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February 18, 2023

Striking Temple grad students reach a tentative deal with the university

Although the agreement includes yearly wage increases TUGSA union members have fought for it says the strike is not over until a contract is ratified

Education Labor
Temple and striking graduate students reach tenative deal on a new contract PROVIDED IMAGE/LAURIE ROBINS/for PhillyVoice

Temple University announced an unofficial agreement between the school and striking graduate students on a new contract. Grad students began striking on Jan. 31 for a 50% wage increase and other benefits.

The union representing striking graduate students that work as teacher and research assistants at Temple University have okayed a tentative agreement to end a labor stoppage. 

On Friday, the university released a statement saying a deal had been reached with Temple University Graduate Students Association union, which represents 750 grad students employees. 

The four-year deal includes an increase in wages every year of the contract and a one-time payment this month, Temple's senior vice president and chief operating officer Ken Kaiser said. In addition, graduate school employees will continue to receive health care coverage in the new contract. 

Striking student-workers will also have their health costs reimbursed and tuition remission reinstated.

"We're thrilled to reach a deal with TUGSA that is fair to the union and fair to the university, and we look forward to welcoming all the graduate students back into the classroom," Kaiser said

The actual numbers of the agreed-upon contract were not available. However, TUGSA union members have been fighting for a 50% wage increase and other benefits, including free healthcare for all dependents.

As a part of the agreement, TUGSA members have conceded to drop claims of unfair labor practices related to the negotiations process.

While there is a tentative agreement, the union clarified that the strike is not over until a contract is officially ratified. That vote is expected to happen next week.

"The contract negotiation team agreed to put the counterproposal to a vote to members in the form of a tentative agreement," a statement from TUGSA said. "Since the beginning of negotiations, TUGSA has had an open and democratic process through which members decide how the union moves forward. That process continues with this vote. If this tentative agreement is approved by members, it will become the new collective bargaining agreement. Until this tentative agreement is ratified, the strike continues and all unfair labor practices filed against the University remain active."

Temple graduate students who work part-time as TAs and RAs began striking on Jan. 31 after nearly a year of unsuccessful negotiations when their previous contract expired on Feb. 15, 2022. The union for the student employees was fighting to double its current $19,500 wages. 

Temple was only willing to offer a 3% increase which increases to $22,500 by 2026. Temple also offered one-time payments of $250 or $500 and more parental and bereavement days.

"Temple's administration has repeatedly ignored our demands, refusing us fair pay, affordable dependent health care, and increased parental leave," Bethany Kosmicki, one of the union's negotiators, said at the beginning of the strike. "TAs and RAs are a core function of the university, teaching essential courses and conducting world-class research. We deserve a contract that reflects our value to the university."

Last week, the standstill intensified when striking grad school employees lost their tuition remission and received a bill for the entire spring semester, which had to be paid in full by March 9.  Kosmicki called Temple's actions "union-busting tactics."

On Wednesday, an estimated 1,000 people showed up for a rally supporting the strike. Negotiations intensified following the demonstration, which included a walkout, the Inquirer reported

This strike was the first in the history of TUGSA, established in 1997