Today, in a union election conducted by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, graduate workers of Illinois State University (ISU) voted in favor to join Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73. ISU graduate workers voted by a nearly 5 to 1 margin to unionize.
“Graduate student workers are the backbone of the university labor force, yet we continue to struggle with basic necessities that too often interfere with our ability to do our work,” said Justin Charron, a graduate worker in the Department of English. “I’m graduating in May, and I know that establishing a Graduate Student Workers Union will make it easier for the students that will come after us. I came here with a desire to not only complete my degree and provide a quality educational experience for my students, but to leave this campus better than I found it.”
This latest win adds to growing momentum for graduate workers, the teaching and research assistants who work for the university while pursuing their doctorates and masters degrees, who have mounted organizing campaigns across the country. Recently, graduate workers from Tufts University and Brandeis University won their labor contracts, which included higher stipends and benefits. Graduate workers at Emory University also won wage increases to $15 per hour.
“I voted to form a union because I am tired of having to scrounge for food money,” said Macauley Allen, a graduate worker in the Department of Music at ISU. “It’s important that graduate assistants shouldn’t have to work overtime with no benefits whatsoever.”
ISU graduate workers will now move forward with scheduling negotiations with the administration.
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