Some of Loyola’s graduate student workers gathered for a grade-in at the Damen Student Center Tuesday afternoon to grade papers and hold office hours in an attempt to showcase the rigor of their work to the university administration in a push for higher wages and union recognition.
The event was organized by the Loyola Worker Coalition, a group formed by non-tenure track (NTT) faculty and graduate student workers with goals to improve working conditions at Loyola.
Loyola graduate students typically have to attend classes of their own while also working, grading papers and holding office hours for students, The Phoenix reported.
The graduate students, who were recognized as a union by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — a federal organization which deals with workers rights — voted to unionize in February 2017 but the university still hasn’t recognized them as a union, The Phoenix reported. The graduate student union is represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which works to help unions bargain.
Alec Stubbs, a 25-year-old philosophy doctorate’s student who’s part of the graduate student union said the graduate students felt gathering during finals week was an important time to show the university how much they contribute as workers.
“The entire idea behind the grade-in in the first place is to demonstrate to the university that we are, in fact, workers,” Stubbs said. “What we’re doing when we grade papers and teach classes is fundamentally work.”
The graduate students have a legal right to bargain with the university because they’re recognized by the NLRB, according to Stubbs. However, he said the union hasn’t received any sort of response from the university as a result of the grade-in.
“We haven’t heard anything yet, we expect to hear something at some point,” Stubbs said. “As always, we are happy and willing to sit down with the university if they want to come to the bargaining table and meet with us, but of course, that relies on their recognition of us as workers.”
Loyola Worker Coalition held a similar event last year, The Phoenix reported.
Stubbs said NTT gathered with students for the grade-in to stand in solidarity with them. NTT faculty bargained and protested for nearly two years before reaching a contract agreement with the university last spring, The Phoenix reported.
Evangeline Politis, Loyola’s spokesperson, said in an email to The Phoenix the university supports students who speak out, despite Loyola not recognizing the union.
“As a Jesuit, Catholic university, we advocate civil discourse including hearty debate and strongly believe it advances education and understanding,” Politis wrote. “We support students who express their views through respectful and responsible means. It is a hallmark of the intellectual vitality and social awareness of our student body.”
In August, it was announced graduate student workers would be able to hold a second job outside of university employment, The Phoenix reported.
In October 2017, graduate student workers received a $500 increase to their $18,000 stipend, The Phoenix reported. The health care plan now includes dental coverage, but these two changes might be temporary, The Phoenix reported.