After a day of on-site voting graduate workers at Illinois State University won their union election Thursday night by a margin of nearly 5-to-1. They will join SEIU Local 73. Years of state budget cuts have led to to poverty-level stipends as low as $400 a month for ISU’s graduate workers. Inspired by the gains the Duke, Washington University, Brandeis, Tufts, Loyola Chicago and Emory graduate workers have won with SEIU, ISU started organizing last year and are now ready to take their seat at the table.
“I am organizing because I believe a living wage is a human right,” said Lydia Marvin, a graduate worker in the Department of Psychology. “I currently have to work a second job to make ends meet, and this takes away from both my students' education and my own. I am voting yes to improve wages so I can do my best work as both a grad worker and a grad student.”
This latest win adds to growing momentum for graduate workers, the teaching and research assistants who work for the university while pursuing their doctorates and masters degrees, who have mounted organizing campaigns across the country. Graduate workers from Tufts University and Brandeis University recently won their first union contracts, which included higher stipends and benefits. Graduate workers at Emory University also won wage increases to $15 per hour.