The Independent Socialist Group stands in solidarity with Worcester State University graduate workers and applauds their victory in winning their stipends for the fall! But the fight is not over. Grad students and professors, not just at WSU, but across the country, will need to fight for contracts and compensation for the extra work caused by moving school online because of the pandemic. And if union leaders are unwilling to escalate the struggle to the necessary levels, then rank-and-file members should take the initiative to organize workplace actions. Graduate students should unionize to better organize for these future struggles. By linking up with other unions on campus and forming a campus-wide union coalition, students, faculty, and staff can win against neoliberal cuts from above.
More generally, we need to form student unions at universities so that students can make their voices heard on issues like safety, tuition costs, student employment, and student services. With these organizations in place, we can more effectively fight for immediate demands like contracts and higher wages, but working-class organizations can also take up the struggle for fully-funded higher education, cancellation of student debt, and so much more! The capitalist system will not give working people anything without a struggle; we know that by organizing and taking away our labor, the source of their profits, we can win real reforms that will improve our lives. But ultimately, we cannot reform the capitalist system; we need a new system, a socialist system, that values human life and well-being over money.
Petition in Support of Graduate Assistants’ Stipends at Worcester State University
**Update 9/11/2020: Worcester State University has stepped up and restored the stipends for the graduate assistants in their entirety for the Fall 2020 semester and are working towards restoring full funding for the Spring 2021 semester. Thank you to everyone who supported us by signing the petition and speaking on our behalf!
From the Graduate Assistants:
Worcester State University is in breach of contract with the Graduate Assistants, no longer paying a stipend for the now required 12 hours of work, reduced from 15 hours. Per our signed contract for the 2020-2021 year, we are entitled to a weekly stipend in addition to tuition reimbursement. While the entire country is facing grave economic hardship, college students are among those most heavily burdened.
Over the summer, each Graduate Assistant signed a contract agreeing to work 15 hours per week in exchange for a stipend and a tuition and fee waiver. In that contract, Sara Grady clearly indicated the following: “By checking this box and signing below, I verify that I have enough funds in my budget to pay for this contract in its entirety, approve this appointment…” The contract was signed and dated by the Budget Manager Sara Grady for each Graduate Student (For an example of one student’s, see https://docs.google.com/document/d/1CrqyI-h3OGww8bYFKnidZ5fJL3pC16Je21t220nmSZY/edit?usp=sharing).
Graduate assistantships have been relegated to an unpaid internship, enforcing the notion of graduate assistants as students rather than workers. The school prides itself on “wide spread access to high quality educational opportunities,” as stated in the student handbook, and by taking away the stipend from graduate assistantships, Worcester State University becomes a gatekeeper deciding which students enter prestigious jobs and which don’t.
Most of us rely deeply on the stipends to help pay personal bills and other expenses. Worcester State University has wrongly put their Graduate Assistant students in a position where some are faced with a choice to continue their education while earning no income or reassess their current enrollment in their program in order to support themselves or their families financially.
The new unpaid work expectation of 12 hours per week is added onto a full-time course load. Further, many students have additional requirements outside of the classroom such as internships, clinical placements, and research. This makes it extremely difficult to add paid hourly work to our schedules, already being limited on time.
All we ask of Worcester State University is to follow through with the original terms of our signed contracts which were agreed upon mutually by the graduate assistants and the school, of a paid stipend for 15 hours of work per work.
Read Personal Statements from Worcester State Graduate Students: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1aF_Fa-xR–RAsLJ7gsaJtk7ytH54pjhucEx6etWdsu8/edit?usp=sharing
We, the undersigned, call upon Worcester State to follow through the original terms of our contracts, restoring graduate student stipends and stand in support of graduate assistants.
Original Petition Here
Read our interview with WSU unionized professor Bryant Sculos about the struggle.