The following press release was sent to the Bloomingtonian Wednesday:
“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Strike Begins With Overwhelming Support
Pickets Canceled Due to Inclement Weather, Now Starting Thursday
Union members of the Indiana Graduate Worker Coalition – United Electrical Workers (IGWC-UE) have officially begun their strike for union recognition. The strike begins in the wake of an overwhelming authorization vote, in which 97.8% voted to authorize the strike. The strike will continue throughout the remainder of this week and will resume on Monday, April 18.
Pickets will start Thursday, April 14, and continue as scheduled.
Graduate workers at Indiana University are striking for their undergraduates. Graduate employees conduct both teaching and research on campus. Every undergraduate student has had a graduate instructor teach them calculus or history, direct their chemistry lab or dance studio, workshop their writing or code. Beyond this, the University relies on training graduate students to maintain its status as a top-tier (R1) research university and to uphold the international image of Indiana University as a respected public institution. In short, the value of undergraduate and graduate degrees depends on graduate students.
Between 2010 and 2019, the cost of tuition at IU increased significantly. During the same time the President’s salary increased 124%, while tenured faculty wages have only increased by 6%, with graduate instructor wages remaining frozen for 6-10 years depending on their department. IU’s new president came in with a $650,000 base salary. It is clear that undergraduates’ tuition dollars are not making it into the classroom.
The strike has widespread support on campus, with hundreds of faculty signing letters of support, nearly 25 departments pledging non-retaliation, and the Bloomington Faculty Council enshrining their rights to organize and encouraging meaningful dialogue from the administration.
Graduate students have been led to this point slowly. Peter Cho, a third-year graduate worker in Music Theory, says, “People see the strike, they don’t see the years of unacceptable working conditions that made this necessary.” Both graduate students and faculty have been raising these concerns consistently for years, to almost no substantive response from Indiana University Administration.
The IGWC-UE stresses that the problem is not money, but priorities. IU’s most recent fundraiser brought in almost 4 billion dollars and undergraduate enrollment at the Bloomington campus has been surging. Despite this, tuition continues going up and the vast majority of workers are dealing with stagnant pay.
Graduate workers have four additional demands: ending mandatory and international fees from graduate employees (which combined can amount to over 2,000 dollars a year), annual raises, fair and protected benefits, and equity and protections for international students.
Graduate students see unionization as a path towards a better IU. Nora Weber, a fourth-year Graduate Worker in the Sociology Department says, “There are graduate student worker unions across the country, including in the Big Ten and around the Midwest. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology formed one just last week. Prospective graduate students are learning to look for unions as marks of quality institutions that know to put education and research first.”
For further questions and correspondence, contact Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition media correspondent, Maddie Dery (845-242-1115, [email protected]).
The IGWC also sent with the press release the following data link to information about Indiana University’s finances: