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The Temple University Graduate Students’ Association is officially on strike, the union announced on their Instagram Tuesday.
“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,” the union wrote. “We’re ready to bargain: is admin?”
The university plans for teaching to continue during the strike and will assign alternative instructors to replace student instructors who choose to strike, wrote Stephen Orbanek, a university spokesperson, in a statement to The Temple News.
“We sincerely appreciate the contributions of all our graduate student employees. Still, we are disappointed that they have chosen this path,” Orbanek wrote. “We are hopeful that we can continue working with TUGSA to reach an agreement that benefits all parties in the near future.”
Demonstrations began shortly after the announcement at places like Alter Hall and Mazur Hall. TUGSA will also be holding a rally at 2 p.m. today at Charles Library during the university’s Board of Trustees meeting.
The strike comes two months after 99 percent of the union’s members voted to authorize a strike on Nov. 11, meaning leadership could call for a strike if demands were not met. Temple and TUGSA began negotiating in February 2022.
The last negotiation session took place on Jan. 9, where TUGSA offered a counter proposal and the university told TUGSA that unless the union was willing to make major cuts to the proposal, they didn’t see the point of negotiating further, said Bethany Kosmicki, a research assistant in the sociology department, and a former TUGSA president who is currently on the contract negotiations team.
“We’re out on strike now because our members just are not willing to accept what’s currently on the table from the university and we’re not willing to make major cuts to our proposals,” said Kosmicki.
TUGSA is advocating for increased pay, classroom improvements and longer parental leave. The union wants their annual pay increased to $32,000, based on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator.
Temple has offered a 3 percent annual pay increase that the university says aligns with agreements from other Temple full-time bargaining units, a one time payment of up to $500, depending on appointment, double parental leave and additional bereavement leave and health care benefits without a contribution requirement from the employee, Orbanek wrote.
“The pay increases, one-time payments, and cost-free benefit package that the university has offered to TUGSA would allow the university to continue attracting and retaining outstanding graduate students while responsibly managing a budget primarily funded by tuition dollars,” Orbanek wrote.
“We’re so far below the cost of living, we need to be able to have a wage so that we can afford to live in a city where we work,” Kosmicki said.
Negotiations will continue during the strike, Kosmicki said. TUGSA has notified the university about the decision to strike but there has not been any dialogue about it, she added.
“If we can’t do our work, because we can’t take care of ourselves, then the students aren’t getting the best that they should be getting from Temple,” Kosmicki said. “So we’re trying to make Temple a better place for everyone, really.”
Picketing will take place Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Main Campus, the union announced on Twitter. TUGSA currently has support from multiple local and national unions, including the American Federation of Teachers and Philadelphia’s Teamsters Local 623 Chapter.