Graduate students at the University of Maine campus recently held a rally in MLK plaza as part of their work in organizing a union.
The students are pushing for basic, fundamental working conditions including a livable wage, the opportunity to address workplace concerns and better health care benefits.
According to previous reports from Maine Campus Media, graduate students do not receive adequate health care coverage. Currently, graduate workers lack access to dental and eye care and vital medical devices.
With many grad students making under $20000 a year, it’s unacceptable to assume that this health care is adequate. Given that more than 500 UMaine grad students have signed union authorization cards, it’s time for the university to support them.
Rob Glover, a professor of political science at UMaine, wrote on Twitter that he supports UMaine graduate workers forming a union with every fiber of his being. He also recalls his own experience as a graduate student at the University of Connecticut and a successful union that was formed there among conditions similar to those being faced at UMaine.
“Like the grads at UCONN, UMaine students are working with the UAW and I hope the process moves swiftly and their union is voluntarily recognized. And everyone who cares about the future of education and research at UMaine should be on board,” Glover said.
UAW, the organization that the grad students are working with, is the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America. According to their website it is one of the largest and most diverse unions in North America, with members in virtually every sector of the economy.
This movement of grad students unionizing is not particular to Maine or Connecticut. In fact, last winter 48,000 academic employees at the University of California’s 10 campuses walked off their jobs in protest of similar issues facing grad students at UMaine. Movements like these have continued to ripple across the country and will hopefully start to create a change in how grad workers are treated.
Ultimately, UMaine and all universities across the country cannot function properly without the hard work of their graduate students. UMaine itself employs over 1000 graduate workers and these workers should not be first on the list to have their benefits cut just because the university is facing budget problems.
UMaine continues to amplify and market themselves as having a top graduate program in the country. But while grad students’ research is used as a tool to entice more people to come to the university, the grad students themselves are tossed to the side.
Grad school is already challenging and stressful enough. The university has a responsibility to create an environment of respect and dignity towards their graduates, which means making it so graduates don’t have to worry about how they are going to be able to pay for basic living necessities.
If you want to learn about ways to get involved and show support to UMaine grad students or organize with the union, follow this link.