The Indiana Graduate Worker's Coalition-United Electric Workers protested Thursday to launch their petition to raise wages to be consistent with cost of living in Bloomington. The rally was initially organized to protest possible changes to graduate worker compensation and benefits.
An email sent by Amrita Myers, director of graduate studies for the Department of History to graduate students in the history department on Jan. 23 said some graduate workers in the College of Arts and Sciences would be considered hourly employees instead of Student Academic Appointees, resulting in loss of health insurance.
According to a Jan. 28 email from College of Arts and Sciences Dean Rick Van Kooten, the policy change was discussed during a College Chairs and Directors faculty meeting Jan. 20, but after hearing feedback from faculty, the college decided not to implement the proposed change.
Steve Barnes, College of Arts and Sciences Director of Communications and Marketing, said the college is not actively considering any changes, and Van Kooten is committed to ensuring there are no negative impacts to compensation or benefits for current or future graduate workers.
IGWC-UE decided to move forward with their rally after it was announced that no changes would be made, according to the IGWC-UE Twitter page. They want to ensure IU administrators are aware they are serious about protecting graduate education, the IGWC-UE said in a tweet.
During the rally, graduate students made speeches, held up signs and yelled chants. Between speeches, the crowd of people chanted “What's disgusting? Union busting,” “What’s outrageous? Cutting wages” and “What’s appalling? Admin stalling.”
Denizhan Pak, a graduate student in the informatics department said IGWC-UE is launching a cost-of-living petition. Pak said they are calling for a petition that would add a living wage to all workers at IU.
“The inflation in Bloomington this year was 8.25%, and we haven’t gotten a raise, which means we took a pay cut,” Pak said. “If you have any kind of on-campus job you should absolutely sign the petition because it affects you too.”
Fourth-year philosophy graduate student Joshua Paschal, who helped organize the rally, said IGWC-UE's next steps depend on how the rally was received by IU administrators. This will dictate if they decide to host more events throughout the semester. They are not currently striking and have not decided on next steps.
“If the admin seems responsive, we are not going to necessarily escalate,” Paschal said. “Escalation is always caused by something, so because of the non-transparency and the real threat the college is currently posing upon master's students, it's not clear what is happening right now, so we have to respond.”
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to show that there are no changes being made to compensation or benefits for graduate workers and that the College of Arts and Sciences is not actively considering any changes.