U of R graduate students looking to unionize


University of Rochester graduate students are looking to form a union.

About 1,500 of them are looking for a fair, living wage and a comprehensive health care package.

Some graduate students News10NBC spoke to say they did not want it to have to come to this, but they are determined to make their voices heard.

“And so unionization is really the only way that we’re going to be able to get administration to make these changes in a timely, effective manner so that we can actually live off of what we’re supposed to live off of and continue to do the research that helps this university thrive,” History Department graduate student Justin Grossman said.

Grossman became the president of the Graduate Student Association at the U of R when he decided there needed to be a change.

“So the history department actually did not raise stipends, has not raised stipends since 2011 on a permanent basis. We got a one-time stipend increase of $2,000, which brought us from $20,000 a year to $22,000 a year,” Grossman said.

Grossman makes $22,000 a year as a teaching assistant. He says it’s far from enough. The cheapest graduate student housing at the U of R is $726 a month.

If he lived there, Grossman would be using 40% of his monthly income just on rent.

“Yeah, we don’t have a meal plan. Many of us have, uh, have families to feed. Many of us are, again, working second jobs. We’ve been in the labor force. Many of us are coming back to school in order to, again, further careers that we’ve kind of put on hold. And the expectation is, is that we’re going to survive on the wage that the university pays us,” Grossman said.

This is something that labor expert Paul Clark says many graduate students across the country have encountered, and why they are unionizing.

“They’re doing the lowest level of work, they’re paid the least. They’re worried about getting their Ph.D., so they can be easily intimidated. And universities take advantage of that. They sometimes underpay them. They sometimes overwork them. In some cases, at least in the past, they didn’t get medical benefits, even though they may have young families,” Clark said.

The University of Rochester says it has no comment at this time.

The post U of R graduate students looking to unionize appeared first on WHEC.com.

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