UConn graduate student union is the right move
More than a week ago, the UConn administration officially recognized UConn GEU-UAW, or the Graduate Employee Union/United Auto Workers, union, which has become the first union for graduate students in the state, after more than 50 percent of graduate students signed a petition for their incorporation. They follow the precedent set by 60 other institutions in the Unites States, whose grad students have unionized in recent years. With 2,135 members, it is significantly larger than the approximately 1,700-member faculty union or 1,600-member staff union on campus. The move to unionize was supported by many government officials, including the state's lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer and secretary of the state, state's Congressional delegation and 70 state legislators.
UConn graduate students who hold research or teaching positions work at least twenty hours a week in addition to academic responsibilities and are paid between $20,159 and $23,583. They may opt to purchase health insurance from $200 to $1,622 for the year with the price tag depending on the plan. Many graduate students reported to news sources, from the Hartford Courant to the CT Mirror, dissatisfaction with workplace issues. Due to a strained budget, many report being overworked by professors they assist. Additionally they are frustrated with higher health insurance co-pays and the recent increase of student fees by $300. Considering many graduate students don't have access to many undergraduate benefits, their frustration is understandable.
It is important to note that UConn graduate students will only be able to negotiate their wages, hours, and working conditions with the UConn Board of Trustees. Academic matters such as classes and tuition will not be covered by the union. One of their first concerns that will be negotiated is their placement on the state employee health insurance plan, a primary concern for many graduate students.
UConn has been praised for its decision to remain neutral, which became an official decision on April 10, when the Board of Trustees voted to do so.
"The University has been, and will continue to be, neutral with regard to this effort," university spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said. "Individual graduate students are free to make their own decisions. The University and its senior administrators will not seek to influence the decision of any GA."
UConn has been favorably compared to the Yale administration, which has continued to not officially recognize a graduate student union over the course of the past two decades.
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