Dear Members of the Temple Graduate Student Community,
The past week has been a sobering experience for both the Temple University community and communities around the country. The 2016 presidential election has lent credence to the most dangerous elements of society, from sexism and racism to homophobia and xenophobia. This election is the result of larger forces shaping both Pennsylvania’s and the country’s landscape in the past 30+ years. While we write to you from the perspective of organized labor, we want to impress upon you that the values we stand for are those of justice, equity and opportunity – the very same values that are under attack.
As of today, 26 states have embraced the principle of “Right-to-Work”, a concept that allows members of a bargaining unit (all the individuals represented by a union — in our case, graduate students with an assistantship) to derive benefits from being in a union without having to pay any membership dues. The union goes to bat for the employee without the employee having to reciprocate in return. While Pennsylvania is not formally a Right-to-Work state, dues-optional policies are designed to weaken the community of workers – an issue that has come to forefront on both sides of the aisle in this election.
Every four years, TUGSA negotiates a contract for all graduate assistants within the University. Our strength and bargaining power in negotiations is determined by the proportion of dues paying members in our organization. With greater numbers, we show the university that student workers are committed to organizing for the rights and protections we need to do our jobs well. Without your support, the University will dismiss TUGSA’s demands for a higher stipend, better health insurance, and better sick and maternity leave, as erratic requests by a small number of union members, rather than demands that meet the needs of all graduate students. We must also remember that in each negotiation, we are not only fighting for stronger benefits in the future, but to keep those we already have.
We must impress upon you that the true work of building a better community begins now. While this work is not limited to the university, we will be better positioned to fight these battles if we are first assured that our basic needs-living wages, health care, child care-are met. The current TUGSA collective bargaining agreement, which outlines the graduate student stipend, health insurance, and tuition remission benefits, expires at the end of the 2017-18 academic year. This time next year, TUGSA will begin the contract negotiation process, which will impact every graduate student at Temple with some form of assistantship. Your voice is needed now more than ever. Becoming a dues-paying member allows you to participate directly in TUGSA committees that will work towards a better contract. (Currently membership dues are between $25-$30/month for the nine-month term of the assistantship contract.) If you are not ready to make a recurring commitment, show your support by paying a one-time fee to become an associate member. All you have to do is e-mail us with your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you would like to become familiar with the work we do, come to our General Meetings held twice a month and which are announced via email and our Facebook page. Whatever you decide to do, choose to become a part of something greater. Choose action over inaction.