Washington University Graduate Student Workers Rally at Distinguished Alumni Event
Living with uncertainty, graduate workers kick off series of actions
ST. LOUIS – With only 23 days until graduation, Washington University graduate workers, students, faculty and community allies rallied at the University’s 2018 Arts & Sciences Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner on Wednesday, April 25. The rally, which is part of a series of planned events leading up to graduation, raised awareness of issues facing the entire Washington University community — and specifically graduate workers, who are students at the University.
While the administration reached out to graduate workers just before the rally to announce guaranteed funding for summer work, nothing is guaranteed and graduate workers request to sit down with administration to discuss specific implementation.
“I am joining together with my colleagues to join in the fight for better funding because of the outsized impact that our inconsistent pay has on international graduate students like myself,” said Augusto Medeiros, PhD Candidate, Physics. “As international students, we are completely reliant on the university to support us because our F1 visas do not permit us to work outside the university. Because of this, international students face the possibility of being forced to return home, pause our research, and face undue hardship simply because our nationality.”
With summer looming, graduate workers are not yet guaranteed they will be paid for work done during those months. Graduate workers cannot afford to go another summer living without pay while still being expected to work and produce research for the university.
“WashU refuses to guarantee pay over the summer even though our research doesn’t stop in June and July; when they do come through with payment, it’s not enough to live on,” said JB Duck-Mayr, a graduate worker in the Political Science department. “That means throughout the year I have to work extra hourly gigs to make sure I can support my family, which takes away time from my research, my students, and my children. A university with $12 Billion in assets should be able to guarantee a living wage to its workers twelve months of the year. WashU administrators have refused to meet with us about these issues, so that’s why I’m protesting with WUGWU to make our voices heard by the university administration.”
This uncertain future is why graduate workers and their supporters are standing up to build power on campus and resistance through events over the next several weeks, including this rally.
“I am taking action to guarantee summer funding and dignified funding year round for grad workers because it is wrong that I make less than $900 a month and receive no pay during the summer at a $12 billion university,” said Sarah Crosley, a teaching assistant in Classics. “I have made more money working as a kindergarten teacher reading books to toddlers in the summer than I do teaching undergrads who pay $50,000 a year to attend WashU.”
Graduate workers, along with their supporters in SEIU Local 1 and the wider community, will continue to fight for power at work and on campus and look forward to making meaningful improvements at Washington University. SEIU Local 1 has been working with graduate workers, college and university professors throughout the Midwest to give them a voice on the job; address the low compensation for their work; and to ensure greater benefits and job security.