More News:

February 22, 2023

Striking Temple graduate students vote to reject tentative contract agreement

The union representing research and teaching assistants overwhelmingly turned down the deal. Members said the pay increases were not sufficient

Education Labor

Temple University graduate students are continuing to strike after voting to reject a tentative contract agreement reached last week by their union leaders and the university. The union seeks better pay and benefits.

The union representing Temple University graduate students will continue its strike after voting to reject a tentative contract agreement reached during negotiations last week. 

The Temple University Graduate Students Association, which represents about 750 part-time teaching assistants and research assistants, has been on strike since Jan. 31. About 83% of the union's 400 members participated in Tuesday's vote, the union said. The contract was rejected by a vote of 352 to 30. 

The union hopes to resume bargaining this week. 

The tentative agreement included pay raises of 10% in the first academic year, 5% in the second, 2.5% in the third and 2.25% in the fourth. Students covered by the agreement also would have received one-time payments of $1,000 and improvements to bereavement and parental leave benefits. The offer maintained free tuition and health coverage, but the students' health plans would not have covered dependents, the union said. 

"We are disappointed to learn that TUGSA did not ratify the tentative agreement reached with the university last Friday, Feb. 17," Ken Kaiser, Temple's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Temple had said it would reinstate tuition remissions and benefits for TUGSA members who had their benefits stripped as a result of going on strike. Picketing union members said they received emails from the university earlier this month explaining that their full spring semester tuition would be due by March 9, and failure to pay the balance in full would block them from future registration. 

Kaiser said the union's leadership had promised to unanimously recommend the agreement for ratification. TUGSA members said no promises were made. 

Wages remain a sticking point. Union members said the increases in the tentative agreement were deceptive, because they applied to salaries that were already low.

"We took no position on the (tentative agreement)," Haroon Papal, a psychology Ph.D. student, tweeted. "We said we would let the members decide. The members said 10% of s*** is still s***."

The contract that expired last year paid Temple's graduate students an average of $19,500 over nine months. Benefits included free tuition and health care. The contract TUGSA rejected Tuesday would have increased the average salary to $23,500 by the end of the agreement.

"TUGSA members were presented with the opportunity to vote on the agreement," said Laurie Robins, a TUGSA negotiator. "Their vote shows that the terms of the agreement are insufficient to meet the needs of our members and tells the university administration that they need to offer a truly fair contract."

Kaiser said the university is prepared to resume bargaining "in good faith as we have done to date."

TUGSA tweeted that the union believes "there is a clear path forward that is easily and quickly achievable for both sides."