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How graduate workers at Indiana University hope to expand their calls for better pay

(Provided Photo/Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition via WIBC)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WIBC) – The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition wants to build a coalition of graduate workers at universities throughout Indiana.

The graduate workers’ coalition just wrapped up a three-day strike at the Indiana University campus in Bloomington. They want union recognition along with better pay.

“We’re calling upon other universities to begin organizing and get in contact with us so we can talk about how you organize to win in a place like Indiana where there is not a clear pathway to union recognition,” said Zara Anwarzai, organizing coordinator of the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition. 

Anwarzai says they’ve always based their demand for pay on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology cost-of-living calculator.

“Right now, it estimates that for one adult with no children, you should be making $41,000 per year to live sufficiently in Bloomington. Currently, our base stipend is $23,000 per year for the fall of 2024. That’s way below the cost of living,” Anwarzai said.

Graduate workers at Purdue University make a base stipend of about $20,000 on 10-month contracts in West Lafayette, where the annual cost of living is $40,000.

Graduate workers at IU Indianapolis have no campuswide stipend.

“Due to the less-than-living wage, graduate workers at Purdue skip medications, utilities services, sometimes eat spoiled food to make ends meet,” said Andy Lee, a graduate worker in the department of biological sciences and the organizer with Graduate Rights and Our Wellbeing at Purdue. “This is unacceptable. We believe the university should be a place that supports everyone — including international students, first-generation graduate students, graduate students with families, and other groups of traditionally marginalized communities within higher education. A work environment that only allows some of us to succeed is a failure.”

Earlier this week, the faculty at IU voted no confidence in IU President Pamela Whitten (93%), Provost Rahul Shrivastav (91%), and Vice Provost Carrie Docherty (75%).

After that vote, Anwarzai says, she heard all three people say they would listen to the faculty and the community, and find a way to work together, but the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition hasn’t heard from any of them.

“And yet, they continue to ignore the majority of graduate workers on this campus despite continuous and persistent efforts to contact them and set up meetings even in the days leading up to the strike,” said Anwarzai said.

This strike lasted for three days. Now, they are looking to expand.

(Provided Photo/Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition via WIBC)
(Provided Photo/Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition via WIBC)
(Provided Photo/Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition via WIBC)