What do Temple University graduate student workers get with their new contract?
AL DÍA spoke with Manasa Gopakumar, Contract Negotiations Member at TUGSA, after they reached an agreement with the university.
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On Monday, Temple University graduate workers announced a new union contract, ending the six-week-long strike.
TUGSA’s Contracts Negotiations Team (CNT) accepted a tentative agreement with the university last Thursday — which took a few days of negotiations. Since then, Temple University Graduate Students’ Association (TUGSA) organized multiple meetings with their members to talk about the tentative agreement’s content and to vote on it. Members voted 344 to 8 and ratified the contract.
AL DÍA reached out to Manasa Gopakumar, Contract Negotiations Member at TUGSA, to hear about her and the members thoughts on the whole process.
“Obviously you don’t win everything that you asked for in negotiations, but this is a great place for us to have ended up given that we were facing so many constraints [healthcare and tuition remission cut],” she said.
Gopakumar celebrates the wins they had with collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which include the following achievements:
- Raise minimum pay for graduate student workers to $24,000 effective immediately, and to $27,000 by 2026;
- Payment of 25% of health insurance premiums for graduate student workers’ dependents by the university;
- Increase of paid parental leave, from five days to three weeks (in case someone needs to travel internationally, there is an additional of five days);
- Restoration of the tuition remission the university yanked from strikers (after having restored their individual health-care coverage last week);
Gopakumar also highlighted the importance of eliminating the tiers between graduate workers in the social sciences, humanities and arts — which resulted in inequities among them. Now, all graduate workers who do the same kind of work will get paid the same amount, she said.
Hoping that this agreement will open the doors for improvements in the future, Gopakumar described the payment of 25% of health insurance for dependents as one of the most significant parts of the agreement. It was something TUGSA members have struggled with.
“Graduate workers who have been on strike are happy with what we’ve got, but everyone knows that this is not the end, this is just the beginning,” Gopakumar added.
The strike that began on Jan. 31 received the support of many local and national leaders — including Philadelphia mayoral candidate Helen Gym and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.
Gopakumar values their importance in putting pressure on the university and for TUGSA being able to reach an agreement. From other labor organizations and unions to students and faculty members, she said TUGSA has a lot of people to thank for.
“We have gathered support from all these different groups and that’s the only reason why we are able to win all of these significant improvements,” Gopakumar said.
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