BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana University graduate student workers manned multiple picket lines Thursday across the university’s Bloomington campus in their ongoing union fight with the university’s administration over unionization.
The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition recently voted overwhelmingly to go on strike after the university refused to recognize the union. On top of recognition, representatives are demanding an increase in the stipends they are paid for their work.
“Our work is central to the way this university runs,” union representative Nora Weber said. “It’s time that money that is brought in from all of our labor is something that we see as well.”
Weber said the current stipend, which was recently raised to a minimum of $18,000, is not enough to live on. Some graduate students say they work a second or even third job to make ends meet.
“We want to be able to put 100 percent into the classroom, into labs, into mentorship and we can’t do that when the administration refuses to pay us well,” Weber said.
The union is affiliated with the United Electrical Workers union and has more than 1,700 members.
The strike caused disruptions across campus, with some classes cancelled because nobody was there to teach them. However, the university said the disruptions were minimal.
“We’re really focused on the issues, to make sure that we address those,” IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said. “The union issue we have already settled. We’re not reconsidering that.”
Carney said the university has taken steps to address the concerns from graduate student workers and that work isn’t over.
“We’ve taken some steps already based on the listening sessions and discussions we’ve had with the graduate students to talk about these issues,” Carney said. “These folks have come here to be students and they are here as students first and foremost.”
Students say the lack of pay has caused them to not be able to prioritize being students.
“It’s the repeated line from the university that we’re students and we’re not workers,” PhD candidate Anushka Sen said. “That really doesn’t make sense to people who put so much labor into teaching.”
The striking graduate student workers say their goal in all this is to make IU a better university.
“We are fighting to have more equity on campus and to build an IU that actually supports education,” Weber said.
The union has pickets planned for Friday as well as additional events next week. A representative said the union will hold a reauthorization vote next week to see if members want to continue the strike.
IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said the graduate workers could face consequences for their refusal to work, including termination. Despite the disruptions, Carney said the university has plans in place should the strike last through the end of the semester.