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TUGSA rally.
Students gathered in front of the library to protest on Oct. 11th. Photo: Kianni Figuereo

Temple University TAs and RAs announce strike authorization vote

The decision came after the university canceled their upcoming negotiation sessions.

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Temple University Graduate Students’ Association (TUGSA) represents more than 700 Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Research Assistants (RAs) at Temple University. On Oct. 11th, TUGSA and supporters gathered in the middle of campus to protest for better living wage and working conditions from the university. 

Click here to watch the video of the rally. 

Since January 2022, TUGSA has been negotiating for fair pay for TAs and RAs, healthcare, remittance of student and international fees, better parental and bereavement leave, and better working conditions. According to TUGSA, the administration has refused to engage with the majority of the proposals and recently canceled their upcoming negotiation sessions. 

According to Laurie Robins, contract negotiations team member and director of organizing, although the university provided a reason for the cancellation, they did it last minute without offering to reschedule. 

“This cancellation is indicative of how they have treated these negotiations and their employees over the past 10 months,” Robins added. “From the start they have used stalling tactics, shown up late to sessions and provided unacceptable offers. The administration has left us with no choice but to take action.”

On Thursday, Oct. 27th, TUGSA gathered in front of the Charles Library once again to stage a rally and informational picket to announce that they are beginning a strike authorization vote. 

Running until Nov. 11th, the results will be formally announced when it ends, Robins said. He also mentioned that the vote authorizes the contract negotiations team and board to call a strike. 

“We hope that Temple will avert this by coming back to the table with serious responses to our reasonable proposals,” Robins added. 

Al Día News contacted Temple administration, and Steve Orbanek, TU’s Director of Communications, shared the following statement expressing the university’s position:

“We appreciate the work of all our graduate student employees, and we are disappointed that we have yet to come to an agreement on a new contract with the Temple University Graduate Students' Association (TUGSA).

This week’s negotiation session with TUGSA was canceled because the university’s lead negotiator was selected for jury duty, and TUGSA was notified of that well in advance. We remain hopeful that we can engage in productive conversations with TUGSA that will lead to an agreement in the near future.

To this point, we have already offered a raise in wages and have told union leadership that it is not our final offer, but there are limitations. Graduate student employees are part-time, temporary employees who work only nine months out of the year and an average of 20 hours per week. With a 9-month minimum stipend of between $19,000 and $20,000, they earn around $25 an hour. Although they do not work during the additional three months, Temple extends benefit coverage across the entire year with no contribution required from the students. In addition, they receive free graduate-level tuition, worth about $20,000 annually. 

It bears repeating that graduate student employees with a full appointment do not pay for their healthcare benefits. They are the only employees within the entire University system that make no payment toward their healthcare coverage. 

The university hopes that a strike can be avoided. 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.”

TUGSA says they are working on a press release to be announced soon.

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