Temple’s graduate students turned sports into politics last Saturday when they rallied outside the Liacouras Center to inform basketball fans arriving for an afternoon game of their contract plight.
The Temple University Graduate Students Association is angry about the stalled contract negotiations between themselves and the University and hoped to use the occasion to catch the attention of the large number of alumni that attend the games.
Instead of the familiar Temple Owl, a picket line and a groundhog wearing a TUGSA T-shirt greeted those attending the game. Many of the 50 TUGSA members present at the two-hour rally could be heard chanting slogans and singing union songs as they marched up and down a section of Broad Street.
“Temple has been negotiating with unions for years; they know what to do. As the old saying goes, ‘Justice delayed is justice denied,’ and the time for justice is now,” Kathy Black, a representative from the Coalition of Labor Women said.
The union contends that Temple is stalling in their contract negotiations with them. TUGSA voted 290-16 in favor of unionizing in March 2001. Contract negotiations began in November 2001.
According to the union, Temple’s administration has been holding meetings infrequently and canceling scheduled meetings. TUGSA has also filed a lawsuit against Temple, claiming the University has not been providing all the information it is required to provide by law in a labor negotiation.
Robert Callahan, one of the union’s organizers, said the union is asking for a wage increase, better training for graduate teachers, and a reduction in their workload. TUGSA contends that the current salary of $11,000 a year is below the cost of living in Philadelphia. TUGSA also wants paid healthcare for all graduate student teachers.
Currently, the University provides $400 per year for healthcare.
The least expensive health plan available in the area is $600 per year, and is called the “spatula plan” by some union members because it “will scrape you off of the street but not much else,” Callahan said.
“Some of us have been waiting 10 months to see a doctor. But a University official gets the sniffles and they postpone our contract talks. It’s not right,” said Kimberly A. Rothwell, a Communication Sciences grad student.
April Logan, a graduate student working toward her doctorate in English, commented on the need for better job training and a reduction in the workload, which is capped at 20 hours per week.
Logan said that the graduate students are often given more than 20 hours of work per week, which forces the graduates to make “an unethical choice between our students and our own studies.”
Temple graduate students contribute to about 30 percent of teaching, including work as classroom aides, recitation group leaders and research assistants.
Later in the rally, city councilman David Cohen and several local labor leaders gave speeches from the back of an AFL-CIO bus that came in support of the rally.
Temple’s Human Resources department declined to comment on the negotiations and referred all questions to University Relations.
“We are extremely optimistic that we will come to a complete resolution of issues sometime in the not very distant future. These processes can at times be frustrating for everyone who is involved,” said Harriet Goodheart of University Relations.