The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition United Electric Workers submitted a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) petition to IU administration on March 31, calling for an 8% salary increase, according to a press release. COLA is an increase in an employee's rate of pay based on estimates of how much money is required to maintain a given standard of living.
Organizing efforts have accumulated more than 1,100 signatures on the petition, according to the release. The petition was signed by around 800 graduate students and the rest came from faculty, staff and custodial services, Denizhan Pak, correspondence coordinator of the IGWC-UE said.
Pak said the IGWC-UE is not asking for the money to come directly from the academic departments or individual faculty members. Instead, they are requesting it from the administration, like the provost, to fund the departments to meet its academic mission.
Inflation in the U.S. is currently at 6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate is higher than the long-term average of 3.28%.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Bloomington's average rent for a single bedroom unit increased 28% from 2022 to 2023. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that every dollar has lost 8% of its buying power. This results from price increases for essential items like food and energy.
According to the release, the increase in cost of living has created pressure on graduate workers, who make a minimum of $22,000. This is below what IGWC-UE calculated the cost of living in Bloomington to be — at $33,571.
Pak said before last spring, all workers on campus had been living on the same salary they were hired with. He said the increased stipend last spring was the first one in 10 years. He claimed this is similar to taking a pay cut since inflation and the cost of food both increased.
Last spring, more than 1,200 students went on strike for four weeks of the spring 2022 semester. The university granted graduate workers a raise for the first time in a decade, raising the minimum stipend to $22,000 — a 46% increase from the previous stipend of $15,000.
Rather than workers continuing to strike every 10 years, Pak said the IGWC-UE is calling for a commitment from IU.
“We are arguing that IU should make a commitment that if you work at IU, that job will be enough to sustain you as long as you continue to work there,” Pak said.
The IGWC-UE plans to ask the provost, Rahul Shrivastav, to respond to the petition at an upcoming Bloomington Faculty Council meeting on April 18, he said.
If Shrivastav does not respond or the answer to the COLA is no, Pak said the IGWC-UE will gather members together and make a plan for how they can move forward.
“We are formally asking the provost to commit to funding the university's academic mission, which includes a yearly raise tied to inflation for all workers at IU,” Pak said. “We are opposed to any efforts made by the administration, IU or the provost to depict this ask as if it were not a benefit to the university. We are as educators, researchers and students in favor of a more democratic IU.”
IU spokesperson Amanda Roach did not respond to request for comment.