The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition-United Electric Workers held a rally for its new “More Say, More Pay” campaign Thursday afternoon at Sample Gates.
IU currently pays graduate workers a minimum stipend of $22,000 for a 10-month contract. However, some graduate workers may earn more than this minimum, according to Indiana University. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Living Wage Calculator, the living wage in Bloomington is $27,973 for a ten-month contract before taxes.
In the four years since graduate students established the IGWC-UE, IU administration ended all mandatory student fees and raised the minimum stipends from $15,000 to $22,000.
While the IGWC-UE strike two years ago was effective in getting higher salaries, the university has still not officially recognized them as a union. This year, IGWC-UE is rallying to become a university-recognized union and to fight for a living wage.
Jodi Kutzner, union organizing officer and School of Public Health graduate student, said at the rally she has to work three other jobs in addition to her graduate student work just to make ends meet.
“I have been getting sick a lot because I haven’t been able to sleep as much,” Kutzner said. “I am trying to finish my dissertation, but I haven’t been able to because I don’t have any time. Everything is getting pushed back but I can’t afford not to do these jobs.”
At the rally, graduate students handed out physical union cards and displayed QR codes for graduate workers to complete to become a part of the union. Signing these union cards means the employee wants to be represented by the union.
Graduate worker Zara Anwarzai said that once IGWC-UE collects 1,500 union cards, they will have the support of the majority of graduate workers at IU Bloomington. Once they have this majority, they will go to university administration to try to get a seat at the table as a union.
Some graduate student workers are arguing that for Indiana to remain a competitive university, they need to pay their workers fairly.
“I don’t come from money,” Sabina Ali, a graduate instructor in the religious studies department said. “I think people should be able to go to graduate school at IU regardless of their income or family background.”
Six universities in the Big Ten have recognized graduate student unions, and eight have not. According to Rutgers' website, they have increased their stipends over time, with their graduate workers making $35,335 for a 10-month contract in 2023, compared to Indiana’s $22,000.