Despite being on strike for almost a month, unionized striking graduate workers at Temple University chose to vote down a contract proposal offered by the university administration over concerns that it did not meet all of the workers’ concerns. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based university will continue to negotiate with the union although the first go-around did not result in a contract agreement.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the news, where about 400 members of the Temple University Graduate Students’ Association (TUGSA) participated. 352 members voted to reject the contract while 30 members voted to accept the deal.
As a reminder, TUGSA’s original demands are a higher “living wage,” more options for “healthcare for dependents and families,” additional leave time for parents and bereavement, and the catch-all phrase “better working conditions.”
Temple University’s offer, according to TUGSA, was to raise pay by 10% in the first year of the contract, then 5% in the second year, 2.5% in the third year, and 2.25% in the fourth year. TUGSA claimed the offer did not address workers’ concerns about healthcare insurance for dependents, but the contract proposal threw in a one-time, $1,000 payment to each student and made some improvements in both leave time for parents and bereavement purposes.
While these graduate students at Temple make around $19,500 per year, the union demanded a raise of 68% to reach a $32,800 base salary. The university’s alleged offer would have raised pay to an average of $23,500 a year, which the union said is not enough to afford to live in Philadelphia.
Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Temple University, Ken Kaiser, said, “We’re incredibly disappointed.” He added, “It’s the first time in all my years that I can recall when a tentative agreement that was agreed to by the leadership of the university and the union was not ratified.”
Workers were livid when the university rescinded healthcare insurance coverage and tuition forgiveness of striking workers, but these workers (and TUGSA) did not acknowledge that they violated the no-strike clause in their expired contract. Therefore, some have posited that the university’s actions were in line with the expired contract, which conditions the workers violated by going on strike.
Graduate workers at Temple University have been on strike since January 31.