TUGSA Rallies for Respect

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Written By: Pablo Rouco

Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants at Temple University are fighting for better pay and respect as they say their working conditions are not comparable.

The Temple University Graduate Students’ Association (TUGSA) rallied in front of Charles Library on Wednesday, Oct. 10, to fight for fair pay for TAs and RAs, respect, and better healthcare.

The Union has been in contract negotiations for ten months, and their collective bargaining agreement expired nine months ago. Every day that they go to work, they are working without a contract. So they rallied to get the university to come to the table with reasonable proposals.

TAs and RAs make, on average, $20,000 to work in a city that costs $37,000 to live in. Last year alone, Temple made $239 million in profit, and over $644 million over the last four years. TUGSA members say they have struggled to make ends meet, with over 90% of TAs and RAs having to supplement their income through loans, credit cards, and other means.

Evan Kassof, a staff organizer with TUGSA and a former President of TUGSA, was at the rally to advocate for more change.

“The undergraduates here are not being served. Because they’re learning conditions are our working conditions,” Kassof said. “If we’re showing up underpaid, underslept, stressed about rent, working a second job, taking out student loans, how are we supposed to show it for you guys?”

TUGSA claims over 75% of TAs and RAs have at one point been instructed to perform unpaid labor as part of their work assignments. They ask that the University be more reasonable with the workload they assign TAs and RAs.

International students pay $1,000 a semester in student fees, with additional international fees lowering their income, making it difficult to survive. Because of international students’ visa status, they can only work one job, forcing them to make money through under-the-table jobs or subjecting them to more debt. On top of this, Kassof says they have to pay even more for health care along with other TAs/RAs.

“We need dependent health care international students who come to study here who are made to be TAs and Ras who were offered those jobs. They, because of their visa, can’t work anywhere else. They have to cover dependents on Temples health insurance…their health insurance is $500 a month, and if they have two dependents, it’s $1,000 in one month.”

The TAs and RAs fighting for this are passionate about the work they do and the place in which they work but say it is difficult with the living conditions they face. When listing their grievances to the school, they were told, “this is a choice they made.”

“We care about teaching, we care about the research we do, no one goes to grad school to get rich, you go to grad school because you care about the work you’re doing. And we can’t do that work as well as we could, if we’re not able to be living, alive, in this city,” Kassof said.

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