Wash U graduate workers continue to fight for summer pay, fair treatment

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STANDING WITH GRADUATE WORKERS, St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Green, joined a rally with Washington University graduate workers, students and faculty April 25 to demand the university guarantee summer pay to graduate research and teaching assistants who are expected to work year-round, but whose inconsistent pay forces many to take second jobs just to survive. – SEIU Local 1 photo

Washington University graduate workers, students, faculty and community allies rallied at the University’s 2018 Arts & Sciences Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner April 25 to raise awareness of issues facing the university community and graduate workers, who are students at the university.

The administration reached out to graduate workers just before the rally to announce guaranteed funding for summer work. However, nothing is guaranteed, and graduate workers, with the support of SEIU Local 1, have requested 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, a PhD L.L.C. candidate in 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.”

Graduate workers say they cannot afford to go another summer without pay while 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 12 months of the year.”

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.

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