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Bloomington City Council votes unanimously in support of graduate workers

<p>Timothy Biewer-Heisler and Pat Wall chant April 14, 2022, with the crowd at Sample Gates. The Bloomington City Council passed a resolution Wednesday supporting the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition-United Electrical Workers efforts to unionize.</p>

Timothy Biewer-Heisler and Pat Wall chant April 14, 2022, with the crowd at Sample Gates. The Bloomington City Council passed a resolution Wednesday supporting the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition-United Electrical Workers efforts to unionize.

The Bloomington City Council voted unanimously to support the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition-United Electrical Workers during Wednesday night’s city council meeting.

“The City of Bloomington supports the rights of Indiana University graduate student workers to unionize and strike, and urges the Indiana University administration to recognize Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition-United Electrical Workers as the chosen representative for graduate workers and enter into good faith negotiations with IGWC-UE,” section 1 of the Resolution 22-10 reads.         

Sue Sgambelluri recused herself from the decision, citing her role as an IU Director of Development for the School of Arts and Sciences. 

The move means City Clerk Nicole Bolden will send a copy of the resolution to IU President Pamela Whitten, Provost Rahul Shrivastav, the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Eliza Pavalko and the IU Board of Trustees. 

Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith, who joined the picket lines herself and has worked at IU’s Department of French and Italian for more than 20 years, spoke in favor of the resolution alongside Councilmember Dave Rollo.

“I used to be a grad student at IU and I know it's very difficult to make ends meet,” Rollo said. “And it's much much more difficult now.”

Rollo said while many costs in Bloomington have increased over time, graduate workers’ compensation does not always increase proportionally. He also encouraged IU administration to recognize IGWC-UE as a union.

“Graduate students are producing scholarly work, and it raises the reputation of Indiana University,” Rollo said. “IU’s reputation is going to fall unless it fairly compensates those workers.” 

During the time allotted for public comment, IU graduate worker Nora Weber, spoke about the value graduate students bring to the Bloomington community through their work. 

“We feel very, very strongly that there is a connection between our ability to have a dignified life as workers, and to be able to contribute to Bloomington and to Monroe county, and to the State of Indiana,” Weber said.

Nathan Schmidt, an IU graduate worker in the English Department, said during public comment that his son was 2-years-old when he started his Ph.D. studies.

“He will be 8 this July, so he does not remember a time when I was not in grad school but he does remember the food pantry,” Schmidt said. “He does remember when the car broke down the heat didn't work,” he continued.

Schmidt said there is a frequent assumption made that graduate workers are young, single and financially stable, but that is often not the case.

Several other Bloomington residents shared their support during public comment, including one who had spent the day picketing with his fellow graduate workers. 

“Sorry about my voice,” he apologized into the microphone. “Long day at the picket line.”

Before the vote to pass the resolution, Piedmont-Smith shared her personal experiences working with graduate workers.

“They are dedicated to passing on knowledge, and they are some of the best teachers we have,” Piedmont-Smith said.

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