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IU faculty votes to support grad students unionizing

Grad students are seeking fee changes, improved stipends and union recognition.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana University faculty in Bloomington have voted overwhelmingly to support graduate students efforts to unionize. Grad students are seeking fee changes, improved stipends and union recognition. 

(NOTE: The video above is from a previous report on the faculty vote.)

The faculty vote was on two issues: faculty having more control of graduate student reappointments, and pushing the administration to bargain with grad student workers or their union representatives. 

The first resolution passed with a vote of 1,605 in favor to 308 against (83.8% yes) and the second passed with 1,404 in favor to 508 against (73.4% yes).

IU has said it has made changes to improve conditions already, like increasing minimum pay, and is intending to make more changes. But they've stood firm thus far, saying they will not consider a union. 

An information sheet sent out to Bloomington faculty from IU warned that a union would erode the existing relationship between students, advisors and their schools. In that information sheet, they stress that the union and IU's values aren't aligned, saying it's "govern or be governed." 

But faculty say IU has not presented any evidence that a union would be harmful to the university.

The unionizing grad students will be part of the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition-United Electrical Workers (IGWC-UE) and are working on campus recognition. The IGWC-UE has indicated that its members are prepared to strike in September unless the Bloomington administration demonstrates it is willing to work with them to improve graduate education at Indiana University.

IU sent a statement to 13News in response to the vote:

We appreciate the concern that IUB faculty –our shared governance partners—have for the university’s graduate students, and are grateful for any and all input we receive. As we consider how best to improve the graduate student experience, we will take this feedback under deliberation, balancing our academic obligations and shared governance structures.

How the rest of the Big Ten compares

In the Big Ten, six member universities have unions representing graduate student workers: the University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Rutgers University - New Brunswick and University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Some institutions, like the University of Iowa, have had their unions in place for nearly 30 years. 

Rutgers University for example, has said along with having a union for graduate student workers, they've also steadily increased their pay over the past 10 years. Since 2012, the minimum base salary for teaching assistants and graduate assistants has increased 17% for calendar-year appointments up to $33,999 and up 18.5% for academic-year appointments, going from around $25,000 up to around $30,000.

Eight universities in the Big Ten do not have unions representing their graduate student workers, including Purdue University. 

Of those Big Ten universities without unions representing their graduate student workers, all eight have had pushes in the past from their grad student workers to attempt to unionize. Social media accounts and previous news stories indicate that many of those graduate student workers are still fighting to unionize and collectively bargain at their respective universities.

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