December 5, 2023

Graduate student unions across the country have been in the spotlight in recent months as some have voted to strike, backed by a recently successful movement at the University of California system.

UC System Graduate Student and Teaching Assistant Strike, which ended at the end of December, pointed out that it is the largest ever in American higher education. But other campaigns have been in the news after they turned ugly, like the recent rejection of Temple University pay tuition and health care contributions for its striking academic staff. While The temple was eventually restored their health care, the workers’ action continued.

Graduate student union efforts at public universities were increasing for decades, while those at private colleges were blocked from striking for years until 2016, when the National Labor Relations Board ruled that teaching and research assistants at those institutions had the right to unionize.

Below, we summarize potential action by graduate student unions at three colleges, including a case that threatens the NLRB’s 2016 decision.

Temple University

at Temple University Graduate students made the announcement Monday they ratified the contract 344-8, ending their six-week strike. ThThey struck a deal with officials last week.

The vast majority of union members rejected the original arrangement February. The new agreement, the union said, brings “significant movement” to all four of its main demands, including wages and leave policy.

There will be a deal support graduate students minimum wage at $24,000 per year in the first year of the contract, increasing to $27,000 in the fourth year. The unions were seeking an average wage of more than $32,000 a year.

Temple, a public institution in Pennsylvania, also said it would pay a portion of the health insurance subsidies dependent on graduate students — the first time in the union’s 20 years.

Not every member of the Graduate Student Union participated in the strike.

However, further labor unrest is looming. Faculty Union, Temple Association of University Professionals, threatens a vote of no confidence against the president, provost and chairman of the board of trustees of the institution.

Employees were outraged by what they see as a lackluster response to public safety concerns. These concerns have been partially allayed fatal shooting of a student in 2021 and compounded by more gunfire this year, this time a police officer.

Duke University

Yet Duke University, a prominent private non-profit institution in North Carolina, does not actually have a graduate union 2016 NLRB decision enabling such organizing.

University academics tried to form a union after the national council allowed them in private universities. However, those workers voted against unionization in 2017. Duke has not acknowledged the potential union, but it is persisting to the regional labor office that year that her graduate students were not employees.

He is now a Duke tries the same argument once again, which is tantamount to trying to overturn the NLRB’s decision. This comes as his graduate students are once again trying to vote on unions.

Graduate students behind the effort accuse Duke of “union-busting tactics” and have called on administrators to negotiate with them.

In September, Duke he said he would all active doctoral students an additional $1,000 one-time stipend, double the amount he originally announced in June.

Rutgers University

Two unions representing Rutgers University faculty, graduate students, adjunct instructors and other academic staff voted this month allow negotiators to call a strike.

About 80% of union members cast a ballot, with an overwhelming majority of 94% voting in favor of possibly authorizing a strike.

If academic workers go on strike, it will be the first in Rutgers’ more than 250-year history.

Officials at New Jersey’s public land-grant university have been trying to negotiate since last summer.

Union representatives said the vote to authorize a strike did not mean it was inevitable.

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