who have chosen not to continue working,” Mandel wrote.
Thomas concluded his statement by urging the university to address TUGSA’s needs.
“I am calling on the university to work with TUGSA in a manner that indicates they actually respect and value the work they do, which starts with a livable wage, health and leave benefits, and better working conditions,” he wrote.