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Graduate Student Union ‘fed up’, Calls for Recognition during Budget Meeting

Leen YassineGraduate student union members interrupted a university budget meeting, stating their desire to bargain with the university.

Some of Loyola’s graduate students interrupted a meeting led by school officials on the university’s budget Tuesday, calling for higher wages and recognition as a union.

About 15 minutes into the meeting — as Loyola’s Chief Financial Officer, Wayne Magdziarz, was speaking — members of the graduate student union stood up throughout the crowd, chanting slogans about their attempts to negotiate a contract with the university.

Some graduate student workers — who are expected to work a set number of hours per week, grade papers and hold office hours on top of taking classes themselves — voted to unionize in February 2017. Despite the vote and recognition as a union by the National Labor Relations Board, the graduate students haven’t been able to negotiate with the university, which views graduate students as “students in every sense of the word,” The Phoenix previously reported.

On Oct. 10, members of the union went to Dean Thomas Regan’s office to demand the university bargain with them for a contract, according to the Loyola Worker Coalition’s Facebook page. The request marked the one-year anniversary of the university’s initial refusal to bargain, the page said.

“We are fed up,” members of the union said in unison at the meeting. “We have played by your rules. And still no contract.”

The graduate workers walked out of the meeting after a few minutes of chanting, urging those who supported their cause to join them in leaving.

“We work, we teach, now practice what you preach,” they chanted as they left.

Benefits given to Loyola graduate workers can be altered, reversed or eliminated without their input if they don’t have a contract, according to a press release from the Service Employees International Union, which represents the graduate student union.

Last spring, the university’s non-tenure track (NTT) faculty reached a contract agreement with the university after nearly two years of bargaining and public protests, The Phoenix reported.

Prior to the agreement, the NTT union mobilized through events like a town hall and strike. In December, the NTT union and the graduate union joined forces and held a “grade-in” in Loyola’s Damen Student Center where they graded work and held office hours to showcase the work they do.

Graduate student assistants received a $500 increase to their $18,000 stipend last October, a member of the union told The Phoenix at the time. The graduate student union aims to negotiate for higher wages and more benefits along with recognition as a union, but it’s unclear how much of an increase they’re seeking.

Following Tuesday’s interruption, the meeting continued. Magdziarz and the crowd didn’t directly respond to the commotion, but later in the meeting Magdziarz mentioned the university has spent over $1 million for insurance and stipends for graduate students.

Leen Yassine, Jane Miller and Mary Norkol contributed reporting.

 

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