The Temple University Graduates Students’ Association has been holding a strike authorization vote since Oct. 27. If a majority of people vote in favor by the end of this week, union leadership will call a strike.
A strike would mean all TA’s and RA’s would stop holding classes, grading assignments and performing research.
A strike for RA’s could look different due to Direct Academic Benefit, a receipt of academic credit or the use of research provided as a part of a master’s project, thesis or doctoral dissertation, according to their website.
TUGSA has been negotiating with Temple following the expiration of their contract on Feb. 15.
The organization has advocated for more than five days of parental leave, remission of tuition which partially waives tuition for university employees. The union also advocated for the remission of international fees, a fee which international students pay on their tuition, investment in classroom improvements and an increase in wages, according to their website.
TUGSA wants their annual pay to increase to $32,000 after using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator to determine Philadelphia’s livable wage.
Temple has offered to raise wages by two percent in the first year of the contract and 1.75 percent in the years following the signing of the contract, said Sharon Boyle, the vice president of human resources.
A wage increase is a matter of having enough money to live in Philadelphia, said Matt Ford, a TUGSA staff organizer.
Temple has not considered negotiating on other union demands like parental or bereavement leave, Boyle said. The university doesn’t want to change anything except increasing wages.
“It’s a lot of things that aren’t even applicable to full-time employees, they’ve asked us to triple the amount of bereavement leave beyond what full-time employees have,” Boyle said. “They’ve asked us to double the bookstore discount, they’ve asked us to pay for their commute to Temple in terms of free SEPTA passes, free bike passes, free parking, things that aren’t applicable to Temple and all of that has a cost.”
If TUGSA votes to authorize a strike it will not immediately take into effect, according to TUGSA’s website. After the expiration of the voting period, votes will be counted to determine whether the decision gained the majority’s favor.
TUGSA union members who participate in the strike will lose significant benefits, including healthcare, tuition remission, stipend and healthcare benefits, wrote Stephen Orbanek, a university spokesperson, in an email to The Temple News.
Employees will receive benefits again when they return to work, Boyle said.
“We know that TUGSA has threatened to withhold grades,” Boyle added. “I want students to be assured that the university has secure systems and will plan for continuation of education so that would not be a concern.”
With TUGSA being the only graduate student’s union in Pennsylvania recognized by the National Labor Relations Act, and a lack of clear decisions regarding the strike due to voting still being held until the end of the week, there is no definite picture of how the strike will be structured.
“So, what we will do if the strike happens is it would be like any other strike, you know, it would be a cessation of work,” Ford said.
With the voting window closing this week for TUGSA’s strike authorization vote, the union will continue to discuss what further actions to take. The union and administration will continue to negotiate until a mutual agreement on a new contract is reached.