Grad workers in Philadelphia just decisively rejected an offer from Temple University’s administration. The vote was overwhelming: by a margin of 92 percent.
TUGSA, a union of 750 teaching and research assistants at Temple University in Philadelphia, is entering the fourth week of its strike. TUGSA members make $19,500 a year in a city where annual rent alone runs about $23,000. The union is fighting for a 50 percent raise in wages. In earlier rounds of negotiating, the university’s offer was 2 percent, later raised to 3 percent.
Just after the strike started, the administration escalated the fight in an unprecedented way, revoking the grad workers’ health insurance and their tuition remission.
Last week, the administration agreed to another round of negotiations as momentum was building for a large undergraduate walkout. But on Friday night, administrators brought a deal to the union’s negotiation team that included only a small increase in pay in the first year of a new contract: 5 percent, dropping to 2.5 percent and then 2 percent in subsequent years. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the parent union for TUGSA, mistakenly emailed its Pennsylvania members that the strike was over. But a strike doesn’t end until its members vote, and the membership rejected this deal out of hand.
Momentum looks to be decisively on TUGSA’s side. The huge walkout of undergrads last week shows a groundswell of support among undergraduates. Many Temple faculty members rallied that day alongside TUGSA, and many departments — and even department chairs — have written collective letters of support and solidarity with TUGSA.
Now it’s even more important that other unions on campus, like my own — the Temple Association for University Professionals, or TAUP, which is also in the AFT — throw our full weight into the battles. That’ll mean joining the pickets, building rallies with TUGSA and students, and building to more disruptive actions too.