Updated at 7:18 p.m.
The Temple University Graduate Students’ Association is holding a strike authorization vote for the next two weeks. If a majority of members vote in favor of the authorization, union leadership will have the authority to call a strike. TUGSA will hold 11 meetings within the next week to develop their strategy around advocacy and the potential work stoppage.
The vote started this morning in front of Charles Library during a rally that replaced a contract negotiations meeting that was canceled on Tuesday due to the university’s chief negotiator being selected for jury duty, according to Sharon Boyle, Temple’s vice president of Human Resources
“[The chief negotiator] notified the union that she would not be available, since she is obligated to serve, “ wrote Boyle in an email to The Temple News. ”It’s a shame tugsa is choosing to make it into something that it is not.”
TUGSA was aware of the university’s reason for cancellation, but some union members don’t trust the university’s excuse.
Bethany Kosmicki, former TUGSA president and current member of the negotiations team, said at the rally that she is voting to authorize a strike as a final warning to university administration to meet the union’s demands.
Since TUGSA’s contract expired on Feb. 15, the union has advocated for Temple to improve working conditions by increasing pay, investing in classroom improvements and providing more time for parental leave. TUGSA held a rally on Oct. 11 at Charles Library to fight for these demands.
“I have been to these negotiation sessions, It’s a team,” said Belinda Peter, a first-year teaching assistant in the political science department. “They could have sent somebody else, they could have given us an alternate date. There was several ways to handle this. The way they handled it makes it pretty clear their message is pretty clear that they do not respect us.”
A mediator from the state reached out to the Temple Administration and the union to suggest dates to reschedule meetings about contract negotiations. Temple responded with their availability while TUGSA has not responded.
“The university hopes that a strike can be avoided, wrote Stephen Obranek, a university spokesperson, in a statement to The Temple News. “However, should TUGSA choose to strike, it is important to note that members who participate in that action will lose significant benefits, including their tuition remission, stipend and healthcare benefits and that outcome benefits no one.”
Evan Kassof, a 2021 Boyer School of Music and Dance alumnus and a staff organizer at TUGSA ended the event with a brief speech about encouraging non-TUGSA members to help with organizing and for voting members of TUGSA to cast their ballots for the strike authorization vote.
“We’ve made a choice, that it’s time for us to teach them that that was a bad choice,” Kassof said. “Let’s educate them.”
A previous version of this article provided incorrect information regarding who the mediator is in negotiations between TUGSA and Temple.