Graduate Worker Survey Shows the Need to Unite for a Brighter Future
Nearly a thousand of graduate workers across the United States participated in a SEIU survey this fall that exposed real concern about their jobs—and how they would like to improve them.
Our survey found that top concerns were:
- Pay/stipends- 94%
- Health insurance- 89%
- Professional development- 87%
- Workload- 87%
- Respect- 86%
- Research funding- 85%
- Academic freedom- 82%
- Job security- 81%
The unique blend of economic and academic concerns show what we’ve been saying all along: That graduate student employees are an integral part of the core mission of higher education. Both public and private universities depend increasingly on us and on adjunct instructors and other non-tenure workers for instruction and research. Yet they face numerous issues on the job and lack a voice on campus to address them.
Joseph Longarino, a teaching assistant in Religious Studies at Duke University, put it well:
“At Duke, I’ve heard from my colleagues all across the university about how they’ve been affected by unilateral changes made to their working conditions by the university. They’ve also been disheartened by some of the ways Duke has interacted with its graduate student employees, including mishandling of cases of sexual harassment,” said Joseph Longarino, a teaching assistant in Religious Studies at Duke University. “These issues are incredibly important not just for workers, but also for the universities that employ us. Our union will provide a clear and reliable way to address our workplace conditions so we can give our best to teaching our undergraduate students and perform top-notch research that fuels continued research funding. When we work together, we all win.”
Joseph and other grad students are now organizing their union with the mission of convincing the university to acknowledge their status as employees and bargain to make Duke a better employer and a better center of learning.
Thanks to the nearly one thousand colleagues at 13 universities across the U.S. who filled out this important survey to increase our knowledge of the values and working conditions of graduate teaching and research assistants.